Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Words, They Is A-Flowin'!

imageFinally! This month has been one big sluggish writing fest. But at the last minute, I've hit the flow. I haven't felt the flow in months.

This is always disconcerting to me, because there's always that little fear: what if I've written all I'm able to write?

What if I've lost it forever? What if the words have just up and slowed down?

I still have over 9,000 words to write before 3 a.m. this morning to make NaNo. (Okay, I changed my time zone to Pacific, a little tiny cheat. PLEASE don't tell, but I need the extra 3 hours!) I'm determined. If only for my pride, LOL, because 50K is not that much in a month for me, so I expect myself to make it.

imageSo anyway, I started to make the rounds, then realized if I visited y'alls' blogs, then responded to your comments, 9K might be a wee bit out of my reach.

Will you forgive me if I disappear for one more day? Will blog like CRAZY tomorrow. Can't wait for it!

What do you do when you need to write fast? Caffeine? Fear? Music? Ground teeth? How do you do it?
Today I am grateful for dear, wonderful, amazing husbands who finish putting up all the Christmas lights while I write like crazy.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Joy of Misinterpretation

image So I finished Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood the other day, and I have so many thoughts about it, I don't know where to start. Today I'll leave all the issues of womanhood, and talk about how I felt about the whole art thing.

The main character, Elaine, is a painter with repressed memories of childhood. It's fascinating to see how Atwood balances the child and the adult telling the story, back and forward in time. The child Elaine tells the reader all the betrayals the adult Elaine has repressed.

That which she can't remember shows up in her paintings, and while we, the readers, see the connection and remember their significance, Elaine does not.  

Not only does Elaine not remember the significance of what she paints, but those who view her paintings wildly misinterpret them. Her scathing hatred of Mrs. Smeath, for example, shows up on the canvas as unflattering portraits of the woman, while the viewers tend to regard them as compassion for the normal woman.

Atwood writes:

Because I can no longer control these paintings, or tell them what to mean. Whatever energy they have came out of me. I'm what's left over.


Personally, I believe misinterpretation is not so much misinterpretation as it is a valid interpretation. At least half the joy of art is what a reader gets from it, no matter what the writer meant.

imageI admire writers who leave room in their stories for a reader's interpretation. It's like a journey we get to take together, hand in hand, rather than a guided tour.

I don't think I leave enough room.

I've never heard from an irate reader. I've never incited a scathing reaction from a reader, someone so angry they would take back the time spent reading my story.

I think I write too simplistically. Maybe I overwrite. Maybe I have no depth. I don't know.

I don't know: I write that a lot, don't I?

image I know I do work very hard to make the ending extremely clear, with every single tiny T crossed. You would be amazed at how readers want to know the ending exactly, even when you're certain you've explained it precisely and clearly. Even when it says right there.

But disregarding the ending, do you leave room for a reader's interpretation? Do you try to be as clear as possible? Do you try to leave no room for misinterpretation? How do you feel about this, as a reader? As a writer?

What are your thoughts?

PS: Thanksgiving felt so good this year, that I decided I would write one thing I was grateful for every time I blog. So...

Today I am grateful for cats that curl up next to me all night long.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

What are Your Essentials?

image I'm listening to John Irving's Until I Find You in the car, and one of things that fascinated me about Alice is that her father told her to wait until she was at least thirty to get a tattoo, that way she would know "the essentials" about herself, those things that will never change.

I got to thinking, and I was quite bothered by the fact that I can't think of anything I'd commit to for life. I feel like I'm always changing, as if that is the only constant I have.

If I weren't terrified of needles, what tattoos would I get? A stack of books? God, I'm boring. I believe in Belief and Faith and Openness and Understanding more than I believe in any one religion, so although I'm spiritual, I'm not sure I could commit to one way tattooed on my skin.

Perhaps I could list words that resonate with me, that inspire me, like Love, Compassion, Faith, Power, Belief, Duty, Destiny.

Perhaps I could tattoo the quote I live by:

May the Beauty We Love
Be What We Do
There Are Hundreds of Ways
To Kneel and Kiss the Ground.
~Rumi
What about you? What image or words would you be willing to commit to for life, on your skin? What would say who you are? What are your essentials?

image 
PS: Susan Helene Gottfried's The Demo Tapes are now available!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grateful for Gratitude

image It's not that I wasn't grateful. I was. But many years, I don't look forward to the obligatory Thanksgiving/gratitude post. It sort of ends up feeling like a What-I-Did-Over-Summer-Break essay assignment.

Not this year.

I was just thinking, last weekend, that I'm so grateful this year, I can't wait to write my Thanksgiving post. I didn't know I could do it on Wednesday, but since everyone else is, I want to put it up right away.

Still, I'm tempted to write variations of I don't have that, but I'm grateful for this.

Why is that?

Thanksgiving is a time of taking stock of all that we are grateful for, and how can you turn a blind eye to those things you hope to be grateful for someday?

Anyway, my list is small this year, and I'm grateful for that, first of all. I don't want clutter in my life. I don't want things. I don't want stuff. I don't want lots to keep track of. I've gotten rid of lots of things, and I hope to get rid of more in the next year. I can't explain why this is so important to me, but it's a huge need inside me, an obsession.

image I'm grateful Glenn is home. I'm grateful he will only be gone three more times, even though I'm dreading his absences.

I'm grateful for my best friend, who is just amazing, and accepts and loves me even when I blurt the stupidest things. I'm so grateful she calls me, and the fact that she image has made me an honorary aunt of her daughter brings me to tears often. I love and adore both of them with all my heart.

I am so beyond grateful for blogging buddies. So, so, thankful. image You are a big part of my day, one of the "special" things. I am grateful for you on a daily basis: I'm thrilled when you post a blog, when you pop by to lend a comment. You make me feel part of a community, and I'm so grateful.

I'm grateful for music and my students. I love and learn so much from both, I can't even begin to list. Music is always there, you know?

I'm so grateful for the ability to write, and the outlets I have to do so. I am so lucky in my writing journey; I wouldn't trade it for the world. Not one bit of it. It has truly been perfect for me. I'm grateful for reading books, for people who write books.

Even the buts I shouldn't share are a short list this year. I might wish for a little more money, but mostly just so I could do a little more for the world. (See above: I want less things.) I feel like I need to do more. But the universe blessed me with words, if nothing else, so I'll use those.

I could wish Glenn were home all year long. I could wish for a child: that's definitely at the top of the list. If the universe has a different purpose for me, I think I can accept that. Still, Glenn is older than I am, and if we end up normal, I will spend a significant part of my life without any image family. He has been the only "true" family in my entire life, and I've spent a great deal of my life longing for a family. It's an inevitable adopted thing; it's not like I don't have a mother and a stepfather and stepbrothers. But they're weird. You just can't feel safe, but maybe feeling safe in a family is a myth. I really don't know. My mother has changed, so perhaps I can, a little, but she will be gone when Glenn is gone, most likely.

So that is my life at the moment.

