Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Way Way Back

I don't typically write movie reviews, but this was so charming and so under the radar I thought I'd spread it around a bit. The Way Way Back is about a young, awkward teen finding his place in the world, dealing with his parent's divorce and his mother's dick boyfriend.

Steve Carell walks a very fine line between "dick" and "misunderstood," but in the end we were all able to agree that he was just a dick. I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks. Sam Rockwell was hilarious and awesome and it's impressive that he could be so funny and have not a single trace of dickishness in him. Liam James was a fantastic awkward kid and it's great to see him moving on to bigger things after being the young Shawn Spencer from Psych.

You'll like this if you liked Perks of Being a Wallflower and Safety Not Guaranteed (IMDB also recommended The Silver Linings Playbook, and I have to agree.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Write like a motherfucker.

I've never read this article by Cheryl Strayed before, though it's from 2010 and seems to be well known. It was well worth the read, and something I should be taking to heart.

Link.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Language of Flowers

It always comes as a pleasant surprise when a book I think is going to be stuffy and literary is actually full of bleeding, breathing characters that rip my heart out. I mean, no offense to literary authors, analyzing heady works and learning big, obfuscated words in English and Pre-Law classes is worthwhile (and sometimes fun), but I've paid my dues. I read because I want my emotions pulled in a hundred directions and I want to read about sacrifice and love and bravery. I want to cry because the words cut me to the core and I want to laugh because people are silly and idiotic sometimes when they are supposed to be serious and I want books that reflect that.

How I Write Interview
RH website for the book
VD's Twitter

Anyway, enter The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It's about an orphan girl aging out of the system and finding her own way. It's also about forgiving herself and others. It's also about letting love in.

It's also about flowers, and how loving something (reading, cooking, dancing, etc) can keep you going.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. ( BN | GR )

Around 8:15 one night last week, I decided I was done writing for the night and really wanted something good to read. Nothing in my stack of library books already taken out appealed to me, so I drove (floored it) to the library to find something before it closed for the night. I'm really glad they had this book, because at that moment in time it was first on my TBR list and I don't think I would have been able to relax for the rest of the night if I'd have had to settle for another book.

I stayed up until one in the morning reading the first two parts. It made me cry. It made me burn. And it was wonderful and sweet and I was angry at Victoria for being so fucking dumb and hurting the people who love her but I couldn't stop reading because I couldn't help but like her anyway and I had to know what happened in the past and I had to know what happened to her in the present. I couldn't have asked for something better to read that night, it was wonderful and made me warm and fuzzy inside.

And if you really hate spoilers stop reading now because I am going to spoil the middle third of the book seriously stop reading it's going to be the very next sentence.

Alright. (Ok so it wasn't the next sentence, but I did that so there aren't any incriminating words at the top line of the paragraph.) The middle of the book left me anxiety-ridden, horrified, and sympathetically nauseous. Victoria gets pregnant, proceeds to disappear off the face of the earth and leave every bit of her support system behind, and we get a very detailed look at pregnancy and birth and BLEH. I have so not developed the maternal gene yet because just the thought of being pregnant leaves me horrified. Seriously if you want to give me a panic attack send a bunch of pregnant women to surround me. (This is really terrible considering I work across the street from CHOP and there are pregnant women everywhere.) (Sidenote: it's not that I don't want to have kids someday (because I do) I just haven't figured out how to reconcile this whole alien-life-form-inside-my-womb thing, or alternatively grow this alien dna baby thing outside of the confines of my own body. Why can't men grow babies in their balls? Evolution should really get on that. I'd feel much better about the whole process.)

Soooo that section of the book was hell for me. But I kept reading, mainly because of the loyalty it earned in the beginning of the book. And I am glad I kept going. But I should warn you, things get much, much worse for Victoria before they ever start to get better.

All in all, I would definitely recommend it. It was an interesting situation where I loved the main character but she hated me back. She always made all the wrong decisions!

And one of the coolest parts of the book: there is an appendix with the meanings of all the flowers! Very cool if you want to start leaving heavily veiled hate messages (or love... but that's BORING).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Above all else, be passionate.

