Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's What You Leave Behind

So I am back in the land I like to call the cold and the north.  This is to say Minnesota.  And while it might be raining outside or as my weather app likes to call it "winter precipitation" it's been a great visit.

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

What I know.

The typical list of "how to be a writer" usually contains the phrase "write what you know."  And when what I know isn't enough?   When confronted with this question, I used to say, "Yeah but I don't know what it feels like to live in a dystopian future or be mixed up with faeries.  Or..."  The list went on and I slowly but surely wrote off the "write what you know" mentality.

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

Word Binge

Yup the title says it all.  That's how I write.  In big long word dumps.  Some people do it every day, I do it once a week...on a good week.  But I usually get between 5 and  10k done on a weekend.  It's nuts.  It's emotionally draining.  It's probably not healthy in some respects.

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:

            Buildings poke from the ground, small stubs jabbing at the grey sky over heard.  An accusation or statement that says we’re still here and we’re still building.  The fence encircling the city is unlike any one I have ever seen.  Chain link, razor wire sandwich thick metal poles, creating a net of safety net the likes of which I’ve never seen.
            The car has stopped in front of these, but behind us rise yet another impossible sandwich of metal and barbed-wire.  Several people in suits sit at a desk with a person in a white coat.  Ms. Norberry, removes a briefcase from the trunk of the car.  Digging around inside she hands a stack of bills to the driver. 

There you have it folks! The City (yeah I'm working on the title).  What a new playground to discover corruption and conspiracy in!  Plus Foxtrot might, and I mean MIGHT, wear a dress at some point.  And there is some more kissing and some more hunting, and some more info about the infection.  It makes me slightly excited.  

But only slightly.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Writer's Block Innoculation

So this post is really a true example of me, knowing at some point I will have Writer's Block and heading it off before it can sink its evil story stalling claws into me.  It's sorta like a flue shot.

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

The World Be Dark.

Let's get one thing straight people, books are dark places.  Books are also light and happy places.  Books--and really stories in general--give us places where we are confronted by darkness and shown that even in the darkest situations we can triumph.  Recently, in my story analysis class, my professor brought up this book The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettleheim.  (Now please be aware this is second hand info--my copy in on it's way but this is her assertions from the book)

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.

Scary right?

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?

Apparently, Bettleheim.

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

In the Middle

So two weeks ago (yeah sorry about that), I wrote about my beginning as a writer.  That one space of time where my life went from easy and ordinary to confusing and extraordinary.   Yes, writing can make your life confusing ex. Sunday me having written all afternoon, I sit on my couch crying.  Not because it's bad prose, not because I'm upset about life.  But because I'm emotionally drained from reworking Foxtrot.  See crazy.

But this is about my middle.  That awkward space between me turning away from fanfiction and my first novel. Yes it was a scary time.  Yes it was a scary novel.  Yes I'm going to tell you about it.

The title of my first ever novel was called: The Debate Closet Debacle.  (nope it was not whimsical.  It was like Harry Potter meets present day America meets Policy debate--which yes, I did in fact do.)

It was about three girls and how they became friends and bonded over magic...and debate.  Also there was this debate closet, which if you know anything about policy debate you know it's ALL about the research.  Tubs of the stuff and it's gotta go somewhere, hence the closet.  This is a place where tubs of research have been known to try and assassinate debaters.  See brilliant!  I wrote all over the place on this story crafting characters and places and no actual plot.  Plots are hard things for me, characters--check, awesome places--double check, plot--ehhh we're still looking for that.

But it was my first solo novel and I love those girls and that closet.

My first attempt taught me a lot.  Like most things you learn for some of your early failures and you go on to discover all new and amazing failures and strengths.  Don't ever forget you have strengths. 

It may take you a while to discover them, but they're there, trust me.

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


I feel this title should actually read something like this:
Re-reading or how I avoid the to-be read stack that is a mile high and the 200 pages of right of publicity case law
but that just seems to be a bit too long don't you think? [and you all thought film school was about making film....]

Now, I will say my re-reading stack is considerably smaller than my to-be read pile.  I have a stack of about five books that get re-read at least once a year.  These are books who are either special to me because of when I discovered them or the characters never fail to wrap me in their stories.  I laugh, cry, and cringe in ALL the same places every time without fail.

They are a random assortment of books so YA some adult, some romance others sci-fi, and even a fantasy series or two.

