Friday, February 27, 2009

Interview on my writing technique

Perhaps it was my recent fifteen minutes of fame as Six-Word Memorist of the Day, my charismatic writing style, or simply that I was available at the exact moment needed that brought me to the attention of a freelance reporter working on an investigative project on the creative process. As a pianist—I started piano lessons at age five—and a composer, (I have written 200 songs, one I finished), and I am intrigued by many aspects of the creative process. I am especially curious how the reporter will answer one of the questions she is pursuing: how does a composer know the right note is the right note?

We made an appointment to meet Thursday evening and do our exchange via instant messaging. That way the words could be easily captured (we used gmail chat) and the free flow of our conversation could progress without the restriction of trying to scribble as fast as someone can talk.

I actually am a master of this, scribbling, and honed my skill in school, determined to survive in, what for me was, a laptop-less world. The downside of possessing this talent, is that, for the rest of your life, your handwriting sucks. I even had a manager note it once on a performance review, ‘improve handwriting.’ Yeah, Rick, I never forget an offense, and good thing he didn’t answer my real question, “How do I get to be a boss just like you? Huh, huh?!” Obviously, no one, aspires to emulate the bold move of incisive supervisory commentary on handwriting over an employee’s productive work. Which brings me to a piece of FLAIR I received on FaceBook, “Please don’t annoy the writer, she’ll write you in a book and kill you.” I have big plans for many ‘characters’ I’ve met in real life, but that’s another story. And Rick wasn’t all bad. He allowed me to blow off steam when I needed to vent venom in a world that challenged salespeople beyond belief, but back to the story at hand.
Before we get too far in-depth I'd like to encourage you to read all the way to the end, if for no other reason than to see how effortlessly I emulate the figure represented as reporter Kai D.
Instant messaging (IM) allowed the reporter to do two things at once, interview me and surf other sites while interviewing me. Most of the time I would feel offended by not holding a reporter’s rapt attention, but this gal was obviously adept at balancing more than one activity, and pleasant enough to disband any feelings of disrespect I may have otherwise held against her, which is to say I didn’t even NOTICE until we were almost DONE. So, let's listen to the interview...

Reporter: Have you gone to a writing conference? What was the experience like?

The First Carol: I attended two last year. Rose City Romance Writers Retreat and Willamette Writers Conference. At the RCRW we studied the ‘hero's journey,’ the basic outline of every story on earth. Halfway through the retreat confirmed A Single Pearl had a good story line and that was encouraging. The second conference was much larger. It was very intense, and I was filled with a high number of A-HA! moments and couldn't wait to go home and write (re-write). Also, at the WW conference I was able to network with a dozen literary agents. That was fun—I like meeting people, have no problem talking to strangers, and kind of took on the persona that I was the hostess (I was a volunteer halfdays) and that it was my ‘job’ to be friendly. I have a great anecdote about meeting the VP at MGM Pictures, Luke Ryan. That's for another story, too.

Reporter: Do you follow the six processes mentioned in Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon (cultivate deep listening, silence critics; banish censors, practice riff-writing, revise from your truth, harvest your emotions, catch fireflies) and do they help you to refine your creative writing style and _voice_?

The First Carol: Hmm, I cultivate my head. I actually hear character conversations in my head. They usually occur first thing in the morning, in the shower, I imagine them talking to each other and they take on a life of their own. When I'm combing my hair I start talking to myself about work issues, but that's another subject.

Yes, I do silence critics. The worst critic in all our lives is ourselves. It's the tiny voice that tells us we can't do something, or if we did, it wouldn't be that good. I really think we have to be careful of what we say to ourselves. We should find ways to pump ourselves up, for instance, “MAN! I'm a GREAT writer!” If we woke up every morning and greeted our little sleepy-self with a BIG-BIG-HUGE positive affirmation it would send us light years ahead of where we actually are. Your brain/head doesn’t know the difference between fact and fiction, you can tell it something not great, “Gees, I'm stupid,” and pretty soon your head will figure out how to make you stupid. Or, you can give yourself a reputation to live up to, “Wow, I'm a creative genius,” and your head will figure out how to make that happen. The theory of head-talking I learned from selling Mary Kay. That company is very big on encouraging people to be and do their best,

Banish censors: when you are writing, everyone has an opinion. You can try each opinion on, but if they don’t fit, take them off. You are the master of your universe, your story. It has to fit with you. It can get better, or improved with feedback, but if the feedback isn't getting you where you need to go, plug your ears and move on.

If ‘revise from your truth’ means that somewhere deep within me my story comes from me, or is about me, I guess I would have to say that is partially true. While the exact situations in the book did not happen to me personally, I can relate with what most of the characters, if not all, feel. So, indeed, we must harvest our emotions. If we do not, our story will lack depth, clarity and that touch of realism that communicates to the reader a real passion that the reader can identify with.