Really beautiful and inspiring words from editor Robin Desser, upon receiving the Maxwell E. Perkins prize.

This has not been getting anywhere NEAR the amount of attention it deserves: Go to vogue.co.uk and type (on your arrow keys) up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A and watch what happens when you keep pressing A. I don't think this will work on a mobile device without proper flash software.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Find your people

I went to this Thai restaurant with my editor, and she told me that I didn't have to write books that everybody likes, that I shouldn't even worry about that. She said that having a writing career is about finding "your people," the people who specifically appreciate you. She said, "Your people are out there. You just have to hang in there while we find them."

- Rainbow Rowell

Read the whole interview.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

MOVE FORWARD

I had a very interesting moment today.

I was reading Taryn Albrights's blog, an interview with Realm Lovejoy. I was really struck by this question, and RL's answer to it:
What is your writing process? Fast/slow drafting? A specific time of day? Planning/pantsing?

I am fast with first drafts but take numerous revision cycles to get the story just right. When I am first drafting, I can write anytime of the day, but with revising, morning and day time works best so that I can really focus. I plan as much as possible inside my notebook. Often times, I plan the most during the second and third draft to really solidify the story. For the first draft, it's mostly exploring, so it's a balance of planning and allowing discoveries to happen naturally.
Typical interview question, right? But I couldn't get this paragraph out of my head. I kept coming back to it, and I must have read it thirty times throughout the day.

I am constantly struggling with how shitty my first drafts are. It's ridiculous, and debilitating, and embarrassing. I know they aren't nearly as bad as I think they are, and yet that means nothing. On every single page of my notebook, I have shouty messages scrawled at the top to get myself out of my own head and to focus on the story.

MOVE FORWARD.

IT WON'T BE EASIER TOMORROW.

THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH.

SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND WRITE 500 WORDS.

The language gets much more colorful, and usually angrier the longer I have been sitting. People in cafes must think I'm insane.

And yet, here is permission to do what I am so afraid of doing: I plan the most during the second and third draft to really solidify the story. I don't need to know what's going to happen from the beginning. It can grow, and slowly shape itself, until I have a complete story. Once I have a Point A and a Point B, I can change the arc, play with things, make it WORK.

It doesn't need to work at the very beginning. It doesn't need to tie together. How often has my initial outline stayed consistent during the first draft? Never. So why do I expect the initial draft to be perfect?

I don't know. A holdover from college, where all my papers were one and done? I need to stop thinking this way. All my college papers sucked.

(Wrong. I wrote a persuasive essay on why Pluto should stay a planet. It fucking rocked. It wasn't based on scientific fact, I'm pretty sure I got the ninja turtles involved, and I wrote it from 2am-7am the morning it was due because I fell asleep and it was probably the most relaxing, wonderful time to write anything. I was so proud of that paper. And then my professor never returned it because we were freshman and he had More Important Things to grade, so he just gave everyone in the class an A.)

(And then a year after graduating, we ran into him in a dive bar in Chinatown of Washington, D. C., playing pool. It was so weird. But that's another story.)

(But seriously, all my other papers sucked.)

Maybe that's why fiction is so hard to write. Because unlike my college assignments (I'm sorry to say), I actually really care about this. I'm invested in these characters because they are mine, and they are worth something. But I need the words on the page to reflect that. I know how the characters make each other burn inside, but it's so difficult to put it into words.

Well, it doesn't have to burn from the beginning, either. Have some faith, Gina. Keep writing. Then keep rewriting. Change things until you know what you need and can say it coherently.

Until then, finish.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I knew I was going to forget something

I also wanted to tell you about *this* wonderful thing that has been floating around Tumblr. It looks like the original quote is from ifallelseperished, and Ink-Splotch added the text below. And thanks to Seanan McGuire for sharing, which is where I originally saw it. I want to repost it here because it was so wonderful and I don't have a Tumblr and have no wish to create one. I hope I'm not spreading bad Internet JuJuBees by reposting instead re-tumblering or whatever it's called.