What are you grateful for? What do you hope to be grateful for in a year's time? Five years? What are you grateful for, that perhaps others might feel is a hardship?

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Trust and Pantsing

image Do you ever continually do something, but then continually forget your MO?

For example, every time I'm feeling unconfident, every time I'm feeling like I'm not seeing the big picture enough, and every time I worry whether or not my story is going to work, I outline.

I can't really call it an outline, actually. I just... write snippets and worry about how I'm going to get there. I then write more snippets, imagine more, and flesh things out until I have a shaky, thin, mental framework.

It was only a few days ago, maybe a week or so, when I was spouting off about planning and outlining, wasn't it? Well, I'm full of crap. I forgot: when I outline, it means I'm scared.

There's always a point in my stories where I have to take that leap, and just TRUST that things will work out. I mean, I've written somewhere around twenty 40-50K novellas. So I know the form. What am I worried about?

image Part of my problem is I've been taking last minute gigs. I've been trying to be a little Dickens and write serially, which means I turn in chapters before the whole thing is done.

This time around, I'm more behind than I've ever been: I've got to turn in Chapter Three on Thursday, and I'm working on Chapter Three. When I've done this before, I've been chapters and chapters ahead.

So I've been trying to see the whole thing a little more, just to be sure I don't screw everything up. I believe that everything should be hooked in the beginning, that threads should be well rooted in the beginning. The beginning is the whole novel, in my mind.

I realized, today, that while this thinking/planning/outlining ahead may be a good idea, at heart, I'm just panicking.

There's a certain point where you just feel everything. If you're in the flow of the story, you just feel when you need a twist. You feel when you need a new thread, when you need to touch base with an old thread, when you need to switch POVs or settings or whatever. It's all there.

I have to take that leap, close my eyes, and just write by the seat of my pants.

Do you have a point in your works where you panic? Do you hide this panic behind something sensible, even though, in your rational state, you know it doesn't work for you? How do you get through the fear?

Must we face down that fear in every single book?

On to good news: Melanie has officially won NaNo! Yay! Congratulations! And since we're on the subject of rocking friends, Zoe just released a free ebook, Kept. Marcia Colette just sold an urban fantasy, and I'm missing something. Oh no, I'm sure I am. Please forgive me! Anymore good news?

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Snow Plow Artist

imageA while back, Jude Hardin asked about the difference between a hack and an artist. I've been struggling to come up with an answer, and then Ladonna's beautiful post, Soul Gifts, nudged me along.

This year we signed up for a snow plow service. We run a business from our home, and we'd previously canceled snow plow service because the driveway absolutely must be done by the time my students come, and a lot of the snow plow services we'd seen came erratically.

But last year, I watched every day as my neighbor's driveway was plowed, like clockwork, every single morning and night at 2:00. You could've set your watch by it.

So after years of shoveling snow for two hours a day, we splurged on a service that was almost twice the price of the cheapest guys.

Let me tell you.

Wow.

Not only do they come like clockwork, but they do a BEAUTIFUL job. Most snow plow guys do one or two pushes straight back.

Not this guy.

He spent almost twenty-five minutes on our small driveway, making it PERFECT. He got every single bit of snow off the driveway. He must have gone up and down our driveway eight times, and it's only about eight car lengths long with a parking area for six crammed in tight.

image Glenn and I were so excited and fascinated, we turned out all the lights and WATCHED.

With big grins on our faces.

And at two o'clock in the morning, we ran outside in the snow to check it out.

You could not get a more beautiful driveway if you spent hours shoveling.

This guy is definitely a snow plow artist.

So my answer to Jude, finally, is that I believe a work of art is one done with care and with loving attention to every detail.

What do you think? And who has blown you away, lately, with their artistry?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

I've Messed It All Up.

So I'm trying to redesign my blog. Just got sick of how it looked. Except now it's a mess and it's taken out all my paragraph tags. *sigh*

Well.

Anyway.

Please forgive if things look terrible (or different) every time you swing by for the next week. I've torn it apart, but I don't have time to put it back together, LOL.

Once I have a header, I'll change the fonts and colors and stuff of the rest of the template. I think. We'll see.

In the meantime, which do you like better?

image

header

image

image

I can't seem to find header. I'm not particularly in the mood for anything except a change, so no pictures are really calling to me. I don't know.

What do you think? Any ideas?

I have no real sense of what... matches me. I wear clothes for comfort. I enjoy looking at artwork, but I don't normally express myself visually, mostly just through words or music.

LOL, just realized, you guys are the ones who have to look at it. What do you want?

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Undiscovered Gems

image Edie and Kath both nominated me for the I Love Your Blog award! Thank you! What a great present on a Saturday. :-)

I get to choose seven bloggers for the I Love Your Blog award, now! I wanted to mention all of you, but then I thought I'd introduce you guys to some blogs I don't see y'all at. Isn't it great to discover new hangouts?

So I decided to mention seven blogs I read the instant they pop into my reader, but I don't see the majority of you guys at.; seven blogs I love, but may or may not comment on. (There are just some blogs I can never think of something to say at. I have NO idea why, because I love them and read them all the same.) These are truly gems of the blogosphere, and I hope you'll check them out.

1. I discovered Alexander Sokoloff's blog, The Dark Salon through her thoughtful, heartfelt, and emotionally honest posts at Murderati. A real gem of a blog, and from what I can tell online, one of those beautiful souls who make you grateful they express themselves in any art form.

She just posted at Murderati, a post not to be missed.

2. Bill Henderson's blog, Write a Better Novel, was a blog I discovered from Therese Fowler. He's a writing teacher, and I think he was her writing professor or something. I'm not sure, but he writes awesome posts about writing. He changed the location of his blog, and forgot to announce it. It's here now. Definitely worth visiting and having in your reader.

3. Y'all know I like a little politics mixed into my day. Publexicon is another writing teacher who writes great posts on writing, the writing life, and politics. Ya' gotta love a blogger who writes like a William and calls himself Billy. ;-)

4. A lot of you may know Travis Erwin's blog, One Word, One Rung, One Day.  He's a big Texan, a hunting and fishing man who writes women's fiction. Is that intriguing enough for you? Yes, he's a fascinating person, and a most heartfelt writer. He's one of those natural storytellers, the kind you could sit with around a campfire all night long, and just listen to him shoot the shit.

His Parenthood series will make you cry: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4. Please don't miss it; it's an excruciating ride on the edge of your seat.

5. Rick Moore's blog, The Writer and the White Cat, is another one I love. He sees things in an original way, and makes me see things in a different way, too. He just started a series on The Secret Dragons of Writing, a sort of metaphysical take on the inspiration and creative side of our work. He writes loooonnnng posts, but they are well worth a read over a cup of tea.

image6. The House of Sternberg, by Stewart Sternberg, is another favorite. He writes horror, and he definitely likes to play: with people, with words, with stories, with games. He's another quirky soul, clearly a great educator, and creative thinker. I've been an adoring blog-fan since I first stumbled across his blog.

