Adventure and Inspiration

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I had been lacking some inspiration lately. My main character decided to become quiet and ignored me no matter how hard I begged for her return.

How rude.

After the writer’s retreat I’d been to in June, I had been humming along quite nicely and then I got very stuck. My kids were heading to camp and my husband had a few days planned for us in lovely San Diego. But I had an idea.

So, I began a conversation with my beloved.

Me: I know we had planned on going to San Diego while the kids are gone, and it’s beautiful and all. But, I could really use some inspiration for the setting of this story I’m writing. How about we walk around crappy parts of LA instead?

Hubby: Sure, can I pick where we stay?

Me: Uh, yeah.

I don’t know what I thought he would say, he is pretty flexible. Still, I thought it might take a little convincing. I wanted to walk around and see what my character would see, go where she would go. Where she would go is not nearly as pretty as San Diego.

We hit the road, and I don’t think this always happens, but I felt lighter just getting in the car. As we rolled down I-15, we got laughing about a pick up truck we passed on a trip to California years ago. The license plate read “MRMIYAGI. Passing it, we realized it was Pat Morita in the driver’s seat.

Driving in LA is as unfun as everyone will tell you, but my patient, chauffeur-hubby found us a spot right off of Hollywood Boulevard. Camera in hand, we started walking. This was exactly what I wanted to see, I thought, the buzz of traffic and the city all around us. We hadn’t walked more than a few hundred yards when I pointed a building I wanted him to see. He looked up and, at the same moment, slammed his toe into a jagged piece of sidewalk.

He is not a guy who complains about pain and he certainly didn’t want to slow me down, so he insisted we keep walking. That lasted about two more blocks, until his foot started bleeding uncontrollably.

Our walking tour became a driving tour, but I began to get a picture, a thread of an idea that would wind its way through the story and make it better.. Arriving at the hotel a few hours later, I opened up my laptop and typed as fast as the ideas would come. Two thousand words and an hour or so later, I was feeling rather smug and pleased with myself. Here are some of the pictures that inspired me:

Here’s what I really think: inspiration wants to find you when you take an adventure and roll with the twists and turns. Inspiration runs from boredom and routine. Toss those out the window and you never know what you’ll get.

Community of Writers

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Recently, I went to a workshop taught by YA author Nova Ren Suma at Djerassi Resident Artists Program in California. I had worked with Nova in a previous class and was so excited to be selected for this opportunity. I knew it would be productive. I knew that I would have time and get to work with other writers. But there was so much more that I didn’t expect. I’ve been pondering all week what exactly I wanted to say about what I found meaningful, so here goes.

I didn’t expect to love the quiet. I write with the TV, or music, or Netflix ever present in the background. My first night there, I spent a while staring at the ceiling listening to the crickets without the familiar comfort of my television, and I lived to the tell the tale. Imagine that.

The spooky mist

The spooky mist

The longing for noise didn’t go away immediately, but it did go away. It wasn’t long before I was spending more time looking around at my surroundings than at a TV screen.

Each morning we would gather in the barn to critique another writer’s work. I began to really love these stories and hearing where the ideas came from, what lit the spark that started this story or that story. Conversations would last well into the night over glasses of wine and begin the next morning over coffee, hours spent in front of laptops in between. It was like everyone’s stories and characters were in constant motion.

The barn

The barn

The most interesting thing about focusing on each others stories, was that our “real lives” faded into the background. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t seen as a mom, or a wife or a teacher, but instead the writer of a reckless foster kid and the crazy world she lives in (my fictional creation).

As Nova and I sat down for our one on one conference, I found myself wanting to remember every word that she said, the wisdom she had to offer, cementing the answers to all my questions in my mind. But that wasn’t what I walked away thinking. I left thinking that an author I very much admire thinks I have a story worth telling. All the details of how to work on it were written down. I had taken copious notes during our workshop. The little nugget of feeling like my story needed to see the light of day gave me the drive to sit down and type words.

Lots of them.

