Monday, January 16, 2012

When Stories Fall Flat

I was reading the intro to Life of Pi and Martel talks about a manuscript he was working on that was well researched, he liked the characters, he even liked the story, but he just felt like it wasn't going anywhere. So, he decided he needed to cut his losses and move on. He says he mailed the manuscript to a fake address in another country so he'd never have to see it again.

I was relieved to hear that other people have stories they love, but can't make them work for one reason or another.

I have half of a book written--the first book I ever wrote actually. I love the characers. I love the story. I love the conflict. And yet, I can't seem to make it work.

I don't want to erase it, though, because I have dreams of going back and rewriting and revising and making it the novel I keep dreaming it could be.

What do you do when a wip just doesn't seem to be working for you? Do you give up? Trash it? Save it? Plow through? Or something uniquly you?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dear Britta

A fellow blogger and writer friend of mine has a beautiful baby girl who has had a lot of unexpected health problems in her life--including a life-flight trip for an emergency heart surgery.

Steph is blogging about her daughter's journey here: http://dearbabybritta.blogspot.com/

Please take a few minutes to jump over there and read about beautiful baby Britta.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Married a Crazy

Actually, I married a really great guy.

Look, here he is:
Note the strategically placed arm over my pregnant belly.
Also, we are not pained to be that close together, we are pained by
 the piercing AZ sun in our eyes.
And here he is again...

This is Washington crossing the Deleware portrayed by Jeremy.

He's smart, good looking, fun, and super sweet. I seriously love this guy.

But he's still kind of crazy.

Tomorrow he's running in something called The Tough Mudder. Basically, it's a military style course that goes about 12 miles and includes various obsticals like walls to climb, ropes to cross, mud pits to jump into, tubes to crawl through, fire to run through, and live wires they have to run through and get mildly electrocted at the end. Fun, right?

Except, he keeps showing me these vidoes of the course and in the background, there're people being loaded onto stretchers or having medics attending them, or bleeding from various parts of their bodies. He thinks it's awesome. I think I'm going to start praying now.

You may or may not recall my 5K mud run (mis)adventure, so you can see why I don't get this. I had to sign a waiver just to be a spectator at the Tough Mudder!

I'm actually really proud of him and all of the hard work that's gone into him training for this race even if I am a little worried.

Wish him luck!



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kids Just Want To Have Fun

Here are some of the activities my creative children participated in while I was sick and mostly immoble during the first three months of my pregnancy.

Baking:


As a side note: The bottom shelf of the pantry is probably not the best place to keep flour.

Redecorating/ Painting murals:

Somehow the children found the crayons that up until this point were hidden in a drawer and I only pulled them out when I could sit and color with them. There is not one unmarked wall in my entire house. The kids' bedroom has so much crayon on the walls (basically an entire mural) that I know it was a combined effort of all three of them.
As a side note: Flat paint is impossible to clean. Never have white walls with flat paint in a house full of budding artist children.

Arts and Crafts:
My 4 year old had made a ghost in preschool using glue and cottonballs. They'd glued the cottonballs to the inside of the body of the ghost and he was very proud of it.

Later that day... he found the cottonballs in my bathroom and the bottle of tacky glue in my craft box and glued cotton balls all over the floor and walls of our play room.

As a side note: Glue does not wash out of carpet, even after multiple carpet shampooing attempts.

Arts and Crafts, Take II
The kids found a permanent marker.

I should probably just stop there, but I just can't.

My four year old drew all over himself and his two year old sister (they are always partners in crime, as pictured above). When I went into the playroom to check on their suspicious quietness, they both had almost completely black faces. Their noses were all the way colored in like little puppy dogs, my four year old had given himself a mustache, it was on their foreheads, cheeks, eye lids, arms, stomachs, legs, feet...

As a side note: Rubbing alcohol takes the worst of the permanant marker off of skin. The faint remains just have to wear off over time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Time I Lied to Christopher Paolini

