Sunday, May 21, 2017

Are You Struggling to Write? Try Making a Change.


Image result for rainbow cloud

This spring, feeling the repetitive wear of two-decades of freelance work and novel-writing from my kitchen, I went back to "work" -- the kind where you drive to an office, wear a corporate ID badge and have a lunch hour (as opposed to ALL the other kinds of equally valid and challenging types of work that take place outside the walls of buildings sporting logos).

It's been amazing. I realized that having so much unstructured time was making me feel intense pressure to produce more fiction while simultaneously making me, well, blue.
Since rejoining the 9-to-5 (or in my case, since I'm on eastern time 6-2) crowd, I have less time to write and more I want to say. More ideas have come to me as I make my 40-minute commute into Seattle surrounded by mountains, water and cars, than in the four daily hours I labored in my home office.

Maybe it will get old. Maybe I'll start being jealous of all those scads of unaccountable time. But, for now, for today, going back on the clock seems to have set me free.

I'm still teaching, freelancing and coordinating writing classes on the side. I've got less time for my fiction but it feels like it's going better. And I've got less time social media, which is probably a good thing, too. So many thoughts to share about creativity and the internet and politics (ah!) but I also have less time to post here on the website. Hopefully, this too will be less frequent but better quality.

I hope you're writing this spring. If you're struggling, if you're in a dark place, I encourage you to try shifting up the old life. Don't be afraid of losing writing time. Sometimes that's the sacrifice you need to make...FOR THE WRITING.

One person's opinion.

Happy wave from my less-frequented kitchen desk!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY AT KCLS WOODINVILLE: Enter the Fray - An Inside Look at the Publishing Industry with Tegan Tigani

SATURDAY, May 13, 2017
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
 Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library 
17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville 

To celebrate the conclusion of this year’s Second Saturday Writing Workshops, we invite you to learn from Tegan Tigani, acquisitions editor for Sasquatch Books’ Little Bigfoot imprint, book buyer/bookseller at Queen Anne Book Company, and all-around industry expert. In her lively, interactive workshop, Tegan will take participants through the “pitch process,” explaining how pitches are used by agents, editorial boards, marketing teams, and booksellers. Gain insight into the way a publishing house works, and hone your own book pitch to perfection with writing exercises.

This workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required. For more details, click here



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Spring Reading Recap

Given our political climate, perhaps I should not be surprised that the three books at the top of my reading list all explore some aspect of the concept "us and them." In each of these novels, the main characters struggle to understand themselves in the context of their family, community and belief systems, and in contrast to those they see as "other," racially, religiously, economically, spiritually, and even intellectually. 








I finally filled the gaping Barbara Kingsolver gap in my literary education by reading THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, a breathtaking exploration of a misguided Christian preacher's attempts to convert the denizens of a village in the Belgian Congo, and the decades-long repercussions of his efforts. I've been told that Angie Thomas's New York Times best-selling THE HATE YOU GIVE should not be missed, so I picked it up next and discovered that, with wry, stunning honesty and insight, Thomas, like Kingsolver, brings readers into a place few have ever experienced themselves and makes us question every assumption we've ever made about the inner city, gang life, and the urban violence and gun incidents we experience only from the safety of our sofas while watching the evening news. Next up: ONE L, which was coincidentally recommended to me by a lawyer friend of my husband's the same week an actress referenced it on NPR as a research source for preparing to play the role of an attorney. As I read, I'll be looking for those "other" tensions between students and faculty, among the students and between the rarefied law school community and the "outside world."

Take a look at your spring reading and ask yourself:

  • Do you see any themes or trends? 
  • Do you feel a connection between the way you look at stories and your current questions about the world? 
  • Which recently read novel do you most wish you had written yourself and why? 

Boy, do I take my reading seriously--maybe too seriously? Sorry folks. Nerdgirl out!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Going There" - A Lesson in Plotting from HOMELAND and THE AMERICANS

I've been struggling a bit with the manuscript lately. And I don't think it's just because life has been busy. I think, at the core, my problem is that I'm tackling something bigger--darker--than I ever have before and I am nervous. Is my story too dark? Are my scenes too melodramatic? What am I doing?

In an epic act of procrastination, I did some binge-watching. Okay, a lot of binge-watching. I watched the entire current season of HOMELAND on Showtime and every available episode of THE AMERICANS on FX. 

And I learned something.

I love big drama. Huge moral questions. Explosions. Dire twists with dark ethical consequences. Love and loss. In the words of our current Voldemort, I like my tv "huge." So, why not my book?

Inspired by the television moments that took my breath away, I decided to "go there" in my manuscript. That is to say... 
  • When in doubt, kill the beloved character. 
  • Make the good guys impossibly conflicted...
  • And the bad guys impossibly relatable. 
  • Let there be blood and sweat and tears. 
  • Let bad things happen to good people. 





Go so far that fat tears fall from your author eyes onto the keyboard as you write.

Now, I'm not going to lie. There are some moments from HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER that stretch even my tolerance for outlandish storylines and descend into a melodrama that somehow distances me from the characters. But the truth is that the world is full of scary people and bad decisions--and nobody can deny Shonda Rhimes' multi-million-dollar ability to pack a plot punch.

So, I let go of my misgivings about my crazy head, the twisted plot I had dreamed up  (and the need for constant subtlety), and I let myself write page after page of that lunatic psychological thriller.

And I got somewhere.

I suppose the conclusion here--my "advice" if I have any right to offer some--is to follow the lead of HOMELAND writers (who let Carrie trust the untrustworthy and love the doomed) and THE AMERICANS writers (who make us fall in love with two murderous Soviet spies). Think big. Think bold. Break hearts. And embrace what happens.





Sunday, April 9, 2017

Thank Goodness that April is National Poetry Month!

Just when I begin to worry that the pounding rain on my Pacific Northwest roof may drive me mad, the Academy of American Poets sweeps in to soothe my spirit with National Poetry Month. It's a balm for the soul and a wellspring of writing inspiration. My favorite feature of the month is the Poem-A-Day, but there's plenty of word beauty from which to choose, so please do celebrate in your own way.
And here are a few beautiful, recent verse novels (MG and YA, fiction and nonfiction) to add to your poetic reading list:

 



There's also a pretty cool list of upcoming YA verse over at Stacked.