I think sometimes I'm less adventurous than I should be with my reading skills.  I'll pick up all sorts of books [second hand bookstores are my favs!] and they will sit in my stack probably a year before I pick them up.  I always enjoy them, but if push comes to shove I'll reread one of my guaranteed best books.

Now the reason for this post.  When I started my most recent project I realized one fatal flaw, I'm writing a freaking dystopian novel.  If you check out the list below, there is not a dystopian novel on it [and yes for those of you who know my LOVE of the Hunger Games, will be surprised that HG be not on that list--that's another blog post].  

As I worried over how to grapple with this genre, someone suggested I read in the genre.  Well that's easy, but I'm always skeptical of Amazon reviews.  Mostly cause I'm weird and I read all the one star reviews, cause I find people's whiny-ness amusing.  Then by the end I don't learn anything useful about the book  This is where I hope some of my blogger friends will come in.  So I plan to read some dystopian, I mean I will not be allowed to re-read my favs until I have finished these new books.  Which I will say I have a book that ALWAYS gets reread at Christmas so there is a goal.  Plus, let's be honest, I need some variety in my life.

So tell me your fav dystopian novel and why (if your's is Hunger Games please suggest your second fav).  Or one you think I really should check out. Kay thanks!  

My Re-Read Pile: 
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith 
Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn 
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Mad, Bad Duke by Jennifer Ashley 
Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome to Foxtrot's world....

So, today as promised I intend to give you all a taste of my crazy novel-child.  But I feel that just giving you a blurb about it, is not enough (because my current "summary" drives me crazy).  Plus they say a picture is worth a thousand words so here's some "words"  about the world in my novel.

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?)

So this is where Foxtrot lives.

This is what the center of her city looks like.

Worst possible out could get infected.

Could there be a cure...

Above all else, one thing that can keep you safe.

So that's a little bit about the world my characters run around in.  I'm pretty sure it's not a place I want to live, but I seem to be spending quite a bit of time there.  My characters make it bearable.

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

In the beginning....

Right, in the beginning of me being a writer, I wrote and published things that were maybe not entirely my own. That is to say, I wrote fanfiction, and I'm not ashamed to say I did.  (Now keep in mind, I won't tell you which fandoms I wrote in or where these stories may or may not be published.)  But deep within some else's imagination I got my start in creating stories.

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

TV--or why this week I may be absent.

So you know when mother's tell their kids to go outside and not watch so much TV?

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


Last week my friend (hi Emily!) and I had a conversation about the word serious and how it applied to our writing.  On the one hand you have the definition (at least the one I feel applies to writing) of serious as:    
Being in earnest; sincere; not trifling

And on the other, there was me interpreting the word serious as: 
Having absolutely NO fun because you're too worried about being serious.

Here we have an intersection between connotation and denotation.  The denotation being the actual definition and the connotation being my freak out mode when the word "serious" is applied to me.  But my friend insisted, I was a serious writer (which from her is a TOTAL compliment). 

But I had to disagree with her.

I freaked out, cause I don't consider myself to be a serious writer (at least by my definition).

Emily was totally cool at handling my freak out and explained how I was totally and awesomely a serious writer.

 Tiny voice (yes it visits me so often  and it just won't shut-up) came back and in a bit of a snit.  Because I was still thinking of being "serious" in my connotation of the word.

For me being serious, in my mind, is like kissing a kid with chicken pocks and KNOWING the kid has chicken pocks.  Just replace chick pocks with writers block.  It's asking to be sick.  I do what I do because I have fun while I do it.  When I try to make myself be all "serious" as in a set schedules, make outlines, and forcing myself to experience the story, I find my attention wandering.  The story evokes a stale taste in my mouth and Tiny voice comes back, extremely angry, to say WHAT WHAT WHAT are you doing.

I can't put two words on a page that I like.  I can't even put two words on a page that I don't like. So I go back and write like a I do.  You know on the fly, spur of the moment, with three chapters in my head and nothing beyond that point.  I grab some music and my tiny laptop and stand at my kitchen count (cause I can't dance at a desk) and write.

Now I would love to someday be paid for what I write or what I think up, but the main reason I do the creative things I do is not for the hopeful payday, but because  I enjoy what I do.  I like to put words down on a page that make sense when read from left to right (I know, I'm not cool enough to be experimental....yet).  These things I do, in my mind, without seriousness. 

