Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I have lots of friends here who do all sorts of things in the arts. There are theater people, dance people, film people. People people...errr. But the best thing to come out from one of these meetings was a conversation I had with some of my friends who are costume designers. If you are in the arts (and you are all writers so yes, that counts.) then you know how hard it can be to be an active artist.
I once has a teacher tell me that there was no space for art in the future. That if the world would end the people leaving on the spaceship bound for distant galaxies would not be filmmakers or theaters artisans, but scientists and such. There was no room for art.
How sad is that?
Speed forward to me meeting up with friends. After a tough semesters, and really all semesters are tough, they were down about what they had chosen to do.
I was reminded of a paper I wrote for an assessment test that asked about state funding for the arts. My answer really hasn't changed. If you look back through history, the only things we remember or the things that flash instantly into our minds is art. The pyramids in Egypt, the plays of Ancient Greece, fashion, architecture. All art, all stamped for eternity on the page of history.
So remember if you ever get down in the dumps about art, this is your mark on history. This is something you can leave behind.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Because really, I don't write what I know.
While reading through some notes on my most recent story, I discovered one vital thing. I write ALL about what I know. I mean A LOT. So I started to think about how much of "me" was in each one of my stories. Not me as in the protagonist is me, but how much of my knowledge has impacted my novels.
There are strange medical procedures, leaving home for the first time, medical procedures, shots, clothing....
That's when I realized, I know a lot. Or at least I'd like to think I know a lot. I can make an outfit if just given a picture (Admit it, that's cool). I can shoot you a movie given the proper camera and equipment. I know what it's like to be injected with radioactive isotopes (that is not made up people.) (And, no, I don not glow). I'm deathly afraid of shots. I know what it's like to have a broken heart, to fail, to question what I'm told..... If you think about it for a few moments, you can probably come up with your own list and anything from that list can easily become the foundation of a novel. I could write a novel about costumes designers trying to finish a show or movie producers desperately pulling their movie together. What you know can take you all kinds of places.
And what you don't know. Research!
Are you using what you know if your novel? Wanna share? Leave a comment!
Sunday, November 13, 2011
This weekend, I think I hit a milestone. Something I've seen coming in this novel and probably rewritten about ....9 times. I call it the crossing, cause we're going from one location to another. Both locals are awesome but getting from one to the other--chaotic! Lot's of death and pills and craziness. But I decided to give you all a taste, cause this needs to be shared with the world. So from my word binge to your computer screen:
Monday, October 17, 2011
With every story I write, I always try to have a character, who I personally love (but really that's all of them). So I try to have a character who if put in a scene will ultimately a) up the stakes and b) create some sort of story. Now, you may be thinking, Gretchen that's supposed to be your MAIN CHARACTER. And yes I agree with you. Your main character should constantly up the stakes and you know move the story along.
But when you hit Writer's Block it's probably, at least for me, fatigue between me and my main character. We're just too darn tired. She's exhausted from telling me all the dark things in her life and I'm tired of speed typing my fingers off. We're in a creative slump, and the only thing that can even remotely save us is: this on little side character, who I call my Saving Grace.
In my latest story, my saving grace is a character named Brody. (Any of you who have read Foxtrot, you all LOVE Brody--you can admit this. If I killed him you'd kill me. Not that I would....there are worse things than death....) But the point is, whenever I pull up this character, I can't help but smile and Foxtrot can't help but smile. It's impossible to suffer from fatigue when I plop my saving grace on the page.
I've had other successful and not so successful saving graces in the past. Sometimes, when they don't work too well, they just repeat the same thing over and over. OR the same thing just keeps coming up in conversations. But with Brody, he happens to be a six going on seven year old who thinks his world is a) wicked awesome (his sister shudders at this thought) and b) that his older sister can do anything. Really ANYTHING. (yes I know this isn't quite typical of siblings, but hey this is the future, things change.) c) he's sort of adorable....ok he's COMPLETELY adorable. So I smile every time he does something.
