Monday, July 25, 2005

I got a note from Austin writer Chris Barton, who had noticed I hadn't updated my blog for a while. I appreciated that anyone had noticed my blog in the first place! I haven't done much online at all lately, and I don't know why, except perhaps that I've been spending way too much of my computer time playing Mah Jongg...I got my best score ever tonight, so maybe I can stop now and blog instead! Here's what else has been up:

Writing: I got a notice that my article, "In With the Old," is in the new issue of Once Upon a Time, due to arrive in subscribers' mailboxes any day. I also have to return my contract and some minor revisions for my pieces in the upcoming Summer Shorts anthology from Blooming Tree Press. And most pressing, I need to submit a manuscript for critique at an upcoming conference. I got a highly coveted critique spot, and now I'm panicking about what to send. Many of my manuscripts have already been critiqued since I last revised them, so I don't think I need more critiques on them yet. But my other manuscripts seem wrong for the critiquing editor. I'm having nightmarish visions of the editor hating my manuscript so much that it permanently damages my reputation as a writer and gets me blacklisted...or at least disliking it enough to sigh at me with disdain and wish bitterly that conference critiques weren't part of the job.

Reading: Today I started The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark's due back to the library tomorrow so I need to hurry through it! I also read a bunch of books to the kids. The two most fun were The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller and Alphabeasts by Wallace Edwards. They both have art that demands to be studied.

Listening: I keep wanting to hear They Might Be Giants' first (self-titled) album, especially "Everything Right is Wrong Again" and "Don't Let's Start." After 19 years, this album still amuses me greatly every time I hear it.

Watching: In between the stacks of chapter book mysteries my almost-7-year-old son is plowing through this summer, we've been reading some of Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio books, so he is happy there's a new Time Warp Trio TV show. (And while Sam bears a resemblance to Harry Potter, he looked the same in the books, which predate Harry!) He's also thrilled there are finally new episodes of Cyberchase this week. As for me, I watched the 1939 movie of Wuthering Heights the other night, with Laurence Olivier. I'd seen it before, and read the book, but I was struck by what an odd story it is. I kind of wanted to tell Heathcliff, "Just get over it, man. Move on!" I'm also weird enough to like Stella on Comedy Central. And I watched Mike Myers on Inside the Actors' Studio last night. I was impressed that he wrote the Wayne's World script in 3 weeks. I wrote a novel in 3 weeks myself, but Wayne's World was a hugely successful movie and my novel manuscript is still floundering nearly 3 years later...and speaking of 3, it's 3:30 am, so I need to get to bed!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

My Can't Beet It manuscript has been bugging me for years, since I can't seem to get the right voice, or tone, or something. Some people have suggested I make the protagonist younger, but the plot requires him to be older, & I haven't come up with a way to change the plot & still care about it. I've considered changing the protagonist from the guy, Dan, to the girl, Whitney--either putting her in his role, or keeping them in the same roles & telling the story from her POV, but neither change works at all. Today I had this chain of thoughts:

  1. Hey, maybe I could keep Dan as the main character, but let Whitney narrate the story! I don't know if that could work for YA, but seems like it worked in The Great Gatsby & Moby Dick...of course, Dan doesn't die in the story, but could be interesting...

  2. I'd still have to let him talk some. Maybe she could interview him, or he could butt in to tell his side. Might be worth trying as an exercise, anyway.

  3. Maybe I should just write the story as a screenplay. I've started it as a screenplay before & I still think it might work. Too bad it would languish forever & never get made.

  4. I have a film degree...wouldn't it be cool if I could make a film of it myself? Write and direct or produce it or something?

  5. No way could I line up all the actors & locations & all that stuff. I'd need permission from a mall to use their food court! Too bad it wouldn't work at all as a stage play, because with stage plays you can use almost anything as the set.

  6. Maybe I should just write stage plays instead. I still have theatre connections. What could I write about?
So now I have three pages of notes for a possible children's play with a fractured fairy tale theme! I think it would be really fun, so I just may write it. Now if only discipline came as easily as ideas.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I tried the lyric-writing exercise, & actually came up with something! I started with a story I didn't think I knew enough about yet, & had no idea what a song for it could be like. The next thing I knew, I had lyrics to a song. The first verse goes, "Jill, Jill, who's the pretty one now? Jill, Jill, who's the smart one now? Who's getting the accolades? Just look at the mess you've made." I envisioned it being sung by a pop punk girl band, but the tune in my head was vaguely reminiscent of a song I finally recognized as the 70s song "Rock On" by David Essex (you know, "still looking for that blue jean, baby queen, prettiest girl I ever seen," etc.), but faster. Odd, but I was glad I managed to do it! I haven't attempted lyrics for my other stories yet, but I did compile a list of all of my novel ideas and ongoing projects, along with a summary for each, and then did the same for my picture book and short story ideas. It's the first time I've ever written up some of that information and definitely the first time I've had it in one place and easily accessible, so I felt really good about it.

I did not feel so good about not placing in the W.I.N. contest. I didn't expect to place so I didn't expect to be upset about it. And indeed I was not upset about my YA entry not being a finalist. In that case, though, I knew my approximately 1,000-word sample didn't fully represent the actual 2,500-word opening chapter, & I know the manuscript does need more work, & I've already had outside validation that the novel has promise. It was the picture book category that got to me, I think because the picture book runners-up and honorable mentions were all described as needing more work. If my submissions didn't even place, how much work must they need? Sigh. My guess is that most of my picture books are just too quiet or too ordinary to stand out, so rewriting probably won't be enough to save them.

I half-thought I just throw in the towel, thinking how bad my chances will be in the slush piles of the world. But today, I knew I really must be a writer. My husband and I were arguing and I felt quite horrible about the whole situation, but even in the midst of it I found myself wondering how I could use it in a story! And then made a note to use a related fight in my next YA novel! Crazy, huh? I also finally came up with a working title, This is the End, for the next YA, and a probable name, Jessie, for the main character. I'm still working on the names of the other major characters--or rather, which character should have which name! But of course, this is not the project I mean to be working on right now, so these are just notes!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Weird idea of the day: I was listening to an album (The Connells - Fun & Games), & started thinking about how albums are usually made up of a number of songs that each tell a different story (concept albums notwithstanding). I thought, I have so many stories to tell, I almost wish I could just make an album of them instead of having to write so many different books! As it is, I tend to be drawn more to character studies, moments of insight, & snapshots or glimpses of people's lives than in typical plots with a lot of action--action is possibly my weakest point as a writer (and, one might argue, as a person)! So then I thought, why not? The yet-unnamed protagonist of my next & yet-unnamed YA project is a lyricist, so it might be good practice, as a writing exercise, to write poems or lyrics to capture the essence of each of the stories I want to write. Besides, I have some extra time to kill while waiting for the winners of the 2005 W.I.N. contest to be announced! (Just don't follow up to see if I actually DO this exercise! Like I said, action is not my strong suit!)