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.