Catch fireflies: I worried about this when I first read that hint, or tip from Elizabeth Lyon. Her theory is that we create/receive a brilliant thought or idea, and if we do not immediately write it down, we lose it. I find I can capture those thoughts at this moment or the next when I sit down and begin writing. Remember, I have to get from the shower to somewhere and there's a lot of in between on that road.

In my experience, what supports me to refine my creative writing style and voice is one simple action: writing. The art of writing, is writing, revising, reading it out loud to yourself, reading it out loud to someone else, receiving feedback and re-writing, re-writing, re-writing. If you want to be involved in an art where you feel you are never done, try writing. Just choose your critics well.

Reporter: Do you prefer reading silently or out loud while editing your manuscript? Which is more effective for your editing process? Why does it help more than the other?

The First Carol
: I use a handful of techniques. One, I write using a computer, so the bulk of my writing is done right on screen. Two, I print it out and I SEE much clearer what needs to be adjusted; I’m a very visual person. Next, I read out loud to prepare myself to read to my critique group, a practice we learned in Novel Writing Boot Camp, taught by Caroline Rose and Mike Nettleton. We are allotted 12 minutes of manuscript each week, and I like to know where mine will end—how far I can get. Sometimes I read more than 12 minutes, BUT I own the stopwatch and run it, so I'm the only one who really knows when I do that, except for those moments when I go overboard. I've had two...of those moments. All techniques have an effect, what is most effective, difficult to say. Perhaps as I hone my craft I'll find one works better than the others, but I really see myself using as many as possible as often as possible.

Reporter: Elizabeth Lyon says to read alone as to not perform your writing. Do you think this helps you to create better writing? Does "performing" for your critique group help refine you writing more than you do alone?

The First Carol: It is very hard NOT to perform your writing (for me), and our critique group puts in voice inflection when we read. In the class I took, Novel Writing Boot Camp, one of our teachers read in a monotone to demonstrate how we should read. The idea is the words have to be the part that drives you or draws you into the story, not a good voice performer. I can't do it, well, I won't do. I like to entertain my group with my story. I read it the way I hear it.

Reporter: What are some of your judgment/thoughts compared to your constructive criticism from yourself about the novel you are writing?

The First Carol: Well, first of all I am insane.

Reporter: I understand that.

The First Carol: I know, I know, personal experience with your mother gives you a lot of insight into this interview :-) Okay, here's what I find interesting about my story writing experience, I had an idea spinning around in my head, I started writing it on scraps of paper, little tidbits of ideas, I started organizing those ideas onto 3x5's, then I said, “Shoot, I should put this in the computer in a WORD document where it could be flushed out and developed. Okay, maybe the word is fleshed out, please don't flush me.

Once I began writing I could not stop, I was driven, I was a crazy woman, I wouldn't talk to my kid, I wouldn't answer my phone. I HAD TO GET THIS STORY OUT OF MY HEAD. Then I had it out of my head and I thought, “Man, this stuff is good, this is really good.” Then I went through a major edit, and I said, “Man, what I wrote before was crap, but THIS is good, this is really good.” Then I went through another major edit, and I said, “Man, what I wrote before was crap, but THIS is good, this is really good.” Then I went through a major edit, and I said, “Man, what I wrote before was crap, but THIS is good…

Do you get the picture? Each step of the way I thought I was good, and for me, in that moment of my writing career, I was the best I could be with the tools that I had. Then I went to a retreat, took a couple of classes, went to a writers conference, went to a all day seminar, and at each step I was revising and editing and I could see how my craft was improving and how the story was also taking better shape and improving. Here is what scares me, my critique group has been absolutely, undeniably critical to the progress of developing the book. What happens if I lose my critique group? Will I be able to complete volume two and volume three in the Pearl Trilogy? I'm sure I can, but will it be as good, or will it be ANY good? Angst.

Reporter: Do you have an emotional aspect to your characters that are attributed to real life humans? What are some examples?

The First Carol: Are you asking if the characters are based on real life people?

Reporter: Yes, kinda. but not really. Do they have attributes that can be related to everyday people?

The First Carol: Of course, if they did not I'm not sure I'd have a story, the reader has to connect with the characters as if they WERE real people, in fact, one of the gals in my critique group leaves me notes that lets me know she really cares about the people in the story, and wishes something in their life was different, or she really hates them; she's got a teeter-totter of emotions going on with Lee—at the moment she hates him. If I've done my job well, as a writer, at the end of the book she will feel about him the way I do.

Reporter: Where do your techniques come from?