He wrote a story a day for five (six? four?) days on goldfish. He even wrote Goldfish Porn. Quite good, for goldfish erotica. ;-)

Plus he's wicked smart.

7. I leave number seven to you. What's a really good blog you love, one you cherish reading daily, but you don't see me at? I bet I'd love it, since you do!

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Friday, November 21, 2008

What is the Reader's Experience?

imageMy philosophy is that, like a painting, a story is partly made up of what a reader brings to the story. Without their eyes, their life experience and their emotions, the story is unfinished.

While I write, and particularly while I'm editing, at the forefront of my process are the following questions:

What do I want the reader to feel?

This may seem a contradiction to my statement above, but don't all writers seek to move their readers? Don't comedy writers try to make their readers laugh? Erotica writers seek to turn their readers on? Romance writers hope to make their readers feel loved, or perhaps feel hope for love? Horror writers to scare, drama writers to move a reader to tears?

The natural outgrowth of that hope is to study one's writing, and constantly ask yourself:

What is the reader's impression here?

Can you step back and read your scene as if you knew nothing about the story, the characters, or what's going to happen? Can you experience your story as a first-time reader?

If so, what is their first impression? What is the reader seeing? What do they know? More importantly, what does the reader not know? Does the information unfold with the right timing?

Perhaps most importantly, how does this make a reader feel? Of course, every reader is going to feel differently, but if your goal is to make someone laugh, are you making it sound funny? If your goal is to surprise, have you paced it effectively?

image How does this sound to the reader?

The rhythm of our words and sentences create an experience for the reader. In general, long, flowing sentences are unlikely to make a reader sit on the edge of her seat. Short, choppy sentences speed things up. They create a quicker pace, a breathless feel. Short paragraphs speed things up, longer ones slow things down.

Take my rhythm above. Every word, every sentence, is a choice:

How does your experience reading "They create a quicker pace, a breathless feel." differ from your experience reading "They create a quicker pace and a breathless feel."?

(And help! How the heck should I punctuate that sentence?)

Just like background music heightens the emotional experience of a movie, the rhythm of your words create "background music" that should match and amplify the emotional experience of your story.

Like I said before, I can't know the answers to these questions. I can't possibly step into each and every reader's shoes. In the end, I probably only know myself as a reader, and hope there are enough similar readers in the world who will connect with my stories.

Still, if I seek to move readers with my stories and words, then I have to put myself in their shoes and try to experience my fiction as they do.

So I keep editing, keep practicing, until their experience is as close as possible to the experience I'm trying to create.

You? What do you think? How and when do you think of the reader? What questions do you ask yourself? How do you get into your readers' shoes?

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Questions.

What are split peas made from? Are they peas that have just been split in half?

Why, DEAR GOD WHY, are clothes so THIN nowadays?

I was out shopping today, and I wanted a nice, warm, cozy turtleneck. They are freaking thinner than a nightshirt. They're thinner and flimsier than a piece of paper. Even the high-dollar turtlenecks are thin things.

Also, I looked at some fleece. (I am a comfort dresser.) It is the thinnest gosh darn fleece I have ever seen! As thin as a sheet! How can fleece be so thin???

And then I started walking around the store, feeling clothes, and they are all thin.

And this is OHIO. And it is WINTER.

How are people SUPPOSED TO STAY WARM WITH TISSUE PAPER-THIN CLOTHING???

So I am wearing FIFTEEN YEAR OLD turtlenecks because they are double-layered, thick turtlenecks. The way turtlenecks are supposed to be.

(I have clothes that are fifteen years old. Isn't that crazy?)

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Got a Mess of a Draft? Or Mess in Your Head?

Part of the NaNo experience is pouring out words, and sometimes it sure isn't pretty. Part of my experience, NaNo or not, is pouring out snippets of scenes, a line of dialogue here and there, before I get there.

So usually I have an absolute mess, either in my document or in my head. Or both. The hardest part for me is holding a whole novel in my head and making sure the arcs keep arcing, and threads don't get dropped.

When things get all messy and confused (usually in my head more than on paper), I use SuperNotecard. This handy-dandy program works on both Mac and Windows, and is light and fast, unlike Microsoft Word.

I use SuperNotecard to create an outline automatically as I write, an outline that sort of trails behind me and creates itself. If you want to outline first, it will do that just as easily; that's just not my process.

First, when you open a "New Fiction Project," you automatically get three decks of cards: Beginning, Middle, and End. (Here each section is titled.) You can create more decks, or delete decks, however you prefer.

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Within those decks, you put index cards. Here is a screenshot showing all the cards in a deck. As you title each card, it creates an outline on the right hand side, as you can see in the picture. You can create subdecks, too, so you can tree your outline as far as you want, and the outline is automatically created with your titles.

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See the little colored tabs and such? They have two features to help you keep track of arcs and threads and characters: "factors" and "categories." I use those so I can see them in my little list, but I don't use the colored tabs.

I can see how they would help; I just haven't had time (after using it to write five or six 50,000 novellas with it, LOL) to play with it.

Well, I was busy writing.

And that's one of my favorite things about SuperNotecard: I don't have to figure the program out to use it. I can just write: no busywork.

Now on to the writing. On each card you write a scene. I use preferences to make my background black because it looks prettier. You have the option of using any color, or letting it be the color of the category:

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You can adjust the font to whatever you prefer.

There is a new feature where you "ignore parent hierarchy" which is where you can just look at all  your notecards without the decks (beginning, middle, end), and move them about as you please:

image

When you are done writing, you can "output" the whole shebang into a single, normal document in Microsoft Word (or whatever).

The only thing I wish SuperNotecard would do would be to let me write the scene (or text on the card) with a blank, black screen like Q10 (I'd love to hear those little typewriter sound effects, too, but completely unnecessary, LOL!):

image

I love Q10 for it's distraction-free ADD-friendly writing format (and did I mention the cool little typewriter sound you can turn on?). The simpler the better. I'd hoped Liquid Silver Binder would be my answer to both worlds at the same time, but Liquid Silver seems to be too complicated to jury rig into the perfectness that is SuperNotecard.

The simplicity of SuperNotecard just wins for me, at the end of the day. I can't hold a whole story in my head without dropping threads or losing the pacing of my arcs. SuperNotecard organizes me, without trying to write for me.

When I'm polishing, I use Word.

I still use Q10 to start my draft, at least until it gets messy. I sometimes use Liquid Silver all the way through. It has similar features, but if you reorder the "notecards" in Liquid Silver, it doesn't actually reorder your story. (The story is not written on the cards, like in SuperNotecard.

SuperNotecard is free to try forever and ever, with no limitations. You can also buy it for $29.99. It's such a small, versatile, perfect program, it's well worth giving the creator the $29.99.

So what do you use? Do you switch? Do you use different things for different parts? Write longhand for parts? Ever experiment?

Read more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Playing with Contrasts

First, guess what?! Zoe is a finalist in the Better Sex Erotic Fiction Contest! Please go and vote for her!