Even if the scene eventually gets cut, Brody can give me a new way to pull in characters, recenter myself in the story, and basically smile in the middle of a really dark world.
Do you have any ways of solving Writers Block? Or just have characters who just make your day?
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Bettleheim is a child psychologist who studied the impact of fairytales on children. His assertions on fairytales are that children need to hear them. They need to hear the ones specifically with "happy endings" this is not because we too all want happy endings but because of the characters triumphs over darkness.
Children's largest fear in life is that their parents will abandon them and they will have to face the evils on the world on their own. This is a valid fear. How many of us feared losing our parents or being left alone, when we were children? I know that was one of my biggest fears as a child.
What fairytales do, according to Bettleheim, is they confront children with this fear. There is no sugar coating, no talking down to them and telling them everything will always be rainbows and sunshine. Fairytales say that yes, someday you will be left in the woods by your parents and you will be forced to deal with the evil witch, who wants to eat you.
Yeah, I shivered there just typing that.
Here is the reason why children need the "happily ever after." It's not just icing on the cake. It's a teaching method.
Who know that?
Fairytales put children in horrible situations and then show that they, even at such a tender age, can triumph. They can persevere. Dark things WILL happen to you, but if you are prepared for it, you too can shove the witch in the cauldron.
Children NEED this because they need to know they can prevail in the darkness of the world. That's why fairytales feature children. They are not the heroic myths that we receive in high school and college, about great men and women who affect the world around them. Fairytales are about the ordinary boy or girl who are put into horrendous situations and prevail.
It's part of growing up. Facing the world head on and not waiting for people to come to you.
Now there are those (and WE know ALL about them) who would argue that literature, especially for children, has taken a darker turn. They argue this is not a good turn. It is in fact a horrible one, that will teach our children all of the horrible values we endeavor to help them avoid. With the advent of dystopias as the current trend, and the love-y dove-y, sparkly vampires being shoved aside, they say we are going to disturb our children with such darkness.
To those people I say: have you read a newspaper recently?
Here's the facts: our government can't work together, our national debt is through the roof, the largest number of 20-somethings are moving HOME (reasons include, no job, lack of funds, failure to launch), the jobless rate is the highest pretty much since the Great Depression, oh and did I mention the millennials are going to be the FIRST generation EVER in the USA to not out pace their parents in terms of over all state of living?
The world be dark.
How are we supposed to face this? Hmmm? With stories that are happy, where nothing bad happens, and everyone ends with a smile on their face? That helps me, sure.
The book most often cited as too "dark" is the Hunger Games. Let's look at that book for a moment. It features a girl fighting for her life in a word where her government is corrupted, she doesn't have enough money to feed her family, her mother is less of a mother and more of child, and to add insult to injury she's fighting for her life, literally, in an arena being filmed all so that she can protect her sister and be there to take care of her in the future.
How many of those things from Katniss's life happen to deal with real world problems we see today? (And I didn't even add in "deal with war")
And yet, we see her triumph. She lives, you could argue she thrives, but more importantly Katniss perseveres through this life. Whether or not you think the end of Mockingjay is happy or not, Katniss has her happy ending: family and love.
The lesson to be learned is not: how to kill the kid next to you, but rather that you as a reader can come through the darkness of the arena (x2) and civil war, losing your best friend, and STILL find happiness at the end.
So yes, the world be dark, but thanks to tales like fairytales and the Hunger Games, I can face it.
Monday, October 3, 2011
I'm not ashamed of my first novel. Granted you're not getting much beyond this post, but still. This was my first project the start of me becoming my own writer. Letting go of DCD was hard, but I moved on quickly to bigger and better projects. In this murky middle ground, I found myself investigating plot. Looking for ways to circumvent traditional methods and revamp stories that I felt had been told one too many times. It was a time for growth and to use an obscure over used phrase "find myself" as a writer. But I did, when I wrote DCD it was the first time I type a by-line with MY NAME not a penname from a fanfiction site.
So, I 'm not going to ask you to share your first novel experience (unless of course you want too!) but tell me the time you first considered yourself a "writer."
