Thursday, March 31, 2011

Instant Gratification: The Current Trend in Introduction

My kids and I were eight chapters into reading To Kill A Mockingbird (so we can see the OSF production of it this spring), when sixth-grade Daney groaned, "What is this book about, anyway? There is no plot, there is no conflict."

She was right.

Harper Lee took her sweet Southern time aquainting her readers with Scout's tiny life in Maycomb County: her admiration for her older brother, Jem; her relationships with summer visitor, Dill; the ladyfolk; the ghostly man-child, Boo Radley; her father.

We get the hot, dry dust, the simple-minded, struggling townspeople.

But it's not until page 85 when conflict rips us from the slow days of Scout's scounting about, and throws us into the political upheaval that becomes the essence of the book.

"This is like Dracula," Dominic (13) agreed. (He's reading the 500-word tome for his spring book report.) "It didn't get good until page 300, when stuff started happening."

"What did Bram Stoker write in the 300 pages of 'nothing?'" I'd asked.

"Setting," Dominic said. "And setting. And setting. He took a long time setting it up."

So right now, my kids are seeped in two worlds: in 1930s Alabama, and 19th Century Transylvania. And though they're finally capitivated, it cost a lot of hearing them complain in getting them here.

We writers could never do this today. We could never "waste" a third of our stories on establishing setting. The present trend is to drop blood, or mystery, or vengance, or some kind of conflict right on page one.

What does that mean?

What are we missing out on?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Thought I Forgot How To Write

Has that ever happened to you?

You started working on something new, and 3,000 words in, you're, like, "What's my style?" "What's my story?"

But then!

It all starts coming together. We start remembering -- yes! we put these words with this picture! -- and the story, it begins writing itself.

16,000 is my number now. It's been, what?, a month or two?, and this new sci-fi thing is really exciting me! I am learning the characters, seeing conflict, craving resolution, creating tension, looking for that ending.

The little things can be filled in: necklaces, an owl's call, the scent of fresh bread.

Halfway there, is what I'm thinking. That will be the bones. Before the flesh. But even those skeletons, they got some life in 'em.

Friday, March 25, 2011

If You Need a Laugh...Play "Dress-A-Kid"

Tell you what: you give my Big Family and me 15 minutes at the close of Value Village in Oregon's capitol city, and we'll give you the fashion show of a lifetime.

It's called "Dress-A-Kid," we just decided: We grab one of my kids and have 10 minutes to outfit them before they walk the runway (the shoe aisle). Dave, Steven, Marie, and Dominic were the judges.

I snatched up Rees (9), lied to him that the clothes are definitely washed before being hung on racks, and stuffed him into a wool plaid suit, a shiny vest, and a tie. Then I added accessories: round, mirrored glasses; a fedora; and at the last second, a sparkly hot pink-and-gold belt (which Steven said got us First Place).

Brigit picked Daney, and slipped her inside a huge men's shirt. She attached suspenders and a briefcase, and stuck all her hair inside a cap. Oh, and there were last-minute enormous pants (which Steven awarded First Place--again).

We whistled and hooted while Rees swaggered through rows of rainboots and wing-tips, while Daney snapped at her suspenders. An older couple came to watch, clapping.

We put back everything, except the plaid suit Rees wore, which everyone said was a must-have, and the winners got Dairy Queen (we were all winners).

Over her Butterscotch Dilly Bar, Brigit said, "Wait! Jennie cheated! You saw the suit for Rees first, then made it into a game!"

Smart, that Brigit.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


So, I'm writing sci-fi, for a huge change, and I'm thinking about the differences between it and other genres.

For me, so far, it comes down to setting and word choice. Character doesn't seem to change much, and plot isn't enormously effected.

I'd love to hear what your thoughts on it all.

Monday, March 21, 2011

HOW Good Is My Man?

So good, that when he reads a rant I wrote about him -- about how much he's gone, how much more he could do around the house, how he checks his stocks while I'm slaving over lasagna -- he tells me, "It's good, babe. But there's a typo. I think you forgot a 'the'."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Equation!

My friends, I found it--the scientific equation for writing! There I was, sitting in the classroom at Rees' field trip to Scienceworks, and it was right there on the board, under "Simple Machines": "Work = Force x Distance."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Have You Ever...

...Lost all your work, all in one day?

You were typing, plot was flying.

Words, words, words, words.



It all just disappeared?


Did you scream? Cry? Give up?

Did you blame?

Or start over? Try to remember? Get it back?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Faux Pas

So, the teacher of Dominic's Seventh Grade Health class explained that the course "will be very hands-on."


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Check It!

Because of my last post, I am 5,000 words into a new WIP. I love it, love it, love it! Like, I've been wondering, why haven't I been writing this story, this way, the whole time?

It's a genre I'm not usually drawn to (science fiction), and it's not YA, and it's taking more time to research than to write.

But I. Am. So. Excited!

So excited, in fact, that I haven't had time to blog. I haven't even had anything to blog about.

And I sure haven't been traveling the blogosphere much, though I do miss it.

Until recently, I had no idea that Nathan Bransford isn't in publishing anymore. I wasn't aware that Jay Asher's 13 R3asons Why will be a movie. But I did know that LK Madigan passed away, and every day I have thought of her and her family and the legend she left in her books.

There seems to be an awful lot of pink hair in the YA-writers cyber world right now.

I can't wait to finish my 1,000 words for the day (my good man, who is helping me conceive this thing, has set me a goal to finish by June), so I can vacation a bit with you bloggers!

See you soon!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Putting It Out There

Ashland is definitely a place where you can be your quirkiest self. And last night, we were at the very hub of it, at Rees' elementary school talent show.

It was unbelievable: the jokes, the hulu-hooping, the poi dancing/Katy Perry lip-syncing/stomach rolling. There was unicycling, original piano pieces, ventriloquism, all from kindergarten through fifth graders.

What amazed me most was not so much"talent," but the way these kids just put it all out there. Honestly, when I was in third grade, I never would have squeezed myself into a fluorescent unitard and belted out "Don't Stop Believin'."

How can I do this in writing, I asked myself from Row 28, Seat M. How can I let my story just flow -- with confidence, with uniqueness, with a slight awareness of but not an obsession with what the audience thinks?
It takes ambition, right? And some serious liberation. And just giving it a shot.

Can do?