Can you tell I'm on a roll? My posts about writing dramatically increase the more I write. I love story. I love the way it's put together, the way all those threads and characters and plots weave together. It fascinates me; it's like the most beautiful fugue.

One of the things I love about my current WIP is that it's in first person, and she is a drastically different person, inside, from who people think she is. She appears haughty and arrogant, too good to talk to people, but really she has no idea how to interact with people, is quite humble, and assumes everything is a fault of hers.

(I love this character.)

But she must remain completely unconscious of this dichotomy, so I can't tell the audience. It's forcing me to show, in every conversation and interaction, people's reaction to her demeanor, while making sure my character doesn't look too stupid to live, LOL.

I have no idea if I'm succeeding or not, or if I'm starting to be annoying by rubbing her character into the reader's face at every possible turn.

Then again, I think every choice, every thought, every word must show consistent character, and must show a character.

What do you think?

And guess what? I finally am done with the whole root canal ordeal, after five months! (Well, ten months since I first needed one.) I'm so excited to be able to chew with both sides of my mouth!

Time for me to write. How's the writing going for you? What genre are you guys writing in? I know that about a lot of you guys, but not everyone. I'm writing a fantasy right now.

Read more...

Monday, November 17, 2008

It All Starts With Love

image My stories do not write, no matter how hard I try, until I love the main character. Sometimes it might take a few paragraphs to get me there, but I must absolutely fall in love. Sometimes this is a tenderness and love I feel for my readers, which is probably a little bizarre and silly and embarrassing, because, when it comes down to it, I don't know my readers individually. Only as some theoretical whole, a mish-mash of details they've written me about, of bits and struggles that have been shared or overheard, of compassion and shared longing, of common aches and similar dreams.

Is it the writer's way to see the snippy, barking, cranky woman and love her? To fill in a whole backstory of a woman who wants love more than anything and can't seem to help herself but to push away what she wants most?

Is it the writer's way to see a person suffering, and ache to write a whole book in order to comfort her? Or him? To see a person in despair and want to write a book to give him hope?

Is it the writer's way to analyze every person she comes across, to the point of being a sensitive, over-analytical freak? To be a nosybody, always curious about why people do what they do and how they feel about it?

With the writer's love, I think, comes the greatest fear of letting one's character down, of letting their readers down.

For me, there is a burning fear, a burning hope, and a burning need for me to do my character justice, to do the story right for her.

Can you tell I love my current character more than any I've loved any character before? (It's possible I say that every time.)

How does it feel for you? Where does it start for you? When your story "takes off," when you hit that moment when the story starts unfolding before your eyes and you're just taking notes, what sets it off?

What's the trigger button for you?

Read more...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quality vs. Quantity

image The quality vs. quantity argument, as it pertains to writing fiction, seems to come up quite often in November. I'm always surprised at the backlash to "quantity," since I don't see 1,667 words a day as a humongous amount for someone wanting to write fiction professionally. But to each his own.

In music, there is a form much like the novel, called the Sonata form. There are, essentially, three approaches to teaching music. First, there's the quantity approach, where a new piece is taught every week or two, and you race through a lot of repertoire but never gain a deeper understanding.

Second, there's the quality approach, where it's believed that if you've learned one Sonata extremely well, then you'll be able to play and teach all of them.

Third, there's the approach I use, which is Quantity followed by Quality. Each has its own strengths to offer, its own uses.

First, quantity:

  1. Quantity gives you confidence.
  2. Quantity gives you a deeper understanding of the form.
  3. Quantity gives you a subconscious understanding of the form.
  4. Quantity gives you the freedom to write more intuitively, and the form will happen as if automatically.
  5. image Quantity gives you choices: if you want a super paragraph about bees, write 5-10 of them about bees, and then you can take the best bits, and you'll end up with one super-duper paragraph about bees.
  6. Quantity promotes creativity: My teacher once made me come up with thirty different ways to interpret a phrase. For that, you have to get creative! VERY creative!

The downside:

  1. Quantity risks sloppiness.
  2. Quantity risks bad habits.
  3. Quantity risks a superficial understanding of how the form works on a more detailed level. (I know that seems to contradict #2 and #3. It just is, even though it doesn't make sense.)

Second, quality:

  1. Quality will you give an intimate understanding of the details.
  2. Quality, if paired with a quantity understanding, will give you nuance.
  3. Quality will teach you shading, colors, voice.
  4. Quality will give you that polished finish.
  5. Quality is saleable; quantity (arguably), is not.

The downside:

  1. Quality, without quantity, risks an inability to see the larger picture.
  2. Quality, without quantity, risks an inability to feel how each detail fits the whole.
  3. Quality, without quantity, risks your work being less creative than it could be.

image I would never argue that one should learn one way or another. Writing is extremely personal. I don't think, however, quantity should be dismissed out of hand. For example, I make my beginners learn to play about 200 songs or so in their first seven or eight lessons.

After two months, those students are better at reading music than most any transfer students I get who've been playing for two or three or even more years. (There is not a lot of great advice circulating on how to teach people to read music for the piano.)

During this process, their technique and artistry is a little shaky, although we work on that separately in the hopes they'll start applying it to their sight-reading. After that, we do quantity with a sight-reading book (about 15 pieces a week), and quality with repertoire pieces (about 1 piece every 3-8 weeks) that we take to performance level.

How I choose:

  1. Quantity for a greater understanding.
  2. Quantity for more creativity.
  3. Quality for polish.
  4. Quality for nuance.

This post seems to say we choose one or the other: that's not the case at all. I prefer to keep at quantity and go for increasing quality. I insist I learn something new with each book, each chapter--heck--each day.

image At the end of the day, you can spend twenty years on one book, and you will never get the understanding of someone who has written twenty books. It's frustrating, but there is no escaping the fact that after you've written a certain quantity of books, you're going to have a different and better understanding of how they're put together.

Again, I would never advise one way or another, but I would advise ruling one way out. There is a case for quantity, too. :-)

If you want a great query letter, write ten. If you want a great paragraph for a contest, set out to write ten. If you want a great synopsis, write ten. You probably, eventually, won't need to do so much quantity, but it is a great tool.

What say you? Which pros and cons did I miss?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Drive a Writer Crazy. A Better Outliner or A Better Guesser? And Creativity.

How To Drive A Writer Crazy

So I pointed out to DH today that he hadn't read my latest, and seeing as how he's TAKEN OVER MY KINDLE, I asked him if he wanted me to send my latest to MY Kindle for him to read.

"No, that's okay, I'm reading this. It's nice and easy, relaxed." (Referring to one of the Christmas Harlequins, which he loves.)

"What do you mean? My stuff isn't easy?"

"Well, it's kind of intense."

"Intense? What do you mean by intense? What do you mean my stuff isn't easy to read?"

"I don't know. When I read, I like to kick back and be entertained."

"My stuff doesn't entertain you?"

"Yes," he laughed, "it does."

At which point he insisted on eating a caramel and not speaking on the subject anymore. He sure knows how to drive a writer crazy. I'm pretty sure he enjoys it.

A Better Outliner or A Better Guesser?