Which is a lie, of sorts.  I don't want you all to think I'm not professional when I write or interact with other writers.  Or that I'm just a frivolous girl out to be a "writer" without any real drive.  I have drive.  I have desire to be better.

That makes me serious, I suppose, in the denotation sense.  I have crit partners, I read, I'm slowly figuring out this whole publishing process.  By the dictionary, I'm SOOOO serious.  

But in my mind, I'm not so at ALL.  If I think of myself like that, I freeze.

Slowly, I am coming around to see myself as a serious writer, but I'm still looking for a better word.  Any suggestions?  Are there words that stop you in your tracks?  How do you deal with them?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The never ending question.

I feel this post has rambled a bit from where I originally started.  Originally I wanted to share my story.  But then I realized my story seems to small and insignificant.  It is not so much my story as where this story has brought me.  You are more than welcome to skip this post, or read here and there as you will. This is my story of that day and my feelings toward what I can and cannot remember.  This is not just about not forgetting, our stories will forever cement that day in our social consciousness.  

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

Turn Ons

Okay, so before you all think my mind is in the gutter, hold on for five seconds--or five sentences....

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 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

Flash-itize me, Captain

So it's the first challenge of the campaign writers and readers!  Rachael has challenged us all to you know write a short tight little piece of fiction.  The challenge as most of you know (because I read your blogs) is a 200 word short that must begin with the words "The door swung open."   I have problems sometimes keeping things small and well, not complicated.  But I think I have managed this.  Hopefully you like my flash fiction.

The Trouble With Glass Slippers

The door swung open releasing me into the night.  A sharp edge on my slipper catches on the fine carpet of the stairs.  The jolt sends me into the marble bannister, searing my blood soaked dress to my skin.

My step-mother constantly informs me I am too impatient, she wants me to learn control.   Washing floors and cleaning house are not my idea of control.  If anything it bred within me the need to prove my skills.  She has no faith in me, preferring her offspring over me.

This assignment wasn’t supposed to be so messy.   The mess has been trained out of me, all I know is slick and silent ways to kill.  I know how to sneak up on targets and divest them of life before they are any the wiser.

Boots pound on the terrace above me.  I don’t suppose I could hope for a clean escape after that escapade.  Who knew a body could hold so much blood or fight back when it had lost so much of it?
I yank at my foot but the chipped glass is caught fast.  I slip off the offending slipper and sprint for freedom.

Wells readers that's can tell me what you think or just read for enjoyment. (And if you'd like to vote/like it I'm number 126) I'm looking forward to popping around to all of the other blogs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

10 Things You Might Not Know.....

Okay so that's a little misleading, because most of you (most of you campaigners) have never met me or communicated with me on a regular basis. But as a get to know you game (because really name games don't work on blogs....they just don't.) So in no particular order here goes ten random things about me, Gretchen Schreiber.

10. I can do a thumbs up with my toes (yes there is a 90 degree angle created between my big toe and the other toes)

9. At one point (like college freshman year) I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist.

8. Number 9 did NOT happen and I am currently getting my masters in film at a kick ass school (yes I am accepting film rights...but be warned I have no money with which to pay you for them. So we'll need to do a Stephen King.)

7. I feel I should mention this, but if something I write seems off it might be sarcasm....actually it's probably sarcasm....

6. The scariest thing I've ever done was throw a book at a doctor's head....yes, I hit was a high fantasy book....I apologized A LOT.

5. I watch way more reality TV shows than I should.

4. I grew up in a state where the only thing that can catch the horizon is the plains....this is a place also known as Kansas. I kinda like it there.

3. Research intrigues me, especially in subjects like war and fairytales....both of which I've written/am writing about.

2. I have a basket that looks like a duck and it holds my favorite writing block solver, a toy called "tangle." Basically, you can twist turn pull through and it never tangles.

1. I drink Pepsi out of my Santa Clause Coke glasses.

There you have it folks, ten random things from my life. Also bonus fact, I seem to love the ellipsis...

Also, Dystopian people I feel we should talk, or do something....cause we're in a group....and you all seem awesome (also you campaigners in general are awesome)....yeah.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You Win, I Win.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned thus far in graduate school is the title of this blog. "You win, I win."