About seven years ago, when Eragon first came out, Christopher Paolini did a book signing at the Phoenix Zoo. At the time, I was a student at ASU, majoring in Secondary Education to teach English, and taking a class called Young Adult Lit (the class where I discovered and fell in love with YA lit, btw, but that’s a different story.) As an extra credit assignment, my professor encouraged us all to go to the book signing. Since I’d missed several days of class due to my son’s unexpected health problems and several emergencies that put him in the hospital, I knew that I needed the extra credit.
Plus, I’ve never been able to resist meeting an author. And I was doubly impressed when I learned how young Paolini was at the time, to have a book out with Knopf that was doing so well.
I recruited my little sister to go with me, partly to keep me company and partly because I felt that, at 15 years old, she helped legitimize me among the teenage group. Okay, and I also wanted someone to help me watch my baby.
Paolini spoke for a while about his journey to publication (a really interesting story that you should look up when you get the chance) and afterward offered to sign everyone’s book.
I’d taken my sister to Changing Hands bookstore just before the signing so we could purchase our books, and I’d cracked mine open and read a few pages while we were waiting for him to speak. I’ll readily admit that fantasy is not my favorite genre to read and I was skeptical about liking the book. My 14 year old cousin (boy) had enjoyed it, but I was a 22 year old young woman. Married. With a kid. And, I’ll admit, I like romance a lot (big surprise, seeing as how I wrote one and everything). I didn’t see Paolini weaving a heart-stopping romance into his dragon book.
Me and my sis got in line to have him sign our books. When it was our turn, he took my copy of Eragon and flipped it to the title page. I thought he might just sign it and move on like he had with most people, but I am not most people, apparently.
He finished signing my copy, but held onto it for another second. “Have you read it?” he asked.
“I’m reading it right now,” I replied, truthfully. But then I opened my big ole mouth and continued. “I’m about half-way through.” Half-way? What now? I was about 12 pages in and had spent all of five minutes that day reading the book. How in any world is that half way through a 400 page book? I honestly have no idea why I even said it
“Huh.” He looked down at where my bookmark clearly stuck out in the very front pages. “Are you liking it so far?”
“I love it. It’s so awesome. Really hard to put down.” Someone needed to come shut me up right about then. Seriously.  I thought my sister might blow something from trying not to laugh.
At that point, I was chanting in my brain: Please don’t ask me any specific questions about the book that don’t have to do with the first 12 pages.
Paolini sat back a little in his seat. “I find that really interesting,” he said. “When I started writing this book, I wrote it thinking that it would be guys like me reading it, not…” He kind of gestured toward me, and I knew he of course meant extremely good looking young women (with babies and tendencies to run off at the mouth when nervous). “I’ve been surprised at the different people who are enjoying it.”
He—thankfully—handed me my book back then and thanked me for coming, signed my sister’s book with a nod, and we were out of there. I waved down my professor so that he could see I that I came, dragged my sister and the baby away from the signing area, and explained to her that I hadn’t lied, I’d just exaggerated (I am supposed to be a role model to her and everything).
For those who are curious, I did in fact finish Eragon about four years later one Sunday (in my pre-Kindle days) when I was dying for something to read and it was the only unread book on my shelf. It really was a good read. It’s not necessarily my flavor (I didn’t finish out the series, even though I’ve recommended it to people who are into fantasy), but I’ll bet my boys love it when they’re a little older.

Friday, January 6, 2012

1984

I'm reading 1984 right now. I keep it next to my bed and I try to read a page or two before I go to sleep each night. I’ve read other things by Orwell (Animal Farm, many of his essays), I like his style, and have always wanted to read 1984. There are so many references to it in our culture—doublespeak and big brother just to name a few—and I wanted to see where they originated from.

But I am having the hardest time getting through it. I am on page 72 and I feel like Orwell is still world building. And maybe that’s the point of 1984—building a world and society that’s a chilling forecast of what could happen if we let government get out of control. But I’m craving more plot than a man writing in his journal.

I’m using the receipt from when I bought the book as my bookmark, so I know I purchased it May 4, 2011. Eight months and I’m only 72 pages in. Pathetic. (It’s a good think I read like five books at a time.) The thing is I want to finish it. I keep a pencil by my bed and I underline things that really stand out or make me think. I’ve talked to my husband about points Orwell’s made that are really interesting or profound. But I’m rarely in the mood for a book of exposition about a fictitious community.

I love the classics, but I am not clicking with this one.

And yet, I want to finish it. I only paid $4 for it (thank you, my local used bookstore)so it’s not the money. Maybe it’s the curiosity. Dystopian books are really big right now and I’m seeing a lot of parallels between 1984 and a lot of these books I’ve read. Maybe, despite my frustration with Orwell’s main character, I’m more drawn in than I thought.

I started this post so that you could convince me to finish it, but I think I’ve convinced myself to keep chipping away at it.

I’ll let you know in about five years (when I finally finish it) what I thought about the book.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Finishers

I am not a finisher when it comes to reading. If something doesn’t catch my attention or keep me wanting to read, I have no problems putting a book down and moving on. I think there are just too many good books out there and I don’t have a ton of time to read, so I don’t want to waste my time on something that’s not engaging. I thought everyone was this way.