There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because 
she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex. 
I have a big problem with that. 
- J. K. Rowling
 
ink-splotch:
Can we talk about Susan’s fabulous adventures after Narnia? The ones where she wears nylons and elegant blouses when she wants to, and short skirts and bright lipstick when she wants to, and hiking boots and tough jeans and big men’s plaid shirts when she feels like backpacking out into the mountains and remembering what it was to be lost in a world full of terrific beauty— I know her siblings say she stops talking about it, that Susan walks away from the memories of Narnia, but I don’t think she ever really forgot.

I want to read about Susan finishing out boarding school as a grown queen reigning from a teenaged girl’s body. School bullies and peer pressure from children and teachers who treat you like you’re less than sentient wouldn’t have the same impact. C’mon, Susan of the Horn, Susan who bested the DLF at archery, and rode a lion, and won wars, sitting in a school uniform with her eyebrows rising higher and higher as some old goon at the front of the room slams his fist on the lectern.

Susan living through WW2, huddling with her siblings, a young adult (again), a fighting queen and champion marksman kept from the action, until she finally storms out against screaming parents’ wishes and volunteers as a nurse on the front. She keeps a knife or two hidden under her clothes because when it comes down to it, they called her Gentle, but sometimes loving means fighting for what you care for.

She’ll apply to a women’s college on the East Coast, because she fell in love with America when her parents took her there before the war. She goes in majoring in Literature (her ability to decipher High Diction in historical texts is uncanny), but checks out every book she can on history, philosophy, political science. She sneaks into the boys’ school across town and borrows their books too. She was once responsible for a kingdom, roads and taxes and widows and crops and war. She grew from child to woman with that mantle of duty wrapped around her shoulders. Now, tossed here on this mundane land, forever forbidden from her true kingdom, Susan finds that she can give up Narnia but she cannot give up that responsibility. She looks around and thinks I could do this better.

I want Susan sneaking out to drink at pubs with the girls, her friends giggling at the boys checking them out from across the way, until Susan walks over (with her nylons, with her lipstick, with her sovereignty written out in whatever language she damn well pleases) and beats them all at pool. Susan studying for tests and bemoaning Aristotle and trading a boy with freckles all over his nose shooting lessons so that he will teach her calculus. Susan kissing boys and writing home to Lucy and kissing girls and helping smuggle birth control to the ladies in her dorm because Susan Pevensie is a queen and she understands the right of a woman to rule over her own body.

Susan losing them all to a train crash, Edmund and Peter and Lucy, Jill and Eustace, and Lucy and Lucy and Lucy, who Susan’s always felt the most responsible for. Because this is a girl who breathes responsibility, the little mother to her three siblings until a wardrobe whisked them away and she became High Queen to a whole land, ruled it for more than a decade, then came back centuries later as a legend. What it must do to you, to be a legend in the body of a young girl, to have that weight on your shoulders and have a lion tell you that you have to let it go. What is must do to you, to be left alone to decide whether to bury your family in separate ceremonies, or all at once, the same way they died, all at once and without you. What it must do to you, to stand there in black, with your nylons, and your lipstick, and feel responsible for these people who you will never be able to explain yourself to and who you can never save.

Maybe she dreams sometimes they made it back to Narnia after all. Peter is a king again. Lucy walks with Aslan and all the dryads dance. Maybe Susan dreams that she went with them— the train jerks, a bright light, a roar calling you home.

Maybe she doesn’t.

Susan grows older and grows up. Sometimes she hears Lucy’s horrified voice in her head, “Nylons? Lipstick, Susan? Who wants to grow up?” and Susan thinks, “Well you never did, Luce.” Susan finishes her degree, stays in America (England looks too much like Narnia, too much like her siblings, and too little, all at once). She starts writing for the local paper under the pseudonym Frank Tumnus, because she wants to write about politics and social policy and be listened to, because the name would have made Edmund laugh.

She writes as Susan Pevensie, too, about nylons and lipstick, how to give a winning smiles and throw parties, because she knows there is a kind of power there and she respects it. She won wars with war sometimes, in Narnia, but sometimes she stopped them before they began.

Peter had always looked disapprovingly on the care with which Susan applied her makeup back home in England, called it vanity. And even then, Susan would smile at him, say “I use what weapons I have at hand,” and not explain any more than that. The boy ruled at her side for more than a decade. He should know better.