The First Carol
: I had a VERY good high school English teacher. Actually, I had about three. I learned what techniques writers employed when they wrote a great story. I learned the undertones of the story. I like to add things or weave ideas in that would give a book club something REALLY fun to discuss. For instance, my characters have colors. Sandy (notice the name) is all about brown. Chloe is green. Chloe's mom, Sherrine, is pink. Kerri Ann, main character, lives to dress in blue. Lee has more than one color, he’s more complicated. We see black and gold around Lee and his family (representing tiger), he's wild, exotic, Asian, a handsome Korean man. We also see Lee in red, basically red ties.

I did not consciously plan this, but if you look at a Korean flag it uses the colors red and blue (Lee and Kerri Ann), in a kind of yin-yang symbol. Oh, and Lee's suits are always very somber, he gravitates to blacks and grays. When Kerri Ann begins to compete in a man's world her character changes are signaled by her change in color, we see her in blacks suits. When Lee's character softens, he begins to wear blue ties. I also wove some Korean concepts into the story, the Korean national flower appears in one scene (blue hibiscus), and Kerri Ann has a dream that reflects a Korean fairy tale. There's some other stuff, but I don't want to give it all away (AND BESIDES I CAN'T REMEMBER, oh sorry for yelling).

“Although I was aware of my obsessive compulsive rewriting,...”-Koontz. He wrote 32 pages and only 1 didn't have any revisions.

Smith and Rusch say to “write a first draft quickly, and revise no more than three times before marketing. While waiting for your probable rejection, start a new work. Through practice, sheer volume of words, and encountering different situations in each new piece, you'll build your repertoire and skill.”

Jonis Agee says “She typically writes and discards her first draft and most of her second draft, She throws them away! ... She explained that the third draft captures the heart and soul of her characters and her author voice.”
(Excerpts from Manuscript Makeover reprinted with permission).
What method is yours closely related too? What is your view on each writing style? Do you think each helps in a different way, If so what way?

The First Carol: I am Koontz, beginning-middle-end. I rewrite before I write! I could not stand to throw anything away and start all over again. Throwing away sounds like waste, I'm way too frugal for that. My current manuscript is 105,000 words (it should be max 95,000), so figure I've written 100K, I've tossed out 50,000 words in rewrites. I guess you could ask how frugal is that, sounds like a lot of waste, huh? I am playing a game with myself at the moment and when I cut words from the manuscript I paste them into a second document, when I'm through I'm going to count the words (WORD does this automatically) and see exactly how many came and went.

Reporter: The book (Manuscript Makeover) says, “reading poetry will build a sturdy conduit into your so-called subconscious mind...” helps your writing style. What techniques have you tried to improve your writing style?

The First Carol
: I listen to the sounds of words. What words sound good together. What words LOOK good together -- a sentence with a lot of ‘s’ words and you allude to a snake. It can be like a game you play with yourself. I also consider best word choices. The word ‘look’ for example. I have on my cheat sheet a bushel of words to consider when I do a search of my manuscript and discover I have used the word LOOK 600 times:
attention, beholding, case, cast, contemplation, evil eye, eye, flash, gander, gaze, glance, glimpse, gun, inspection, introspection, keeping watch, leer, look-see, marking, noticing, observation, once-over, peek, reconnaissance, regard, regarding, review, scrutiny, sight, slant, speculation, squint, stare, surveillance, survey, swivel, view, viewing
Those are just some of my choices. I use a thesaurus a lot. I am amazed how changing the word ‘looked’ to ‘scrutinized’ improves a sentence. (Go ahead, count how many times I used 'look' in this interview!).

Reporter: Do you carry around a notepad to capture images or ideas throughout the day? What are some things written down?

The First Carol
: I do best getting them into the laptop. But I do have a couple of different notebooks, and my 3x5 flip book. I write down snippets of dialogue

Reporter: Why do you chose to do your writing electronically?

The First Carol
: Easier to manipulate the words in the editing process. Curiously, I can write something down on paper, then when I transfer to computer it morphs, it NEVER comes out the same. I find that extremely intriguing, must be the part of the brain that is engaged. Even the nuances of conversations change, really odd, but there must be some science to it.

Reporter: Whose writing style would you say best compares to your writing style? Why?

The First Carol: Ugh, I have no idea. I am influenced by everything around me, but I can't tell you who I'm like. If someone else told you who I was like, I would believe them (as long as it was a compliment :-)

This question makes me think of my Grandma, she was a jazz musician, very talented and she loved music, especially loved to hear me play the piano. One day after I played for hours while she putzed and danced in the kitchen she told me she now ‘knew my style.’ She told me she could be anywhere in the world, on any street, and if she heard me playing she would KNOW it was me. I'd never really thought about having a style before. Thought you were supposed to play the music like everyone else, like the composer intended, but we all interpret through what we know, through our experiences.