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
For some sound effects...or songs that get me into Foxtrot's head you can look up the song Still Here by Superchick, Thistle and Weeds by Mumford and Sons, or Down by Jason Walker. (yeah, all those sound real uplifting...right?)
Anyone else feel like sharing a bit about their novel world? (you can share en comments or do your own blog and leave me a link)
Monday, September 19, 2011
Now, I'd written some things up to that point in my life, but most of them were in journals that I buried in my room.
I should and do credit fanfiction with my formation as a writer because the sites I visited were invested in making their writers better. By the time I left the site, it required at least 1000 words a chapter and they needed to see a semblance of story within the chapter.
I enjoyed writing fanfiction because like most kids who read I didn't want to leave the characters at the end of the story. I wanted to know what happened next, and more importantly I wanted to be in control of what happened next (yes, I admit I have some control issues).
Fanfiction taught me how to grow characters, taking them on journeys to become the characters I wanted them to become. Like what obstacles could I put in their way to make them change. What would they change for? It was a balancing act between reading and looking for clues within the published novel, and my own imagination.
I can't remember the day I started making my own stuff up. I think it was around the time, I found these pre-created worlds confining. I wanted to go in another direction but the world wouldn't let me... So I scrapped the fanfiction thing and tried my hand at my own novel.
This has pretty much stuck with me. Not that I rip off other people's text, but the research part. I'll comb through huge volumes and webpages looking for some small insignificant detail that could spark a story. Or I wait for a world to creep inside my head and place characters into it to see how they react.
Currently, I'm splitting my time between my dystopian novel (stick around for Wednesday to hear more about my crazy half fantasy half dystopian love child) and a sci-fi screen play (this is me having fun, because I've never done full screenplays before--sort of like a side project [and no, this will probably not be discussed yet])
Yup, that's my beginning, what's yours?
Sunday, September 18, 2011
heh....well my mother can't say that anymore, mostly cause it's homework. No seriously.
Currently, I've been working my way through quite a few movies--again class. (Sometimes I swear this film school this is BA--and I live in fear of telling other children what I do now for "school" because this is just plain awesome).
But I digress....
Anyway this week for those of you who may be more cinephiles than tv-philes I'll let you in on a little secret we're in the middle of PREMIERS. So between classes, watching stuff for class, reading for class (surprisingly lots to read in film school), and catching all the latest shows, I may be a little less than active this week.
(also I promise to catch up blogs I really do)
So for today, what TV show are you most looking forward to returning or starting out this fall? Me, I'm totally digging Once Upon a Time....twisted fairytales you just can't go wrong!
Monday, September 12, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Tomorrow marks the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the question flying both on that day and every anniversary since then seems to be: where were you?
In the ten years since this event, I've answered this question a hundred times and have dissected my actions a million times.
That September I was a teenager, running full throttle through the first full month of school. Concerned, I'm sure with theater auditions and homework. In the ten years since the day, I've tried to piece together what I remember.
To put it simply I was in school, walking down a the hallway from my core classes to the gym for PE. Whispers flew this way and that, snip-its and snatches of what might have happened. I ignored them. I didn't have time to get the whole story, because I had ten minutes to get from one end of the building to the other and change for class.
The moment I stepped into the gym--on time--I received my first piece of information. My teacher asked for a moment of silence because someone had blown up one of the Twin Towers...
...the next thing I can remember is later that afternoon, I was sitting in my babysitter's car (because my parents were supposed to be flying out to a conference--which didn't happen) waiting in a long line for gas. That one moment on a hot Kansas afternoon sticks out as a lonely island in a sea of obscurity.
I don't know what happened on that day. Or the events I do remember do not fall into any sort of chronological order. Even me walking down the hall is the one shining moment before the world changed. I have tried to recall the events from the rest of the that day. Attempted to bring up feelings or even when I finally got the "real" information. But for me it's a very large span of time of convoluted emotions--the most prominent of which was fear and confusions nips at fears heels.