Vain is not the proper word. This is about power. But maybe Peter wouldn’t have liked the word “ambition” any more than “vanity.”

Susan is a young woman in the 50s and 60s. Frank Tumnus has quite the following now. He’s written a few books, controversial, incendiary. Susan gets wrapped up in the civil rights movement, because of course she would. It’s not her first war. All the same, she almost misses the White Witch. Greed is a cleaner villain than senseless hate. She gets on the Freedom Rider bus, mails Mr. Tumnus articles back home whenever there’s a chance, those rare occasions they’re not locked up or immediately threatened. She is older now than she ever was in Narnia. Susan dreams about Telemarines killing fauns.

Time rolls on. Maybe she falls in love with a young activist or an old cynic. Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe Frank Tumnus, controversial in the moment, brilliant in retrospect, gets offered an honorary title from a prestigious university. She declines and publishes an editorial revealing her identity. Her paper fires her. Three others mail her job offers.

When Vietnam rolls around, she protests in the streets. Susan understands the costs of war. She has lived through not just the brutal wars of one life, but two.

Maybe she has children now. Maybe she tells them stories about a magical place and a magical lion, the stories Lucy and Edmund brought home about how if you sail long enough you reach the place where the seas fall off the edge of the world. But maybe she tells them about Cinderella instead, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, except Rapunzel cuts off her own hair and uses it to climb down the tower and escape. The damsel uses what tools she has at hand.

A lion told her to walk away, and she did. He forbade her magic, he forbade her her own kingdom, so she made her own.

Susan Pevensie did not lose faith. She found it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So many things to tell you about

Firstly, I want to tell you about a few things around the webs. Like this post by Patrick Rothfuss: For the Love of Books. In addition to the amazing work he does with his Worldbuilders charity, this year he is also raising money for First Book, a charity that gives books to kids who need them. Seriously now, if you are reading this blog I'm pretty sure you have grown up loving books. Grown up always having books. Grown up with books as your closest friends because sometimes people just don't cut it. Can you imagine not having that? Not having that phenomenal, vital escape we all take for granted? I bought the Fantasy Authors calendar. It's $20. That money goes to Worldbuilders. Then PR is donating five dollars of his own money to First Book. Then, Random House Children's Books is tripling that donation to First Book. Click the links. Give some books. Give some goats. This is really an amazing thing PR is doing.

If you hang out here at all you know I love cooking, and I've been increasingly swept into vegan recipes. I don't plan to go fully vegan anytime soon, mainly because I am way to lazy to put that much effort into anything everyday. (I can't get myself to do anything everyday. Including things that are required for polite society. Like... shower. Yeah. Sometimes, I'd just rather rearrange my bookshelves, ya know?) But meat is just... blah these days. And I have various vegan/vegetarian blogs infecting my brain these days with nefarious recipes. Anyway, I've found two great cookbooks at my local library (love. it.): one I am definitely buying, and the other will probably follow quickly.


Vegan Eats World is the one I really love. I have a weakness for international recipes. I love trying things that have different flavors, and hey, I've been eating "American" food my entire life. I want to try new things! It's a really gorgeous book, and there is a recipe on every page I want to try. (Com'on, it has an entire chapter for dumplings!) I've always wanted to work my way through an entire cookbook, a la Julie and Julia, and I could see that happening with this book. Happy Herbivore is also a great book, and it does have recipes for a few things that aren't in VEW, but it's not quite what I'm looking for. (HH is also low-fat, which seems to take a lot of the tasty out of cooking. It's a lot more RAW. Literally.) I want to check out the regular HH cookbook to see if it's more what I want.

I went to the library looking for The Secret History, and when they didn't have it went a little hog-wild making up for it. I came home with The Chaos of Stars, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Bellman & Black, and Bleeding Edge. I've been reading all of them, spending a few chapters with one before moving onto another.

It's always so hard to write on days off! I wish that weren't the case. I am finishing yet another mini-vacation, and while most of this one was devoted to finishing the breakfast nook in time for the new fridge, I really didn't get much writing done. I write best when a day follows my routine, even if that routine makes me dead tired. I only have so much time after work so it's easier to devote it to writing and not worry about getting anything else done. My days off have been filled with laundry, dishes, house stuff, etc. And I write best at night, when my subconscious knows it's too late to start another project. Only then is my mind quiet enough to focus on the story.