I was wrong.

In fact, I can’t believe how many people out there feel like they have to finish a book once they’ve started it. And here I’ve been for years, buying books for people just because I like the cover, or heard on the news that it was good, thinking that if the book stinks, the person will just stop reading it.

Again, wrong.

I bought my sis-in-law Inkheart for her birthday a few years ago. It sounded intriguing, there was a movie coming out, and she was enjoying the Fablehaven books, so I thought she might like it. I’m not a huge fan of middle grade fantasy, so I didn’t read it first, had no idea what the books would be like. A few weeks after I gave them to her I asked her if she’d had the chance to read it yet. She said she’d started it, but was having a hard time getting into it. I told her it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if she didn’t like the books (I dislike probably half of the books I start reading.) Several months later, I read a book by Nicholas Sparks that I knew she’d love (we’re both huge fans) but when I tried to give it to her, I was blown away when she told me that she was still reading the first Inkspell book--and having a hard time getting motivated to read it--but didn't want to start a new one until she was finished.

Nicholas Sparks, though. I’d been on a waiting list for months to get the book from my library. But she really wanted to finish Inkheart, even though it really wasn’t her kind of book and it meant she wasn’t reading at all.

Similar (shorter) story… Over Thanksgiving, I gave my brother-in-law a book from my shelf that I’d started reading several years ago, but stopped about 2/3s of the way through because I didn’t like it. He was interested—maybe because he’s in school right now and reading textbooks can make any book seem appealing. When I saw him at Christmas he was still reading it, and said it was just okay. He’d gotten a book for Christmas that he’s been wanting for a long time, so I was surprised to see him reading one that he was only kind of enjoying (although I suspect he’s just being nice and he really doesn’t like it.) He said that once he starts a book, he has to finish it. He started reading The Road a few years ago and hated everything about it. The writing style, the plot, the characters, and he still kept reading it, just because he started it.

So, here I am, thinking I’m promoting literacy by buying and giving books, and instead, I’m kind of killing it.

Oops. (I wonder if my in-laws cringe when I given them a book…)

My finisher friends: What motivates you to finish a book you’re not enjoying?

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Discovery

I made a new discovery about myself the past several months while I was dealing with the 24 hour morning (ha!) sickness with my pregnancy. I am a prideful person.

At my lowest point in being sick, I’d lost 18 pounds (just for some statistical background, I’m 5’9” and started my pregnancy at 130lbs), was crying every night when I had to give myself a shot, dealing with headache and fatigue as a side effect of my nausea medication, throwing up anything substantial I managed to eat, dragging an IV pole around with me, and fainting if I moved too quick. So, not great.

One day I had a close friend over and while we were talking, someone called to see how I was feeling. My close friend was getting bugged as she listened to my side of the conversation, especially when I said, “Oh, I’m fine. I’m really doing okay. Honestly.” When I got off the phone, she informed me that I was not doing fine and I needed to stop telling people that and stop being so dang prideful (I prefer to call myself "independent," but whatev).

The next time someone asked how I was feeling, I committed to telling the truth—mostly so that I could prove to my friend that I wasn’t prideful (I know, I know, the irony of proving my humility in order to save my pride, let’s not go there.) In this conversation, I started to really open up. If I was going to tell the truth, then it was going to be the whole truth, apparently.

 
Cause not only was I struggling physically but I was starting to feel really, really sorry for myself. My sickness came right on the heels of news about our oldest son needing surgery again (after already having four surgeries this year), and I began to wonder why I needed be so miserable in my pregnancy when there are so many woman who aren’t. It was easy to feel picked on.  Hadn’t my family had a rough enough year already? Did we really need one more thing thrown our way? Had the Lord just forgotten me?
 
What followed from that conversation was two months of people from my church bringing dinner for my family, cleaning my house, watching my children, taking my children to school and back, and driving me to appointments.  People were calling and emailing me to see how I was doing, dropping books off for me and games for the kids. I was blown away by how much help I got with such short notice and by so many people.

And I learned something from this. It’s not so easy is accepting help from other people. It killed me to accept all of this help, but I couldn’t deny that I needed it. I don’t think I even realized how much I needed all of that help and love until it started coming and I didn’t feel so overwhelmed and forgotten anymore.

And although I would not want to live through the past four months again, I’m glad for the things I learned. I may have learned that I’m a prideful person and that I have a hard time accepting help, but I learned something else as well.

I learned that when I was in a dark time and feeling very alone and sorry for myself, the Lord was always aware of me.

We are never forgotten.