Anyway, after Amy's great post on the "Twiwrite Zone," (hah!) I thought about my recent use of outlines. Sorta.

You know how, after you've written enough stories, you can pretty much see what's going to happen in a whole novel after reading the first chapter or so? It's not that it's predictable, it's just that you know how things work. For example, mystery writers can almost always guess whodunnit, because they know how a mystery ticks. Yes, things can be twisted and there can be lovely surprises, but there are always hooks and hints that give a clue as to what will follow and how it will end.

If you open a can of worms, you've gotta eat them by the end.

Anyhow, I've outlined, lately. Sparsely. My outlines (little notes, really) for a 52,000 word novella/novel/whatever generally fit on a 3x6 inch piece of paper. Recently I outlined a whole novella for the first time ever, and then accidentally deleted it. *sigh*

I decided it was not meant to be.

One thing I've noticed, is that my characters never stray from my notes anymore. I don't think it's that I'm a better outliner. I think it's just that I try to hook and plant so much in the beginning, that the rest of the novel is kinda predetermined once I've written the first chapter or so.

And also like the mystery writers, I can guess what my characters are going to do. So I'm guessing accurately, not outlining.

Right?

And Creativity

Twyla Tharp, famous dance choreographer, has a great book on creativity. In the video below she talks about art, creativity, failure, and money. She's very practical, experienced, and highly creative. Her book is worth checking out, and her words below are wise:

Do you outline? Before you start, somewhere after you start, or during the editing process? Are they long outlines, little notes? Detailed?

And what do you think DH means by intense? Is that bad or good?

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Thursday Thirteen: Favorite First Lines

Today we have a guest blogger to Thursday Thirteen on our blog! Edie Ramer is a finalist in the American Title V contest! I hope you'll go and vote for our friend! 

image

Thank you, Spy, for having me!  Because of today’s Thursday Thirteen, I discovered my husband is nicer than I am.  Since my American Title V book is titled DEAD PEOPLE, I thought it would be funny to write about 13 people we’d like to see dead and the twisted way we’d want them to die.  I asked my husband who he’d like to see dead.  He said, “I don’t want to see anyone dead.” 

He’s right.  I shouldn’t do it.  So you won’t get to hear about Dick Cheney’s unfortunate accident while hunting with Sarah Palin.  (There’s a moose involved!)  And an apology to Amy Knupp, because the “health insurance idiots” (her words) won’t die of an obscenely expensive disease that their company won’t cover.

This month, the entries on Romantic Times Magazine for the ATV finalists’ books are our first lines.  You can read them here and vote for the one you like best.  Of course, I hope it’s DEAD PEOPLE!  My first line is a song verse.  My hero is a songwriter, and every other chapter starts with one or more verses he’s written.

So here are 13 first lines (instead of 13 dead people):

1. My first instinct was to look at the corpse.  It’s what all Irish do. – THE ROOFER by Erica Orloff  (I know, that’s two lines.  Tough.)

2. "Well, put chains on the damn tires!" Kim ordered the car rental guy over the phone. – HAVE YOURSELF A NAUGHTY LITTLE SANTA by Karin Tabke.

3. He was the sort of man who could enslave a woman with a single glance. – DON’T TEMPT ME by Sylvia Day

4. My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist. –  ODD THOMAS by Dean Koontz

5. They say that if you suddenly wake with a shudder, a ghost has walked over your grave. – COMPANY OF LIARS by Karen Maitland.

6. Claire was an expert bullshit detector. – PLAYING DEAD by Allison Brennan

7. So this is how a marriage ends, thought Julia Hamill as she rammed the shovel into the soil. – THE BONE GARDEN by Tess Gerritsen

8. Everybody lies. – THE BRASS VERDICT by Michael Connelly

9. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of Number Four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. – HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling

10. The sheriff didn’t want me there. – GRAVE SIGHT by Charlaine Harris

11. The deck of the French ship was slippery with blood, heaving in the choppy sea; a stroke might as easily bring down the man making it as the intended target. – HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON by Naomi Novik

12. There are few things more unfortunate in a man's life than being thrown over by one's prospective bride on one's wedding day, Jasper Renshaw, Viscount Vale, reflected. – TO SEDUCE A SINNER by Elizabeth Hoyt

13. I heard she talks to ghosts
      I heard she sends them off to Heaven
      I’ve got a few inside my head
      I wish to hell she’d shoot mine dead. – DEAD PEOPLE by Edie Ramer

Now it’s your turn.  What’s the first line from one of your books?

Edie Ramer

Thanks so much, Edie! I hope y'all will go vote in the American Title V contest. The prize is a contract! If you'd like to help Edie's dream come true and see her witty and wonderful book in print, please send a blank email to votes@romantictimes.com with the subject DEAD PEOPLE.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Do You Do for Writing?

I was curious, what do you do for writing? What are the little, silly things in your life that you rearrange or change, just for writing?

Like, I'll sometimes change what I eat if my mental clarity falters and it starts to get hard to write. Or I'll wake up at 4:30, even though I hate mornings and getting up is the hardest thing I do all day.

Billy (his blog is awesome, if you haven't been) mentioned that he can mostly just write in the first 4 or 5 hours of the day. I've always found those are the "golden hours," when I can really get things done.

I can make myself sick with coffee and get more in later, and sometimes I can hit a second wind in the evening. Sometimes you get those glorious days where words flow for fifteen hours straight. LOVE those!

For writing, I'll also exercise, even if I don't feel like it. For writing, I'll eat vegetables all day long. For writing, I'll change my schedule and change what I drink.

(Although, get this weirdness, I have not been able to stop eating SEAWEED. I'm craving it like MAD, we're talking middle of the night cravings. I wish I could say I'm pregnant, but I'm not. I don't really even like seaweed, but I can't stop eating it. Has anything that bizarre happened to you?)

So what about you? What are the little things you'll do for writing?

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Hodge Podge Today

We've hit another wall, where I'm feeling so busy and stressed and overwhelmed, I can barely put together a blog post. It's just when there's a problem I can't talk about, all I can think of is what I'm trying not to talk about.

*sigh*

So let's just move on to celebrating the fact that it is time to vote for our own Edie Ramer in the American Title Contest! All you have to do is send a blank email to votes@romantictimes.com and put "DEAD PEOPLE" in the subject line!

So I haven't asked lately. How are things going for you guys and your WIPs? Whatcha writing? Are you in the beginning, middle, or end? How's it feeling?

You know, people keep saying the election of a black president was historic, but that's not the only reason Obama's presidency will be historic: he will be the first president to email us. He is also the first president to have a President-Elect website staying in touch with us online. Have you checked out Change.gov?

That is just something. If you're not already on his email list, you can get on it at the top of Change.gov.

It's definitely going to be a different kind of presidency. His plan seems in place and he's working it.

What's your plan, lately? Are you working it?

Finally, a few cool things:

If you'd like to read your blog feeds on real paper, in a printable tabloid-style pdf, you can try tabbloid.