I can remember crying and I can remember wanting to see my parents. I can remember talking to a friend, and the exact placement of furniture in the living room of my parents house. They bob to the surface briefly and sink back down without any real regularity.
As I'm certain most people in my age group have done, I've recounted this story in a number of classes dissected it for every reason my teacher could want. But the thing that always frustrates me is my inability to relate the whole story in a way that makes sense. All that remain are what my script teacher calls "gleaming details."
At least once a year, I pull these details out and sift through them, trying make sense of what happened (then and now) and each time I come to something different. This year for me it's the loss of time. The fact that the one day that changed my world, is a day I really can't remember. Do I blame myself, no. I was thirteen. The mind is just not meant to meant to hold onto those details and I didn't write any of it down.
We come together to share our stories about what happened to remember a day that for many of us will never be forgotten. This is where I was, and where I go I will carry my stories and the stories I read with me. They will teach me, hold me and haunt me. A year from now I wonder where will I be and what will I find among the gleaming details next.
The question I feel that always goes unasked is this: this is where we were on 9/11, where will we go next? We will always remember, the sheer number of stories being shared is a testament to that, but how will we honor those whose stories stopped that day?
The first time I remember pushing back against the fear was the summer of 2002. My parents had planned a trip to Washington DC long before what happened on 9/11. They wanted my brother and I to experience A Capitol Fourth. We flew out to DC on the 4th of July 2002. I remember my mother telling me that if I let the fear of getting on a plane keep me in Kansas then the terrorist had done their job.
The initial fear, I feel has morphed, with the new regulations at airports, racial profiling, a war. We've changed. And not always for the better. But not always for the worst either. Every year we take steps forward and back, but the tally will never equal a time before the fall of 2001.
How will we change the world again? How do we go forward remembering the tragedy but striving to change to make the future better as a way to honor those who died? Going forward not with anger or terror, but the small details in our daily lives. How will your own stories challenge you to change?
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Last night on #writersroad chat (for those of you who don't know what this is-- it's a tweet chat held every Monday at 6PM (PST). It's crazy and a ton of fun!) we talked about taking your writing serious. Now, we can create habits or just smack words down on to the page, but one thing that always comes out is what if I just don't feel like writing. If I'm not in the mood, so to speak, should I write? Because I'm sure it'll be crap and I'll delete it tomorrow.
Now add in me also reading a romance novel last night and it got my brain thinking..... well like other things in life, can we manufacture the mood to make us want to write?
This morning I woke up early--like a whole hour before my alarm. I thought about laying in bed until my alarm went off then I had the following conversation with myself:
Tiny voice in my mind: Girl, you wanna be a writer, get your butt out of bed and go write.
Ting voice: No, I'm serious! Write. NOW.
Me: I don't feel like it. Maybe later? Like tomorrow?
Tiny voice: You could make coffee and then write.
Me: Did someone say coffee?
Tiny voice: Yes and music you could listen to that music you like...
Needless to say I hauled myself out of bed and sat down at my computer. For a moment I stared at the screen. I don't write in the morning...like EVER. I didn't really even feel like writing this morning. Mostly my brain, I feel just isn't in it's fully functional creative state. But thanks to Tiny voice, I was doing just that. So to put myself in the mood, I provided something highly caffeinated, music (to inspire me) and my computer spit out some words.
And nothing happened, I really wasn't feeling it. But when are you going to find the time? Tiny voice popped in and clearly it didn't get the hint to shut up so it continued, If not now, when? I go to school and it's picking up work wise, and I gotta prep for NANOWRIMO (my brother's going DOWN...again). So I put on some music that always screams my story to me and got to it.
By the time the first song wrapped, I was feeling in the mood to write. In forty-five minutes before my alarm went off I got just under 800 words (and most of them aren't too shabby).
So how to you get yourself into the writing mood? Can you pull it out of thin air or do you wait for it to strike?
Monday, September 5, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
As I approach the end of my undergrad career, I've had a lot of time to think back over the past few years. First, let me say I am theater major--I live to analyze the human condition. No seriously, it's what I've been trained to do. After many weeks of self reflection, I have come to the following conclusion: acting or costume design (my concentration) offers on the surface something that seems to be "easy" but when cracked open is as complicated and as nuanced as a business degree.