This writing month started halfway through NaNo, and I decided to keep my goal at 30 days. It's almost done, and I'm nowhere near my 30k goal. (And even further from the 50k NaNo goal.) But I've written 16k so far, and that is still good! I have this anxious compulsion to keep writing moremoremore, so I'm telling myself that 16k is still worth some celebrating. (P keeps telling me to stop treating it like a job, because then it won't be fun anymore. I keep telling him "but I want to treat it like a job!!!" usually in a high-pitched whiny voice.)

And now, the breakfast nook!!!

We ripped down the walls and hung new sheetrock. This is after spackling and sanding, which is one of the worst jobs known to man, you get so dirty and get all kinds of shit up your nose, and then after you do it once you have to do it all over again! In the picture below I'd already started priming. (I also had a bit of an accident with the primer.... it involved puddles... let's just say I'm really happy I was so neurotic about covering the new floor.)


The new floor and paint! I love the color. It's this really light sandy tan color. We have so many dark rooms in our house, it's nice to have something light. Look how pretty the floor is! And it's continuous from the dining room through the kitchen and into the nook, which means we can have Pledge parties and get a running start from the living room and sock-slide for a full 20 feet!!! The iron is on the windowsill because I'm pulling up old laminate (gross and annoying) so I can give the bay window a new coat of paint.


And the star.... the new fridge! So many shelves! And food in the safe zone! It's revolutionary. It's not going to stay in this spot, it'll be covering that window to the right, but it's the only way to get it to fit properly. We still need to run the new wire and the piping for the water thingamajig. It's so beautiful! It also talks to you. When the machines take over, this fridge is going to be leading the charge, I'm sure. (And if you think it's cheesy to be excited for a new fridge, YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I never thought Home Depot could be so much fun until I had my own place.) The Steampunk Kitchen grows!



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Busy Bee

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was nice, but also stressful. And as wonderful as it is to have off work, taking that time around a vacation is counter-productive to say the least. I didn't write much. I didn't clean much. And I didn't watch ANY West Wing... Instead I spent the vacation hanging with friends home from college/careers, and ate a lot of Taco Bell and pie and drank a lot of beer. I'm happy to have my routine back (even though opposite shifts still suck, as usual).

All I want to do is hole in and drink tea and do all the writing I didn't get to do last week. Except, we're getting a new fridge on Saturday (fucking awesome) so we decided to demo the breakfast nook to hang new insulation and sheetrock, paint, replace outlets and light switches, lay the new flooring, etc (decidedly less awesome). In ONE WEEK we need to be completely finished! O_o

I am not ready to rip anything apart again, even if it is a tiny room. We finished the living room at the end of 2012 (dude we whipped that room into shape so fast (but I guess you have to live somewhere, and we LIVED in that room until April—we are seriously good at sleeping two people on a couch)), but we didn't finish the bedrooms until August. I mean, the front room is still serving as an extended closet, tools and crafty shit and childhood memorabilia in one big mountain of STUFF.

Don't let my complaining make you think I don't like the house. Because the house is fucking awesome. Having a place of your own is fucking awesome. Being able to host a one-person cooking party at midnight on a Tuesday is fucking awesome.

There's all kinds of awesome to go around.

I finished one book recently:

How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff ( GR | BN )
I read this interview with the author, and I haven't heard anything about this movie at all, but I am totally excited for it! Watch the trailer here. None of the theaters around me are showing it, I may have to wait until it's out on DVD.

The book is short, less than 200 pages, and written stream-of-consciousness, without even quotation marks. I like books like this, with a very distinct voice (like Blood Red Road by Moira Young). But this was just so short. I wanted more. The story was so compelling, so powerful, it was sad to leave the characters so quickly. But I think if it was written traditionally, in a 300+ page book, it would have been too rough to get through. So maybe it's a good thing that it was short. It reminded me of Letters from Rifka, a book I loved as a kid. You have to read this. It's heartwarming and lovely.