In the arts it's so easy to get jealous of people, really quickly. Critique partners, writers you follow, new comers who you think might be better than you....the list goes on. They get good news and at least I know I sort of fall into the black pit of I-am-no-good-I'll-never-get-there. They make it look so easy and I just can't seem to put two words together. But I know that is not true. I know that I am totally more than what my brain is telling me.

So jealousy, meet someone who is smarter and brighter than you. I talked to a friend about this who had some help from another friend who we both feel is a better screenwriter (I'm a film student people, I write more than novels). His comment was if you do well that is a reflection of me. So you do well, I do well by association.

This is a business but it's also about people. In fact, like most businesses it depends on people. The only way to get through all of the craziness of the publishing, film, or arts business is to support each other. Because when your critique partner does well, you do well--because you helped them get there. In turn, they will support you on your way to being published because your success is a reflection of them.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Join the party...

So in this nebulous we call the internet, I feel that meeting people and you know finding blogs to follow to be a job in and of itself.

Luckily, there are some great people out there who are all about connecting writers to other writers (I like those people...and you should too). So Rachael Harrie over at Rach Writes is doing this awesome thing she calls The WriteCampaign---perhaps you've seen the twitter hashtag?

Join the campaign and meet some other people who are like you, they blog, they write, they're looking to meet people who are awesome like them. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Can you pitch and tell?

So I decided to enter a pitch contest, why, because I think it would be cool. You can try this too! Visit here ( ) for all the details.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Craft Macaroni and Cheese

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


My writing process is about as crazy as I can make it. I flash write, where I'll dump 10K on the page and then spend the next three weeks expounding/editing/moving bits around. Then a week where I think I'll chuck it all in the trash. And in this time of trash chucking I have to find a way to cope and get back to the 10K dump session so the cycle can begin again.

What keeps the wheel winding?

1. Text messages--no seriously. A long story, short: my friend and I have been texting each other because our schedules make it impossible for us to actually get together and she kept sending me this message: I want more stories. And I'll admit my life can get a little crazy and so I thought she just missed me talking about the crazy things from set/back stage/shop ect... Then she sent one that said: PS I would like more stories. And then it hit me, I'd sent her some stuff--she wanted more of my writing.........I HAVE A FAN! Okay so she's my friend and I'm not sure it counts, but it makes me smile every time I read the message. Call me crazy but it gets me through the day.

2. Crit partner--seriously find one. End of story. They tell you how you what's wrong and then (unlike some people coughchough critics coughcough) they help you FIX it. Plus they get the whole this-writing-thing-makes-you-kind-of-crazy--and they don't look at you like you're growing extra tentacles from your eyeballs. (Or if they do you can look back at them and giggle because they're growing tentacles too.)

3. And this might be my personal fav: free WRITE. What does this mean? I write what I want without care to how good it is or where the plot is going or what the hell is wrong with the grammar. I can just write and sometimes the coolest things come out. For example (as I am currently in the head-smacking-I-hate-this-waiting-for-the-cycle-to-begin-again stage) I wrote this and it sort of makes me giggle. Is it going anywhere? Probably not, except maybe a one way ticket to the nut house for yours truly. But it's sort of fun anyway--if you like that whole after the revolution thing.

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

Mountain Climbing

Sometimes writing feels like a mountain climb, it's me up against this crazy world of writing/querying/publishing with only my imagination as a rope. But how to start a climb that is so far up that I can't see the top?

Just a little bribery--yes that's right, I bribe myself. To get started, to keep going, to rest.

Writing is easy, but I have to get into it first. I sit at my computer or stare at my notebook and know full well that I should sketch out some paragraphs or rework that section before I submit it to my crit partner. I know full wall that once I start the process I'll enjoy it but there's that starting-is-too-hard-so-I'll-watch-some-more-TV feeling that takes over. So I bribe myself. Music, coffee, the promise of an hour to myself. Whatever it takes I'll do it.

Now, please don't mistake this as I don't like to write, I do, I love the creative process. But getting started, staring at that mountain and then at my small hands and the single rope makes climbing that mountain scary. Yet, I know the climb will be good and enjoyable, taking that first step is difficult.

Music is my primary choice, new songs, film scores anything that will gather the creative sides of my brain together. This works for those moments where I am in a rut and really just need to get my butt in gear. My last purchase included Tron Legacy and Inception soundtracks, both of which I enjoy so when I plug into them, I can write.