I mean how hard is it to come up with clothing for people to wear?
How hard is it to write a book--you all remember how that one went? Right, I think I've made my point.
The point being these things seem simple, but as we dig into them we find so many complexities. In costuming there is color, texture, fabric, silhouette, period, interpretation. And within each of those even more subsections and theories. How does colors affect mood? I can't remember the number of times I've sat through a lesson on color theory or perhaps worse the psychology of color. Green makes people look sick, red is rage or romance, blue sad.... Then they cross over, for example if you choose a twill fabric suddenly your silhouette is affected. You have to be aware of these bits in order to put together awesome costumes.
Similarly, you need to learn the craft of writing in order to be a better writer.
Could I have entered the theater world without a college degree--sure, but that doesn't mean I can ignore this pesky little thing called craft.
When I first sat down to take a writing class, I thought I was hot stuff. This writing thing, it was soooo simple. You sit and type stuff out on a page--right cause that's difficult. Now, do not mistake me, I had been a fanfiction writer for a number of years. I'd sort of paid attention to character development, but mostly I thought I didn't need any of that. I knew it all because I had been an avid reader as a child and well still am as an adult.
My first writing class pointed out my severe lack of knowledge in my own discipline.
Plot, character development, dialog, point of view, and theme. At first glance each seems relatively simple. Plot--please that's what happens--DUH. Character development--uh characters aren't stagnant, hheeelllllooo! But well built plots are not just plucked from thin air. They come from well developed characters who have a point of view, who also speak....uh-oh. Now we're running into all kinds of connections.
I've taken about four writing classes. One through my University, and three through a local writing center. I've learned to develop a thick skin, especially when editors are looking at your work. I've learned how to read like a writer--yah there's a difference between reading and reading like a writer. But more importantly, I've learned about the art of writing.
Where to begin stories. How to talk about what is missing without saying...uhhh this sucks. I can now politely tell you why that specific point in your story is not working for me. I've learned sooo much about narration and point of view. My first class taught me how my story was not a first person story, but others have honed my tight third. The list is endless, but the one thing remains constant: my writing gets better the more I learn.
Craft is there for a reason, so reach out for it with both hands. Accept some of it and break other bits. I mean Suzanne Collins totally threw the "no flashbacks until chapter three" out the window, and look how she did.
So now to include the rest of the title in this post, an understanding of craft, can help you add a little macaroni to your writing. Ohh double meanings of words they are great for creating cheesy-ness.
Okay I'm done. Oh wait no there's a question: How do you take your craft? --Er--How do you learn your craft?
Monday, March 21, 2011
The reward for killing the king should be death, no matter the circumstance. Because if you live long enough you’ll wish it was yourself on the other side of the weapon. I know I do.
I killed the king. I killed the king without thought, remorse, or care for my own safety. And yet, here I am celebrated as a hero, the lone rebel who stood up to a tyrant and slit his throat. I remember standing in his room, my dagger sheathed in blood and the king lying dead before me. I didn’t want to be a hero—I wanted my home.
Here, I am home and still there is no peace, the new king stands muddy up to the eyes in my library, and I am contemplating regicide, yet again. Iri showed him in, without thought to my order that I was not to be disturbed. I suppose king trumps employer. Just my luck.
That's my way of dealing with the ups and downs of writing. What's yours?
Monday, March 14, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Well this blogger took some interest in it because hello the Twitterverse was like totally obsessed with this for like five minutes. Now that's some sort of power peoplle--but really I just like a good scandal.
The idea of the YA Mafia is that there is a select group of writers/authors/bloggers/reviewers, who have the power to choose who gets to be publishd, who gets to be reviewed/who gets to review, and basically rule the publishing world--or if you join them/befriend them and give them cookies they can give you a helping hand.
Awesome, am I right? Totally baking cookies right now, but before I break out my mother's super secret cookie recipe let's reconsider this for half a second.
