Friday, June 19, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

Has your son or daughter ever followed you around the house repeating every single word, gesture, expression of yours? Or have you seen your children do it to each other with the secret desire of driving each other nuts, and, of course, succeeding?

Imitation is the best form of flattery, they say. But what about when it's involuntary?

You might be a writer're a better parrot than your kids.

Most writers will admit pretty quickly that inspiration for their characters sometimes comes from quirky aspects of their own personalities, emotions they've been through, even kids they knew when they were growing up, or know now. We writers do pilfer on occasion, which I disclaimed on a while back. But what about when it boomerangs back on us and we start imitating our own characters?

When I'm revising heavy sections of a work (this happened with Dragon Wishes), I sometimes go through a low myself, carrying the emotional weight of my characters around with me after I turn off the computer. It's not so fun, perhaps necessary to make good writing into unforgettable writing (or at least decent writing), but not one of my more favorite forms of imitation.

It's not the only form, though. Oh, no. Not even close.

I'm working on a YA set in late 19th century New Zealand, and have been for the last 13 months. I've eaten, slept, drank, read, written and pretty much been in 19th century New Zealand for over a year. I even went to the modern day version for real in November 2008. I really did my research. Really went to live in the moment. It was well beyond 'imitation.' It bordered on total immersion. The imitation came later.

I started saying, "eh" at the end of my sentences. I have to say, it is a Canadian thing. Only, I'm not from Canadian, so I wasn't exactly sure why I was suddenly doing it. And I couldn't stop. My husband teased me about it. My daughers laughed. But it was my seven year old who got to the heart of the matter in perfect, no-nonsense kid fashion.

"I like how you talk like Charlie now," she said one afternoon after my umpteenth "eh" that day.


Who? What was she talking about?

Then it hit me. Charlie Mueller, the salty lighthouse keeper in my novel (Like any slightly obsessed writer, I've read my novel to my kids). Charlie's got this great "ye aren't the fastest ship in the harbor, are ye, laddie" kind of brogue accent. I really love writing his dialogue. I guess I love it so much, I started imitating it.

So what does all of this mean? Imitation is an occupational hazard?

I bet my kids would love to use that on me. "I have to imitate you, Mama. That's what kids do. It's an occupational hazard of being a kid."

How many moms would by that one? I know I wouldn't. Parroting really gets old after a while.


Does this mean my kids can threaten to send me to my room if I don't stop parroting Charlie right now?

I'm in trouble.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sinful Nature

Green Girl tagged me with this sinful post:

"Sometimes you can learn more about a person by what they don’t tell you. Sometimes you can learn a lot from the things they just make up. If you are tagged with this Meme, lie to me. Then tag 7 other folks (one for each deadly sin) and hope they can lie."

Whew. The pressure is on. Good lying. Here goes:

What is your biggest contribution to the world?

Gosh, what a tough question. It's a real toss up between those highly acclaimed academic tomes on the principles of cold fusion and my spicy spaghetti recipe.

What do your coworkers have that you wish was yours?

Anonymity. I get hounded all the time by eager tweens begging me to please, please, please write a sequel to Dragon Wishes.

What did you eat last night?

Monte Cristo sandwich, fries, and baked fudge with ice cream and whipped cream. It's a real tragedy to have one of those metabolisms that just won't let you put on any weight. What's a girl to do but eat?

What really lights your fire?

Apathy. I'm so tired of men who know what they want. Couldn't they be wishy washy for a change? Not know what they want? Take years to propose? Why do they have to hurry us so?

What is the last thing that really pissed you off?

The recent election demonstrations in Iran. How dare those forward thinkers try and bring about democracy, or even fairness in election voting returns. What do they think this is, the 21st century?

Name something you hoard and keep from others:

Manuscripts. Move over Emily Dickinson. Just wait till I die. Oh, the treasures the world will find.

What’s the laziest thing you ever did?

Gave one word answers to open-ended questions.

Disclaimer: I may be an author, but I'm not sure I'm the wittiest one when it comes to answering questions like these. It's all that Catholic upbringing. I can feel the weight of Purgatory bearing upon me as I fudge the truth. I swear! May these writers be more unencumbered in their yarn spinning :-)


Gutsy Writer

Hello Ello

Keri Mikulski

Lilly's Life

Rena Jones

Writing it Out

Friday, June 12, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

The empty nest I've been brooding over this past week has given me plenty of time to think. Letting go of those little babies is one of the hardest things ever. Letting them fly. Letting them find their own wings. Any parent experiences a certain reluctance to cut the cord and bid them adieu.

But what about a writer and her work?

You might be a writer launch your finished manuscripts into the world the same way you launch your children, with a jumbled mix of excitement, worry, fear and hope.

