All writers, at one time or another, go through a slump. I’m in one of those with my fiction. It’s partly due to the challenge of finding time to write while caring for two young kids. It’s partly that I feel disheartened. It’s partly that I’ve got other irons in the fire, too. But I am still writing. Sometimes it’s only a page a week. But that counts, too. This too shall pass, I tell myself. I will find my passion for writing again. For now, I read, I blog on my other site, I try. Mostly, I try to not flog myself for not having accomplished more with my writing. This last one is my biggest challenge.
Conferencing March 16, 2010
I’ve been to two conferences in the last couple months: The San Diego State University Writer’s Conference, and then my fourth (!) year at the Southern California Writer’s Conference here in San Diego. I guess this makes me a conference junkie.
Going to conferences is great, regardless of where you are as a writer. Contemplating exercising that right brain in this particular creative endeavor? There’s plenty of inspiration for newbies. A draft or partial draft in and unsure what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into? Seminars on every aspect of story creation or editing can be found at most any conference. Curious about the business side? Plenty of information to be found. Have a clean, edited final manuscript? Here’s a great place to connect with agents and editors.
The thing I’ve loved most, however, about going to conferences is the people I meet and the inspiration I take away. I always leave with a few new friends (and potential critique partners) and with a renewed sense of purpose. This year was no different.
I haven’t ventured out of San Diego yet for a conference; any suggestions out there on good ones you’ve been to?
Confession: I hate time travel stories. I get stuck every time on the whole grandfather clause thing; plus the butterfly effect. But two things have snuck in under my radar. The TV show Lost. I loved it from the get go, and then they started the whole time travel storyline, but I was already hooked. And then, this not so little book. I knew it was time travel and hesitated to buy it, but I heard the author speak at the SCWC and he was so charming that I had to give his book a try. SO GLAD I did – I’m loving it so far. A caveat: both of these time travel stories contend that whatever happened, happened, so the outcomes can’t be changed. That’s time travel I can live with.
Leaving a Book Unfinished June 26, 2009
It’s been a good week. It’s amazing what I can accomplish when I cut myself off from the internet. But here’s what I want to talk about: putting books down. Do you do it? Up until now, I haven’t been able to. Once I start a book, I can’t not finish it. It’s a compulsive habit, I know. And more than once I’ve dragged my feet through a novel just in order to finish it. I don’t know why – part of me wonders what I might miss out on, I suppose, and part of me doesn’t want to leave something unfinished, loose threads and all. But I’ve come to the enlightened conclusion that there are far too many great books out there for me to waste my precious time with the ones that just aren’t speaking to me.
So I have a new rule. It’s a 100 page rule – which is still quite generous, I think. If, after 100 pages, I still don’t care about the characters, or the writing grates on me, or (choose your demon), I will put that book down and leave it unfinished.
I’ve tried it once already, and wow, was it liberating!
How about you? What do you do when you don’t like a book? Finish it anyway? Throw it across the room? Use it for kindling? Toilet paper?
Currently Reading: I’ve actually nearly finished GOOD OMENS, which is absolutely not a book I would throw across the room or sacrifice to any vile purpose. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett together, writing about the apocalypse – what more could a girl ask for?
Five Questions You Must Ask Yourself May 2, 2009
Writer’s Digest puts out an online magazine that I get via email. A recent magazine had an article that listed five questions you, as a writer, must answer in order to succeed:
1. Who are your favorite authors and why?
2. What do they do that grabs your attention and keeps you turning pages?
3. What keeps you coming back to your favorite genres?
4. What compels you to write fiction/ memoir/ poetry?
5. How will you make sure that your own work grabs and keeps your readers’ attention every bit as well as your own favorites capture you?
At first glance, it seems easy enough. Any time reading or writing comes up in conversation, I light up and babble away. Storytelling and stories are easily my favorite subjects. But now I’ve found myself really pondering these questions; trying to dig deeper. The article emphasizes that we writers should answer these questions with relish and in great detail. So, writers, have at it.
I Can’t Believe I Didn’t March 6, 2009
I just went to a bookstore and get this: I did not buy a book for myself. That almost never happens. My focus was to buy some baby books for my girlfriend’s shower gift – I’m a writer, so gifts from me tend to be books. They don’t get the ahhing and cooing that tiny little socks and onesies do, but to me – they are the best, most important gift I can give. Anyway, I actually bought only what I went in there to buy! I suppose the fact that: 1. I have a huge backlog of books piled in my room and I’m trying not to buy more books until I read through those stacks and 2. I really had to pee and there was no restroom in sight, might have been why I didn’t spend more time under the extreme temptation of shelves stocked with stories and then eventually succumb to the need to know what a particular cover holds inside, but really, folks, this is a historic (an historic) event. Carol Callicotte browsed through a bookstore without buying herself a book.
Currently Reading: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I’ve never read a graphic novel before, but my husband insisted I read this one before we see the movie. All I can say is – wow. It’s good.