We can approach this as a it does exist vs. it doesn't exist dichotomy, but really, let's face it, this sort of discourse is really going to lead us nowhere. Fast. Like Susan Collins' Hunger Games fast. If we can't use the dichtomy how do we approach something like YA Mafia scandal? We can't prove its existence and we can't disprove it--it's basically taking a nap with Shrodinger's Cat.
The only way I can approach it is with a little advice--okay a LOT of advice--from my mother that makes me say YA Mafia--YA Shmafia.
I've always compared being a writer to being an artist, and like any artist involved in a community there are definitely cliques, "mafias," and other things that make the art world go round. As a very young child, I decided I wanted to be an actress, and I tried out for play after play and repeatedly got my heart broken. It wasn't until a friend's mother pointed out the fact that the kids getting cast had a direct connection to the director/producer/big shots in the industry that I understood something relatively important.
Nepotism is alive and well.
Scary right? I mean, I cried over not getting cast, because it wasn't fair. I mean we live in America, and that means this is the land of the free and that means everyone has a fair chance. As long as you pull yourself up by your bootstraps...yadda yadda yadda. My mother, as many many mothers before her, uttered the phrase "Life isn't fair." How I hated this phrase. It burned me and rubbed me the wrong way, because life should be fair, I work hard and do everything I can so life should be fair.
But it's not.
Then a few years went by and I now still in theater and dabbling in film have discovered yet again that its who you know and partially what you know. Talk to anyone in my theater department or any one of my film professors and they will tell you that nepotism still happens and that you need to know the right people. The "right people" meaning a) who can get you a job and b) who you should not anger in your attempts at climbing the artistic ladder. Now I'll be the first to admit I don't know the publishing industry, but if it exists like any other type of art then I'm gonna guess there is some strong urges toward this "mafia" idea. Not that everyone is playing along, but that there is a healthy chance this could be going on.
I got so angry at one point over people playing "favorites" and ignoring all of my work that I called up my dear mother once more to complain about the situation. She fed me this extremely frightening line:
"Fine, if it's so hard, and never going to happen. Quit. Quit right now and go into something that is 'safe'."
Whoa, what a concept, give up what I love because someone says no, or that there's some secret cabal out there waiting to posssibly destroy me? I don't think so. How could I ever dream of doing something else? This moment, this dream is the culmination of a lifetime of work, and now to just give up because some person doesn't think I'm good enough.
No. False. Not going to let the Shrodinger's Cat of the literary world, ruin/run my life.
YA Mafia, sure, you can give into them. Accept the fact that someone out there has a handle on your fate, and there's nothing you can do about it. That someone decides they don't like you and are going to secretly amass a propoganda machine to take you down. There will be people like that, there are people like that. Now are they in the publishing/theater/film/art world--I hope not but I have a sinking suspiscion that there are some people like that lurky in the backwaters.
But if that's all it takes to freak me out, and make me back away from doing something I love then my mother was right. I should quit and fast. Like sparkly running vampire fast. But I choose to stay and have faith in myself. I have crit partners who have done so much for me, I have taken classes, and at the end of that day, I am happy with my endeavors.
From my years in theater, writing, and film, I've come to the conclusion that there are people out there who are like this supposed YA Mafia, there is a lot of who you know, but there's also a lot of what you know and there are people who look for that. It's not an "us" vs. "them" philosophy, it's a give and take, sometimes there will be truth to what you know and sometimes it will be about who you know. It's an acceptence that sometimes life just ain't fair. Ouch, that still hurts to hear.
Accept it and write your book, make your play, or film your movie anyway. Fight for your ideas (they're yours after all so who better to fight for them?), make friends who are like you and want to get published (the road is too long to go at it alone--I mean even King Arthur had a support team), be friendly to new people (Golden rule aside, remember what it was like to be a newbie), and let secret sects be secret sects (because I think they're out there, but I really just don't care).
In other words, bring it on YA Mafia--if you really exist--I'm not going anywhere.