It would be an understatement to say I’m not a “nature girl” but I did have the opportunity to take a tour of the property with Tom and his trusty dog Hank. Bonus, seeing the beautiful art on the property and NOT having to hike. I’ve included some of these shots in the gallery below.

There was wildlife everywhere, deer would come up to the windows and stare at us like we were zoo animals, Nova fashioned a handy spider-trapper and a bat had to be shooed out of the eaves, but I had an up-close-and-personal encounter one day while walking the path to the house. I was wondering what I would do if bitten by a snake when I heard the rattle.

"Ssssssssssam..."

“Ssssssssssam…”

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake slithered across the path a short distance away. My camera was around my neck, but while frozen in place, I managed to get a shot of it. I didn’t move until it was out of sight, but at that point I ran. I might have been screaming. On the bright side, I tucked myself away in my snake-free room that afternoon and got a lot of writing done. I swear I could hear it hissing my name.

The night before we left, we were in for a surprise. Four YA authors: Jody Casella, C.J. Flood, Sarah Ockler and Suzanne Young (pictured left to right) had been touring California for Simon and Schuster’s Summer Lovin’ Tour.

authors come to visit

authors come to visit

Over conversations on Twitter with Nova, they worked out a private Q&A session and braved the mountain to come spend a few hours with us. They were so kind sharing stories about their writing processes (chaotic they sometimes may be) worries about revising, and excitement about book deals.

We had the opportunity to read aloud each night at the house and I didn’t think I would at the beginning of the week. I did finally venture a bit of an idea that had weaved its way into my head during the week. It wasn’t as much fun as acting out the screenplay of another writer (especially because I got to play the bad-ass lead) but it did feel important to share.

I have a big, rich, full life. I have wonderful family and friends. I have a job I enjoy. I have a husband who loves me and my big dreams. I guess what I feel so in awe of, is that I could feel so equally at home in an amazing place with a talented bunch of writers.

P.S. – Nova is an amazing teacher and I would HIGHLY recommend taking a writing workshop with her should you ever have a chance and the desire. She’s planning on doing more of this in the future (yay!) to get on her mailing list click here.

Vacation and Writing Work

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samanthahager:

So true!

Originally posted on Carrie Brown-Wolf • Rock, Paper, Write:

It’s almost August: dog days and vacation close in!

The packing.

The organizing.

The lists.

The shopping.

The remembering.

The bills.

The job.

The dog sitter.

The mail.

The tickets.

Daunting? Oh yeah. I’m exhausted writing the list. Life often spirals out of control the week before vacation. And yet we do it. We take vacation because a week away is worth the work.

Same goes for our writing.

When a writer begins to think of writing as their work, it becomes work.

The outlining.

The drafts.

The thesaurus.

The critique.

The revision.

The late nights.

The early mornings.

The stuckness.

Exhausted? Yes. But it’s oh so worth it. Writing can involve mind-numbing confusion, but the ultimate result? Well, it might not be a piña colada on the beach, but it’s still worth the work.

Keep going!

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Book Review – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks

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Frankie is the good, little girl living in the shadows and trying to figure out her place in the world. After her older sister graduates and her figure appears, she gains the attention of a cute, older boy. Matthew Livingston on her arm, she begins to think she has it made. And then she realizes, she isn’t the good, little girl she thought she was.

Here’s a bit from Goodreads:1629601

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

I love, aside from the story, the way Frankie places with language. It seems to be the first thing that shows her rebellious side, and sets her apart from everyone she speaks with. For example, she’ll use words like “gruntled” to infer she pleased. She labels it a “neglected positive”. She looks at the world differently and her sweetheart isn’t quite sure what to think about that.

She’s a girl who hangs with the boys, but doesn’t quite fit in. She is, of course, the cute little “bunny rabbit”. When pranks start being pulled by Matthew and his group of friends, no one questions who is pulling the strings. Meanwhile, Frankie is quietly waging a war behind the scenes.

All of the fun and hilarious drama changes Frankie and everyone in her life. It would be safe to say after this year she’ll never be mistaken for a bunny again.