As far as deadlines, coffee and a coffee shop are my prime bribery options. Getting out of the house, to a public space. One, I can't get up and dance. I admit that my novel playlists have me dancing and choreographing fight sequences. In public spaces breaking out in my crazy antics is sort of a no-no and rather frowned upon. Then there's the group atmosphere, that says you're out with a computer--DO SOMETHING. This does not mean check facebook or watch my twitter news feed, this means something productive. Also there is the added benefit of coffee mixed with a healthy amount of chocolate--AKA my biggest weakness. With the double "c"s running through my veins how can I not be productive.

Finally, finishing something. Congrats, Gretchen you finally through that chapter, that edit, or you wrote that paper. Break time. Put your feet up and fall into a good book or perhaps watch that new movie you've been dying to see. In other words you've reached a plateau and while the mountain is still looming over your head that climb is for another day.

How do you motivate yourself to keep going?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Three truths and a lie.

Well here we are again, and what have I for you today? Hmmm interesting scandals rocketing the YA lit world--no, awesome news on how well my WIP is whipping along--wrong again, how my paper linking communism, able bodies, and Glee is going to write itself--I wish.

No today I am going to start lying. Or at least make myself a liar. I always thought I'd be one of those people who didn't "review" books. I think I've even said it out loud a few times well now I can no longer say that.

That sentence: "Today I am going to start lying" is a version of one of my all time favorite first lines. It comes from the book entitled Split by Swati Avasthi--and if you think you knew anything about abuse and it's cycles this book will re-write those ideas PDQ.

So the first line is actually this: Now, I have to start lying.

I remember picking this book up because I was doing an author interview, and I took a class from the author and she's pretty darn cool herself, so I thought heck why not. I am now a convert to the church of father son and holy contemporary fiction. It's true that before this book I could count on one hand the number of times I willing picked up a book that dealt with the "real world." I'm more of a fairie, vampire, fallen angel type of girl. So I was expecting to read about twenty pages and commit the book to the ominous file 13.

Not since the Hunger Games had I been pulled into a book so fast. I gave up a nap to read this book. That says something when a college student willingly forgoes sleep. WILLINGLY. Because I was too worried about the characters, who I knew did not exist but they seemed to. They live, and, breathe, and yes, even bleed all in the span of what I thought was a heartbeat.

So do yourself a favor, go to the book store, get Split, a box of chocolate, and probably something caffeinated. Snuggle up with something super comfy and enjoy a fabulous conversation with a sixteen year old boy named Jace.


I don't know how many of you use Twitter, or even follow the literary folk on there. But if you do undoubtedly you have see this hashtag thrown about #YAmafia. So what does it mean? What is the YA Mafia and should I want to be a part of it?

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.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Another stab at it.

So...hello everyone out there in blog space, it's been a while huh? Would you like to see what ate up my grand plans that I had last September? I can't claim that it's perfect, but between this baby of a project, grad school applications, and my friends need to see my face every once and a while, writing and blogging went down hill.

First before I show you last falls baby project, let me reaffirm myself and say I love to write. In fact I consider myself a writer at heart, and someday hope to consider myself an author. However there is this large part of me that hates the solitude of being a writer. Some people love it, the curling up with a steaming cup of something highly caffeinated and churning out stories about people. I love it, but it gets lonely, and that's when I turn to film.

Yes that's right, readers, I make film too.

So watch out Hollywood, this writer understands your fickle beast. :)

Without further ado I present last falls brain child aka Witchling.....
Warning, there is blood and some people die in this video.....yup. It's too big to post directly to blogger so you have to go to youtube. I promise this is not some sort of scam.

So that was the in the spring, and what I call "still winter" as there is at least a foot of snow still on the ground I've gone back to writing, because I just can't get away from it.

For the last two years I've struggled with this story, with characters and with plot. And characters who refuse to make plot--those are the worst. And to them I say: die. No seriously. With the help of a writer friend, I've killed characters to the point where they no longer show up on the page, as in they are REALLY REALLY dead. Okay so they still complain in the back of my mind, BUT I tell them to be quiet and give them chocolate.

And out of one death came three amazing characters, interesting plot twists and a sense of how awesome being on the perceived "bad" side can be. In the last weekend I've written almost ten thousand words. And there are several thousand waiting to be written. Sometimes death is a good thing, I mean a really good thing.