Need some help focusing? Write or Die might be some fun help. You write in your browser, but it will copy your work to your clipboard when you're done. You can see the video explaining it below. It could give you that extra shove if you're trying NaNo. I just might try it this afternoon!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

How Do You Plan Your Writing?

I made myself a schedule and a plan a few weeks back. Rick reminded me of it with his great post about writing and planning a business/career. I've been thinking of this a lot, lately. I've narrowed it down to all I want and hope to get done in a day. I've been pretty much aiming for the ideal schedule:

  1. Current WIP: (3 hours.) No need for explanation here. I often spend more. Sometimes I do less, LOL.
  2. Reading: (3 hours) I miss reading, lately. I want more time to read! I love to read! I'm hoping that by having the three hours penciled in every day, I'll actually get to the reading part of my day and not feel guilty for reading instead of writing. I usually spend less, but that isn't right.
  3. Future Income: (1 hour) Just time spent finding, exploring, and starting projects that will bring in income later. Otherwise, you end up finishing all your projects and realizing you have no income coming in.  Gotta plan ahead. I probably should be spending more time in this area.
  4. Blogging: (1 hour. And some.) This is blogging here, not under pseudonym, so it doesn't fall under the marketing category. Mostly this is the fun part of my day, but I like to tell myself that pulling my thoughts together and organizing them is a good writing exercise. Lots of writers used to write essays before blogs were around.
  5. Marketing: (1 hour) I'm failing miserably at this one. Every day, I tell myself I have to get back to it. I think I'm going to have to start smaller: do one small thing a day, and work my way up. Once you get started, it's not so bad.
  6. Experiment Writing: (30 min.) Just for fun writing, bad writing that hopefully explores new corners of my writing skills. You know, haikus, bad poetry, random beginnings...

ReaIistically, I often don't get to #5 and #6. #3 only happens on some days. I often don't read as much as I'd like to, and sometimes I write more. Or somedays, like lately, I've been following this formula: Editing = Reading + Writing.

I spend about an hour or two a day on studio planning, and about one complete day a month, plus the time spent teaching. On Sundays I only teach, usually, and on Mondays, I can only do about 6 hours.

Maybe, instead of working this way, I need to work with weekly amounts. Then I could spend a whole day reading! I don't know. There's still a lot I'd like to get done that I'm not getting to.

Ever feel like that? I'm still in search of the "done for the day" feeling. How do you get that feeling? How do you budget your writing time?

And how in the world do you get everything done???

I'll leave you with what Meg Cabot is saying about rejection here:

Read more...

Friday, November 07, 2008

What about Wishes?

So I've been doing great on my withdrawal from  news addiction. This is a blog post about writing! That's an improvement, right? (Okay, so who watched the press conference today? My respect for him managed to grow. I didn't know it had room to grow. He is such a good listener, such a gracious man. So polite and thoughtful to the reporters.)

(Wait, one more note: who else is fascinated with the email he sent out to his supporters Wednesday? We're going to have a president who emails us. That's something, isn't it? I have a feeling he is going to continue to use his community organizing talents in his presidency. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.)

image One of the ways I connect to my stories (and hopefully to readers) is through Universal Wishes. There are things we all wish for, all hope for, and those things are common ground.

Wishing for Love

I once heard a story about a therapist (or psychologist or psychiatrist or something) who was asked to help refugees. She was worried about how she could ever understand and help them after their experiences. In the end, she said she was surprised they were much like everyone else: hoping for love. She joked it was all about my boyfriend and I were in different boats, and he took up with another woman, etc.

The universal hope for love is probably why romances, as a genre, sell the best.

Wishing to Take Back Time

I was just thinking, the other day. I once knew someone who made a little traffic mistake, just a split second tiny oopsy, and killed someone. Last I talked to her, it was two years after the fact and she still hadn't recovered from the emotional impact. As far as I know, she moved back to her home country to be with her family.

If you think about it, she could've just gotten a ticket, no accident, and it would've been forgotten immediately. No big deal. Oopsy-daisy.

But then it had to result in hitting another car. Bigger deal. And someone died, HUGE deal.

It's strange how, in the split second after something tragic and terrible happens, you want so badly to undo what happened  that your mind searches frantically for a way to undo disaster. In that moment, you almost believe you can go back in time, you have to be able to go back in time, just a couple seconds. You want it so badly you believe if you think fast, you'll be able to find a way to undo it.

But then you realize you can't.

image Wishing to Be Understood

And then I was thinking about the yearning to be understood, the need to express our feelings and thoughts and personal philosophies. Is this a writer thing, an artist thing, or part of the human condition? Do some people find their yearning satisfied by reading books, watching movies, hearing others of like mind? And are others hardwired to find their yearning satisfied by the creation of those books and movies, by the expression of their feelings?

Like yin and yang?

Wishing for a Different Destiny

Joaquin Phoenix is giving up acting. God, he's a brilliant actor; it breaks my heart.  Sometimes, I think the universe gives certain gifts to certain people, but doesn't give them the desire. What do you do when you're gifted at something but don't want to do it anymore? What if the universe still needs that thing? I remember talking to one of my teachers once, and she mentioned that sometimes she felt as if the universe conspired to keep her in teaching, no matter how much she wanted out.

She's a great, fantastic teacher, one of the best of the best, truly. I can honestly see why the universe would conspire to keep her in teaching.

Real life is contrary to what "they" say.

So what do you hope for? What other wishes do you think most humans share? What do you wish for? Do you ever write characters wishing for something universal?

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ever Been to a Strip Show?

This is the week for guest blogging here! Karen E. Olson took time away from her post-election celebration to tell us about her new book, Shot Girl.

image In my first three books, I had a theme going.  I had cows in the first book, chickens in the second, and bees in the third.  My editor, however, in her infinite wisdom, said that perhaps I don’t want to be considered the farm animal author.  She said I should ditch the critters.

But in SHOT GIRL, my fourth Annie Seymour mystery, I’ve got a different kind of “critter.”  I have a male stripper named Jack Hammer.  He was actually only going to be a bit player, but he turned into something much more as I was writing and now plays quite a big role in the book.

Jack was born after I was invited to a bachelorette party.  A colleague was getting married, and a friend of hers, who also used to work at the newspaper with us, invited all the women at work to the party.  It just so happened to be at a bar where there was a male strip show featured that
night.

I had never been to a male strip show before.  It was never exactly something on my must-do in my lifetime list.  But I did consider that at some point I might want to send Annie to a male strip show. I love putting her in uncomfortable situations and seeing how she reacts.

image She reacts about the same way I did: intrigued yet uncomfortable.  Of course I didn’t have a corpse added to my adventure, the way she did. Now, I love the movie “The Full Monty” and find it hilarious.  But this was not “The Full Monty.”  It was way too graphic and over the top for me, although I was definitely in the minority.  I was also not drunk enough. Perhaps if I’d had one more martini I might have seen a bit more in the “performance” than I did.