Biohazard, Coming Through! February 23, 2009
I’ve been on a book buying binge – I can’t seem to walk into a bookstore or browse Amazon without ordering a book or two (or three…). Hence, my pile of now 50+ books that I am determined to read this year. I tend to buy them new – I like to make sure the author gets their deserved percentage. But I have another reason as well – I’m a bit of a germaphobe. Recently, I decided to order a used paperback, just to save some money (it was one I’d already bought, read, and donated to the library, and when I couldn’t find it at the library, I hated to pay full price again). The book arrived this weekend looking… weathered. And my first thought was – did someone read this while they were sitting on the toilet?
Am I the only one with this phobia? Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode where George is in the bookstore and decides to take a book into the bathroom with him? Where has this paperback been, I wonder? Having a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, I know that any microbial life forms that got on there would be dead by now, but still. I just look at that poor little paperback and think…eww.
Best Books I’ve Read This Year – So Far November 21, 2008
I may have a huge stack of books in my to-read pile, but it’s not because I haven’t been reading. Oh, wow, do I love to read – typically a book or two a week. It’s amazing what one can accomplish without cable. I’ve picked three favorites. They are quite different in genre and tone, but all of them kept me up late at night, made me ignore the phone, and had me walking around the house while reading, addicted to the pages and dying to know what would happen next. I’m not going to do a book review on each of them because, well, it’s Friday. But here they are, in no particular order. I highly recommend each of them, and if you do read them, come back and let me know what you think!
I loved this book. An original twist on WWII – narrated from the perspective of Death. The characters are strongly drawn, their relationships and interactions rang true, and the setting was intense and believable. I was immediately swept up by the story. It’s a book I hated to finish.
I don’t read much chick lit, but I will definitely read more from Marian Keyes. She handles the obviously touchy subject of addiction with humor and poignancy, allowing us to see the world through an addict’s eyes. It was a tad long – too many scenes that seemed to cover the same basics, but I still could not put the book down.
LOVED this book. Fat Charlie, Spider, and Mr. Nancy take us on a wild ride through a world where gods walk among us, and may very well be singing on a karyoke stage somewhere nearby. The story works on themes similar to those in AMERICAN GODS, but with a more playful tone. Neil Gaiman has quickly become one of my favorites. He’s absolutely brilliant.
My To Read Stacks November 19, 2008
Whenever someone finds out that I’m a writer and an avid reader, they inevitably recommend a book that I “must” read, or start loaning me books they’ve enjoyed. Add to that my own tendency to go on book buying binges, and you get this:
There are about thirty books piled on my dresser, and another thirty at least on the bookshelves in our house, all waiting patiently for me to cozy up with them. I’m not complaining, really. I’m just hoping to make a dent in the pile before Christmas, if only so I can actually dust my dresser one of these days.
Here’s a brief sampling of what awaits me:
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield This one looked so cool.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Yeah, I still haven’t read it.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon I bought this two years ago and still haven’t read it, even though I have a feeling I’m going to love it.
Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets by J.K. Rowling Working my way through the french version of this one – it’s helping my french, but I really get thrown off by the French translations for “wand”, “spell”, etc. As an aside, Hogwarts is “Poudlard.”
AA Gill is Away by AA Gill I’ve read the intro to this and am very excited about it – this guy’s writing is sharp. This one is on loan – so it’s been pushed to the top of the pile.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon Another one that looked like a good read.
Truman by David McCullough So I can appear more intelligent.
Banned Books Week September 30, 2008
Time Magazine posted an article on the top 10 banned books of all time, here.
Very interesting. I’ve only read 4 of the 10, and 2 of the others are sitting on my dresser in my to-be-read pile. I’ve got some work to do. I’m halfway through Bridge to Terabithia, which did not make Time’s list, but is a frequently challenged book. As I mentioned before, I loved this story as a child and have wanted to reread it for years. I’ve been swept away by the evocative language and strongly drawn characters.
So far, I’ve found nothing objectionable about the book. But whether or not a reader finds something offensive is not the issue. The issue here is censorship and first amendment rights, not whether or not something prods our horrified-gasp reflex. Please, offend me, challenge me, force me to think, but for the love of liberty and individuality, don’t ever expect me to stand by quietly while a government decides what I should be exposed to, what I have a right to read, hear, or say.
And why are more people not outraged at the prospect of having a Vice President who does not understand this fundamental building block of the United States of America?
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read September 24, 2008
Freedom of speech – a topic near and dear to my heart. This year we celebrate the 27th anniversary of Banned Books Week, September 27-October 4.
I took this quote from the American Library Association’s website:
“BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.”
For more information on Banned Books Week, check out the American Library Association.
Here’s a list of the ten most frequently challenged books of 2007. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed.
1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henke
4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
7) “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
8 ) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
10) “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
And here’s a link to the top 10 challenged books 1991-2007.
So what can we do to celebrate this freedom? Stay informed and get involved in your community. Support your public and school libraries. And read a challenged book this week! I’m choosing Bridge to Terabithia, a favorite from my childhood that I’ve wanted to reread for a while.