Similes and metaphors comparing writing to having children abound. Incubating an idea. Laboring over a story. Nurturing a plot along. Giving birth to a finished product. And letting go?

There is definitely some joie de vivre involved in putting the keyboard down and launching a finished story into the world. And trepidation. It's your creation. You've labored over it. There have been days when you really feel like you've sweated blood and tears to turn raw material into unforgettable prose. And days when you've waxed on and on and on, moony-eyed in love with your little creation.

And then comes the day when you wake up and know, today is the day. I've done all I can do. The last word has been written. The last change made. Much like a parent with a child, it's time to take a step back and launch them into the world. Let them fly. Will they crash? Undoubtedly. Will they get up? Please God, universe, whatever deity or higher being is out there watching over them, let them get up.

Will they soar?

That's any parent or writer's greatest hope. That their labor of love will soar, will influence others in a good way, leaving them changed or entertained or thrilled. Or maybe a little of all of the above.

And so we parents and writers launch our little loves into the wide wide world. Our hearts are practically bursting with pride for them. We worry for them. We're even a little fearful. But more than anything, with all our hearts, we hope that they will soar.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Empty Nesting for Culture

I fell off the radar temporarily last week. Lost all communication. It was a combination of the end of school, huge trip, and finishing my WIP, Pelorus Jack.

Most of all, though, I was an emotional wreck. My kids and their father left on Friday for Germany. I stayed at home in the empty nest.

My husband grew up and lived most of his live in Germany until I "imported" him to the U.S. after we got married. Since the girls are a blend of two cultures, we try really hard to get them over to Germany once a year to visit family and friends. This year, we decided they were old enough for a deeper "cultural immersion" program. We're sending them to school there. Which means, I won't see them for several weeks. A lifetime.

I was scared and nervous. They were scared and nervous. I'm pretty sure I sprouted countless new gray hairs within those last hours leading up to their flight. The closer it got, the more I asked myself, Why am I doing this? Is it that important for them to be able to speak and understand German?

After I had a good cry, a glass of wine, and a serious portion of Jane Austen, I came to the same conclusion I'd been coming to all year. Sometimes doing what is best in the long run means surmounting some steep short run costs.

My motivation is all experiential. My family is a big, Hungarian family. My generation, however, is the first that didn't learn to speak Hungarian. My grandfather (1st generation American) speaks, writes and reads it. My father (2nd generation) learned only to speak it, and gradually lost it when he grew up. I (3rd generation) only learned to curse in it. Not very useful when trying to communicate in Budapest at age 19, let me tell you.

More than that, though, my whole life I've always felt like there was this big part of my family, my culture, my own history that was lost to me. Moving to America was definitely a step up for us, but we left behind family and traditions in Hungary. Ones I will never really get to know because linguistically, I've lost the tying thread.

I don't want my kids to feel like that. I want them to feel a part of both of their cultures. I also feel like tolerance grows from a more organic and personal relationship to various cultures. One begins to see that things can be done differently and it's still great. Diversity is the spice of life.

So, they start school on Thursday in Germany. Our friends with whom the girls are staying have two boys the same age. They live in a small town. My kids will be the star guests at their school. I'm so excited for them. It's going to be the experience of a lifetime.

If only I could miss them a little less....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Book Review Club - Shift

Jennifer Bradbury
May 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4169-4732-5
Retail: $16.99

Jen and I spoke together on a panel at NCTE, and I got her book then. I've been meaning to read it ever since. I'm so glad I finally did.

is the story of two 18 year-old high school graduates, Win and Chris, who bicycle across America the summer before college starts. It's a journey of self discovery, a YA coming of age story about how the journey is the goal, where you end up may not be where you were headed.

The story is told in retrospective. Chapters alternate deftly between reflection and present day events. Win disappears on the trip shortly before the two reach the West Coast. When he doesn't show up to start college at Dartmouth, his wealthy and influential father begins a search for him. He sends his FBI buddy to Chris at Georgia Tech to start the search, ultimately forcing Chris to find his friend before Win's father ruins Chris' life.

Author, Jen Bradbury, took a similar trip with her husband after they were married, a two month trek across America on a bike. Her experiences give this story an organic, I've-been-there feel. It makes me want to pull my mountain bike out of the garage and give it a go. It also reminds me a little of Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance and the idea that nature, landscape, the world around us can only truly be experienced if you put yourself in the middle of it,not watch it pass by through a window.

This is a great summer read. It'll have you longing for open spaces, the taste of a hearty meal after a day of grueling exercise, the welcome softness of the cool earth against your back and the glory of the wide open spaces, creeks, rivers and plains that beckon us to experience them firsthand. If ever there was a road trip book, this is it! Sign me up.

For more great reviews and must reads, head over to Book Review Club central, Barrie Summy's site. There are some real temptations waiting there that even the most reluctant reader won't be able to pass up.