Sunday, April 20, 2014

Maybe Life Is Less Like a Novel, More Like an Ongoing Revision of One

I've been inspired lately by Big Changes in people's lives. Like KJ who recently left a life in New York for an adventure on a farm in Maine, which you can read about here. Or my sister-in-law who is getting married next weekend. These are the big moments. Decisions. Landmarks.


I always want life to be like a novel‐more specifically: a fantasy novel. Novels with journeys and quests. Novels where you can see progress not only with every turn of the page, but at every way station the characters reach. (Perhaps this is why I tend to avoid the super literary literary novels, because I'm afraid they'll be stagnant. Too much like real life.)

In my favorite novels, there is progress both physical and emotional. There is character growth. People move through the story as you move the pages.

In real life, we have no such guarantees. You could reread the same chapter over and over for years without any conflict resolution or meaningful dialogue. A person could easily make the same mistakes over and over again, hurting the same people throughout their entire lives without ever reaching a climactic moment of clarity. A truly remarkable story could end in the middle of a sentence, with no possibility of a sequel.

Novels are so much more reliable than real life.

I wish I was approaching a Big Life Change: switching careers or moving across country or falling in love. But I am at a stage in my life where I'm planting roots. Staying put. Happily married and settling into a house.

But I feel so restless. Because, if I'm being honest, I'm not satisfied yet. Maybe I'm a selfish protagonist but I want people to read my stories. I want to plan book events (I do so love parties). I want to be on panels and in meetings. I want to be a writer. A working writer. I even want deadlines. The thing is, there's no physical journey I can take that will guarantee I reach this goal: no magical path through a dark wood and over a snowy mountain. There's only hope and grit and talent and a lot of luck.

When I was at Bread Loaf I was in a workshop led by Margot Livesey (who is a lovely person). One of the things she said that resonated with me regarding writing was that (and I'm paraphrasing here) you must be mindful of how you interpret feedback from a reader. Revisions are cumulative. One seemingly large plot hole may be fixed with one or two sentences, if placed correctly. Sometimes small changes have a big impact.

Maybe life is like that too. Maybe all my angst and my desire for Big Change really amounts to a desire for a few small ones. Some tweaking of my sentences. Moving a paragraph here and some dialogue there.

So I will try. And in the meantime I'll keep moving, keep writing, keep turning the pages of both the stories I tell and the Story of my life.*

*I definitely did not intend to end on a boy band reference, but there it is.I'm not taking it back. It was MEANT to BE.   

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm Still (Mostly) Here

Dearest Reader,

How are you? I have thought of you often. I'm sorry I've been away from blogging for so long. The problem, of course, is time: full time job, part time job teaching kickboxing, second job writing and trying to get an agent, and the job of keeping up with life and house and friends and husband and animals.

Reader, I feel stuck and lost. My job is not a career. Depending on the season, it can be draining and stressful. Lately it's been pretty rough. I'm sure there are ways to minimize this, but it's not something I'm good at. I let everything cut too deep: every rude comment by a stranger, every sad phone call. I make everything personal and it takes its toll.

I am querying my YA novel. I am writing a new middle grade novel. I am tentatively starting to plot the potential sequel to the YA novel--just in case.

I don't know how to do this. How to be a writer with a job and a relatively normal life. How to have the life I want. How to ask for help. I want to be self sufficient. I want to succeed on my own merits. I don't want to need help.

Well, it's been a long winter. Maybe as the ground thaws, things will change again. And for the better. I can't stand stagnation, even though change can be hard.

Maybe I'll blog more. I've missed you. I hope you missed me too.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We Are The Capitol

So I just saw a commercial for the new Cover Girl line of Hunger Games-inspired cosmetics. You can see the line here.

I appreciate the marketing tie in. I mean, it makes sense. And yet, it underscores precisely why some stories work better as books than as movies. And I love when someone helps me make that point—because I think it's important to remember that while there are advantages to telling a story as a movie, there are specific advantages to telling it as a book, too.

See, when you read The Hunger Games books, you ARE Katniss. It's written in first person, so you're in her head. You are her and she is you. You are suffering and fighting and struggling and surviving.

When you watch The Hunger Games, you are all those complacent people at the Capitol who allow atrocities like the Games to continue simply for you own entertainment (and out of fear but let's not get too into the weeds here, people.)

And when you buy into the accompanying marketing tie-ins, you are one of the worst offenders: thoughtlessly buying into the festivities of the Games for the frivolous fun of dressing up and going to parties and—sure, some children die, but they were going to die eventually, right? Might as well be famous before you go.

Maybe I am reading too much into it, but the whole thing makes me uncomfortable in a creepy, crawly, I-just-saw-a-spider-therefore-there-are-phantom-spiders-all-over-me kind of way. Makes me think the publisher didn't get what Collins was really talking about in her books.

Or worse, and more likely, just didn't care.

And yes, I did think this random thought was worth coming out of blog hibernation to talk about. Now I'm back to my full time work cave. What else have I been up to? Novel revisions, new story idea, Halloween prep, and killing a deer with my car.