The bride-to-be had a great time, and so did the other women I was with, except my friend Mary whom I’d driven over with.  When one of the strippers sat on Mary’s lap and gyrated, she twisted her head around to me and said, “We’re outta here.”

It was an interesting evening, and I got a lot of fodder for the book, but I don’t think I’ll be heading to another male strip show anytime soon. Unless, of course, it’s in a movie.

Have you been to a male strip show, and if so, did you have a better experience than I did?

Thanks, Karen! You can visit Karen E. Olson at her website, and enjoy her posts at the group blog, First Offenders. Buy Shot Girl here!

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Success, the President-Elect Obama Way

image After a very jittery, scary start, WE DID IT!  I am SO PROUD OF the U.S.A.! I don't have hope just in Obama, but I have hope in the American people. I have hope for our country, and for the world.

I cried like a baby, I was so overwhelmed.

A special thanks to Mom2Brie, Brie, Erica, BabyGirl, and Demon Baby. They are the kind of people who worked to make this huge, wonderful change happen, who ensured we made history tonight.

And what about his presidency? Candidates make a lot of promises, but what about when they take office? Howard Fineman wrote an excellent piece yesterday, The Obama Way: Seven Steps to Success.

After analyzing the way Obama ran his campaign, Fineman said this:

So what's the bottom line? Pretty simple. If past is prologue, Obama and his circle are already very hard at work — and very far along — planning the details of his presidency.

The game plan will be comprehensive, detailed, clever and cautious.

That's good news, whether you’re for him or not. As Plouffe says, it's always better to have a plan. It's the Obama Way.

What can we learn from his campaign? Which parts of the "Obama Way" can we apply to our own goals?

  1. image Be decisive: Consider the options, make a decision, and don't look back.
  2. Stick with the plan: It's said Obama's plan has been in place and has been intact since he announced his presidency almost two years ago. Now that's staying the course!
  3. Have a tight circle of support and advisors. And keep the plan close to the chest.
  4. Sweat the details: I tell my students this all the time. Excellence lives in the details. If you want to be at the top of anything, it's all in the details. Barack Obama fought even for Nevada's one stray electoral vote.
  5. Understand your brand: Obama has lived his brand unceasingly. Change has been his "true North."
  6. Go digital: The future is digital. It's coming. It might be in two years or thirty, but it's still coming.
  7. Use caution: When you can, pick the safest pick that will yield a "specific, tangible result."

His strategy as a young 24 year-old? During his stint in Chicago:

"He told us, never get rattled, do your homework, stay focused on what you're trying to achieve and, above all, don't get angry, because anger distracts your attention."

And Dan Shomon said this about Obama:

"Barack never forgets the lessons he learns along the way... He creates energy and enthusiasm, but he is also very aware of the importance of organisation... he is brilliant at relating to people..."

It's already being said: Obama's win is due to the way he has empowered people. More people than ever have voted, more minorities than ever have voted. Obama inspired people to canvas, to contribute, and to vote, because he delivered a message:

You matter. You can make a difference.

Even in his acceptance speech, he asked for humility. He has not yet declared victory; he has declared a beginning. I don't think he will declare victory until the last day of his presidency.

More than anything, President-Elect Obama has proven that he never lets up. Not when he's up in the polls, not when it's the day before or the day of the election and everyone is saying he will win.

I believe Obama will not let up now; I believe he will not let up during his first four years as President, that he will not let up during the next election, and not even in the final hours of his presidency.

Never let up.

We have elected a great man today, a great leader. He's not letting up and neither should we.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

For Old Time's Sake: Updated with Results!

Since I'm so nervous I haven't been able to get any writing done in two days, I thought I'd do one last Palin post. She said this to Peter Hamby about her regrets of the campaign (bold mine):

Asked if she had any regrets about the campaign, Palin bemoaned “the state of journalism today.”

“The blogosphere, the two-, three-hour news cycles, where just too much is reported based on gossip and innuendo and things taken out of context,” she explained, adding that she’d like to help improve the profession because she has “great respect for the world of journalism.”

Doesn't that just make you shiver with foreboding? The thought of someone who wants to ban books improving the profession of journalism?

It brings to mind an expression I used when I was young: Gag me with a Spoon!

And I think the article, Poll problems and poll problem spin exemplifies the difference between the two candidates:

The Obama campaign's message today: Everything's going fine.

The McCain campaign's message: It's a mess.

I am so proud of the US for its record turnout today.

I keep refreshing the news sites. I'm a nervous wreck.

How are you doing? Just an hour or so! I'm at Borders. I'd like to go to a bar or something, get a drink, but DH can't eat or drink because of dental surgery stuff. Poor guy.

I can't wait until the results start coming in!

Update: They're coming in! Lookee! I got a widget that reports them!

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Voter #198

I was #198, no problems this year. When I exited, some woman was telling off a man for not having registered. Yay for the woman, shame on the man.

What are you doing today? I don't know what to do with myself. I'm trying to write, but I'm beside myself. I keep breaking into tears. And then I cried when I watched this video.

What's funny about my reaction to Obama is that I was totally for Clinton. I still think she had a better health care plan, but I have to admit that Obama completely won me over and gave me hope.

So are you on the edge of your seat? How are you occupying yourself? Are you checking every thirty minutes for new news even though the first results won't be in for ages? Which number voter were you? Did your voting go okay?

I can't wait until tonight.

If you're writing, here's some inspiration:

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Why My Best Friend is Voting for Obama

image I'm so thrilled to have my best friend guest blog today! And just in time for the most important day for our country in the next four years. She's not only brilliant, but she is the bravest, most caring, smartest person I know. I love and adore her.

With that, here is Mom2Brie, my best friend:

image Mom2Brie: I'm going to share my three biggest reasons for why I plan to vote for Obama. I will not say one word about McCain. I will simply share why I plan to support Obama.

1) My biggest concern is America's deficit. I believe Obama will do more to decrease our deficit. Pay-as-you-go has been a hallmark of his economic policy since he began his presidential campaign. This is what he said in the final debate: "I have been a strong proponent of pay-as-you-go. Every dollar that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut so that it matches.”

2) My second concern - education. I believe that the best way to improve America is through education. Here is the education question from the final debate:

"SCHIEFFER: Let's stop there, because I want to get in a question on education and I'm afraid this is going to have to be our last question, gentlemen.

The question is this: the U.S. spends more per capita than any other country on education. Yet, by every international measurement, in math and science competence, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, we trail most of the countries of the world.

The implications of this are clearly obvious. Some even say it poses a threat to our national security.

Do you feel that way and what do you intend to do about it?

The question to Senator Obama first.

OBAMA: This probably has more to do with our economic future than anything and that means it also has a national security implication, because there's never been a nation on earth that saw its economy decline and continued to maintain its primacy as a military power. So we've got to get our education system right. Now, typically, what's happened is that there's been a debate between more money or reform, and I think we need both.

In some cases, we are going to have to invest. Early childhood education, which closes the achievement gap, so that every child is prepared for school, every dollar we invest in that, we end up getting huge benefits with improved reading scores, reduced dropout rates, reduced delinquency rates.