 

 

Book Review – A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved this book. It was written by Patrick Ness, the idea begun by Siobhan Dowd and carried on by Ness after she passed away.

Thirteen year old Conor awakes in the middle of the night to find the monster waiting for him. It’s been coming to him at night since his mother started her treatments, but he doesn’t have the reaction we expect.

“Come and get me then,” the boy says.

Immediately, we are immersed in Conor’s world. He worries for his mum, tolerates his grandmother and doesn’t know what to think about the father who has moved across the world. All the while, the monster comes to him at night and tells him stories.

It’s a beautiful story for ages 12 and up, but a great adult read. This was a book club pick. I won’t ruin the ending, just share a line:

“Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”

View all my reviews

A Dream Come True – Writer’s Retreat

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I am not an adventurer, not by anyone’s scale. I’m a homebody. I hate roller coasters, horror movies, basically anything that will cause my gray roots to appear sooner than they should. But this weekend, I’m taking off an adventure. It’s one that I began dreaming about years ago without even realizing it.

Adventure is out there!

Adventure is out there!

In 2009, I began writing a story. It was a story like others I’d pieced together and scrapped since I first got a typewriter for Christmas when I was in 9th grade. I wrote it for myself like I always had. I wrote late at night and sitting at the kitchen counter while the kids played. I saved my precious work in progress when my daughter accidentally spilled the coffee I’d been drinking on the keyboard and I transferred it all to a new laptop.

I kept going until I got to the end and then I got stuck.

Four years ago, I was looking at the age of forty approaching and I created this deadline in my head about wanting to have this story perfected, agented and published by the time that birthday rolled around. I read a quote by J. K. Rowling recently about the quickest way to kill an idea is to say it aloud. So I said nothing and sat there with my flawed story.

Life went on as it does. My job changed, my kids grew. My husband told me to keep going, giving me time and encouragement and endless patience when I disappeared to go type words. In the last year I discovered some wonderful writer friends who became the critique partners and finally helped me get unstuck. With love, and humor, and brutal honesty, they helped me rip apart that flawed story that began years ago. I looked over my shoulder when my 40th birthday deadline rolled on by in October, not feeling distressed so much as refocused.

In November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and finished a new, 50K word story. After writing that first one, I wasn’t sure I had a another one in me, but this character appeared in my mind and starting bossing me around (like all good characters do). I don’t know if the last year has given me more confidence as a writer or not, but I’ve had a few dare-to-dream moments, leading up to this big one.

Here it is. On Sunday I leave for the Djerassi Artists in Residence Program Months ago I applied for the opportunity to spend a week with YA author Nova Ren Suma and was floored and thrilled when I was accepted. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous, but it’s an adventure I wouldn’t have dreamed of years ago when I began that little story. I’ll be spending the week with Nova, other writers and lots of brilliant words. You can find Nova’s Author Page here or check out her Blog She recently did a series called “The Book of My Heart” which was lovely.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not following a dream, a part-time dream, a silly dream, a this-seems-crazy-dream, a this-will-never-work-out dream, I say go for it. At least you’ll have stories to tell. I know I will.

I am Not Ashamed to Read YA

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Originally posted on Rebekah Faubion, Writer:

ireadya

I interrupt an otherwise pleasant Friday morning, to rant for a few moments about an article from Slate. First, you should check it out.

Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read Young Adult books.

Are you back? If you are a reader of this blog, you likely also read Young Adult fiction. Maybe you are a young adult yourself, or maybe you are also a 29-year-old mom and wife living in Texas and taking her kid to swimming lessons.

There is nothing wrong with the article, unless you count everything she says after:

“Not because it is bad—it isn’t—but because it was written for teenagers.”

No doubt her statistics on the amount of adults that choose to read YA fiction over Adult fiction are accurate. On one hand, she speaks to the larger issue of prolonged adolescents among twenty-somethings, which is a topic we should absolutely examine and discuss. The breakdown…

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