I think it's going to be critically important for us to recruit a generation of new teachers, an army of new teachers, especially in math and science, give them higher pay, give them more professional development and support in exchange for higher standards and accountability.

And I think it's important for us to make college affordable. Right now, I meet young people all across the country who either have decided not to go to college or if they're going to college, they are taking on $20,000, $30,000, $50,000, $60,000 worth of debt, and it's very difficult for them to go into some fields, like basic research in science, for example, thinking to themselves that they're going to have a mortgage before they even buy a house.

And that's why I've proposed a $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year, in exchange for some form of community service, whether it's military service, whether it's Peace Corps, whether it's working in a community.

If we do those things, then I believe that we can create a better school system.

But there's one last ingredient that I just want to mention, and that's parents. We can't do it just in the schools. Parents are going to have to show more responsibility. They've got to turn off the TV set, put away the video games, and, finally, start instilling that thirst for knowledge that our students need.”

Beautiful - I can't add a single thing to that.

3) Obama's intelligence shines through, and I think it is imperative that we have an intelligent President. He not only was President of the Harvard Law Review, but also taught constitutional law. Only the president has a constitutionally prescribed oath of office that reads: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Who can do this better than a former constitutional law professor?

Finally, if you want to see an inspiring video go to this link:  http://my.barackobama.com/aclearchoice.  It's excerpts from Obama's October 27th speech in Canton OH, and it shares his message of hope for our future.

Thanks for reading this, and I hope you enjoy a lovely, joyous, and meaningful holiday season!

~Mom2Brie

What are the most important issues to you? Why are you voting for who you're voting for? And how are you feeling? I'm so nervous I don't know what to do with myself!

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Am I Weird? (Part 78)

My brilliant best friend is going to be a guest blogger tomorrow. I'm SO excited! She's the one with the prettiest baby in the whole world. I hope everyone will pop by and say hi. :-)

I'm finally done with the gig that's been taking up a ton of my blogging time, so I should be around more, responding to comments quicker, getting to your blogs quicker! And I stopped following all Blogger blogs because it messed up Google Reader, but know that I am still "following" you.

Onward and upward.

While reading more Margaret Atwood last night, I was mentally flogging myself for not writing better descriptions, for not observing people, life, and the world more closely, for not seeing what others see but don't realize they see until someone points it out. (That's where the cool stuff is.)

And it occurred to me that the fact I find this self-flagellation relaxing might be a little weird.

Not only do I find it relaxing, but I often enjoy a good self-mockery session, with plenty of snark and sarcasm so sharp, if someone else said these things to me, I'd be in tears.  I needle myself relentlessly, point out every single fault I can find. I push myself as I write, taunting myself.

All of this I find comforting. Peaceful. Relaxing, as I said.

It's sort of bizarre. I might even say I take hope in it. As I tell my students, if you can notice it, you can fix it.

Like take Jeffrey Deaver: I thought the beginning of his latest, plot-wise, was just a little weird, but my God! His voice just takes your breath away! It's perfect: the rhythm, the words, the style. It's so alive, so vivid, so strong and polished:

     Something nagged, yet she couldn't quite figure out what.
     Like a faint recurring ache somewhere in your body.
     Or a man on the street behind you as you near your apartment. . . . Was he the same one who'd been glancing at you on the subway?
     Or a dark dot moving toward your bed that's now vanished. A black-widow spider?
     But then her visitor, sitting on her living room couch, glanced at her and smiled and Alice Sanderson forgot the concern—if concern it was. Arthur had a good mind and a solid body, sure. But he had a great smile, which counted for a lot more.

What kind of person am I, to find the fact that I have a lot of work to do relaxing?

Maybe it's because I know I won't run out of things to improve anytime soon. Maybe it's because I know what I need to work on. Maybe it's because when you have some tangible task of improvement before you, you needn't worry about such things as talent.

When a writer really rocks, I get so excited. It's such a cool, exciting thing to read, you know? It's inspirational, too, makes you stretch and discover new depths of writing craft.

So what do you think? How do you feel when another writer kicks your ass?

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Yes, yes, yes! Oh, YES!

Publexion has a great post about why kids reading classic literature is important for the future (and present) of our society, in 2008 is the new 1984.

I've read half of Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood in the past 24 hours (Erica and Kath wore me down), which sort of does it a disservice. It needs to be read slowly. Savored.

I wanted to quote you a brilliant passage or two, but there's a brilliant observation in nearly every paragraph. I find myself saying, "Yes! That's true!" on every page. I can't possibly choose one quote, or even a couple, but I guess I must try:

"I do of course have a real life. I sometimes have trouble believing in it... (See?! Don't you just love that??) ...another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise." (Yes! Yes! Totally!)

"We spent a lot of time driving, in our low-slung, boat-sized Studebaker, over back roads or along two-lane highways up north, curving past lake after lake, hill after hill, with the white lines going down the middle of the road and the telephone along the sides, tall ones and shorter ones, the wires looking as if they were moving up and down." (Don't you just love that image? I don't think the wires hang that way anymore, but I remember watching them do that up and down thing when we used to travel when I was little.)

"There are days when I can hardly make it out of bed. I find it an effort to speak. I measure progress in steps, the next one and the next one, as far as the bathroom. These steps are major accomplishments... I feel I am without worth, that nothing I can do is of any value, least of all to myself." (Totally feel that sometimes. When I was sick, that was how I felt every single moment.)

"I am a busy person, in theory."  (Another yes! LOL! This cracks me up, because I feel the same way! Even when working hard and trying to get a lot done, I tend to feel so slow and tired and lazy most of the time, but... I am a busy person, in theory.)

Okay, I'll stop, because I have an almost irresistible urge to retype the whole book on my blog so you can read it, too. Sometimes I retype books for myself just so I read them slower, enjoy them more, and gain a greater understanding.

I'm a big fan of retyping. I learn a lot.

Those of you doing NaNo will love this video, and even those who aren't will, too. I have to admit, the "rhythm of the keys" thing is something I do to get myself going. I use Q10 and turn on the typewriter sound. Silly, but you have to use what works, right? LOL!

Finding Forrester and How to Write: (It should automatically skip to the 6:45 mark, but if it doesn't, jump to it.)

So what tricks get you writing when things are slow? Sometimes I close my eyes. That helps.

Do you ever retype books or passages? Ever feel like you trouble believing in your real life, LOL? Do you have an author or book that makes you do that yes, yes, yes! thing a lot?

("Have an author:" What an image! Chained up in the basement, perhaps?)

Are you doing NaNo? Melanie has created a forum thread for us to hang out and chat in, called Rockin' Blogging Buddies. It won't let me subscribe at the moment, but things are always quirky the first couple days of November. The site is so slow at the moment it's unbearable, but it always eases up in a couple days. (I suspect 50% of the participants drop out in the first few days, but I don't know, LOL.)

And finally, I leave you with a hilarious video (thanks to Melanie) of how a couple Russians feel about Sarah Palin:

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