Reporter: Have you ever copied excerpts from famous writers to become more acquainted with their writing style? How did this help?

The First Carol: I have not, although I understand the technique.

Reporter: I don't really have any more questions. Thank you for your time! :)

The First Carol
: Your welcome. Thank you for your creative and insightful questions.

Reporter: No problem.

The First Carol: You’re cute, daughter.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Six Word Memoir Published

Today, I am a nationally published author. Okay, it’s only six words and tomorrow it will disappear into the archives, but if you surf over to Smith Magazine you will read my six word memoir.

It appeared on the home page with my profile picture: clip art of an Asian girl gazing into an aquarium trying to touch the fish.

And if you’re thoughtful about your life, feel free to add your own six word memoir to my site, or theirs.

My six words? Middle child battling to reverse order.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

She's got big ideas and it doesn't involve cooking or cleaning

What is Kerri Ann up to now?
The next morning Lee showed me a 3-D drawing in the paper of one of the downtown developments his company was working on. That gave me an idea. I spent weeks at the library researching and took my list to the newspaper and bought old editions, specific dates containing bird's eye illustrations of the city's core.

Saturdays I xeroxed, sizing everything perfectly. At home I cut and pieced it together, drew in the missing areas, and made my own map with colored squares of blue to represent Lee portfolio properties. Little pieces of paper drifted and fluttered from my project. “Your mother is rubbing off on me,” I ribbed.
(A Single Pearl, Chapter 9).

The idea germinating blossomed on that decision walk. When I got home I called Lee to let him know I’d resurfaced. “I’m taking that cooking class,” I said. I went through my leftover pile of newspapers, cut out recipes, and that week cooked them as if they came from a class.

Well, I wanted to do it myself, but after telling Breena I’d set a kitchen towel on fire she swooped in for rescue; she slaved while I cleaned up the smoke damage. We froze the meals and I brought them out to thaw as needed. The dishes were actually pretty good. Lee was impressed, what a good student I was, what a great class. Then off I’d go to study—for my real estate license.
(A Single Pearl, Chapter 9).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

She needs college cash, has to ask him for money

Kerri Ann needs money, and has to ask Lee for it. It doesn't feel good, but wait...what does he want?

An excerpt from A Single Pearl...
...I’d decided my discontent could only be doused with forward motion, and I’d have to ask Lee for money. It chafed I’d become so dependent, but his soft words were the plink of a stone breaking the surface of my pride lake, sending out ripples of renewal. I tucked in next to him, held myself for courage and took a breath. Lee moved his arm over the back of the sofa, and kneaded my shoulder. He gazed past me, and struggled to say something.
(A Single Pearl, Chapter 9).

Friday, February 20, 2009

How to tie a tie, and lessons in the art

Lee's property and Kerri Ann's growing interest in real estate.

Saturday. Lee got out of bed and his bare feet pattered over the hardwood. He wore slacks, no shirt and sat at the table. I placed toast and coffee in front him. He didn’t look up.

“Lee, there’s a piece of property I want to discuss with you.”

“Which one?” he said, pulling the business section out.

“You own it, centrally located, I like it, nice

“Hm,” he answered, flipping the section open.

“I really like it,” I stressed, and placed my hand in the middle of his paper.

He bristled at the interruption, then noticed my hand poked out of the cuff of his suit jacket. “Who said you could wear my clothes?”

I flipped the silk tie wrapped around my neck in his face.

He glanced at my throat.“Who taught you to knot a tie?”

“No one, and no one,” I grinned...

(A Single Pearl, Chapter 7).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Surprise! Meet your new Korean family, or Ack! What did she get herself into?

Okay, if you’re not reading the book you don’t know there was a proposal between the last post and this one. Kerri Ann has followed Lee to California and see’s the house he’s chosen for them, he gives her a list of repairs and renovations needed on the bungalow, hands her a household budget to follow, and ignores her questions about the closest college. He’s got a plan for life, and at the moment that doesn’t include her doing anything except taking care of the home front so he can concentrate on building his real estate business, nor does it include introducing her to his parents before the wedding.
“Would you like a job?” he asked.

“You bet, when do I start?” I replied excited.

“Right now. Your job is the house. We need everything: living room furniture, table, pots, pans, dishes, linens, maybe new drapes.”

I glanced at the sun-blotched cloth hanging to the sides of the den window, approached them and tried to hide my disappointment, I thought he had a place for me in his business. I gazed out the window at the sliver of backyard and fingered the frayed cloth. I heard Chloe’s mom whisper, ‘Do a good job where you are, and good things will happen.’ “Okay, you got it. What’s the parameters?”

“What are the parameters,” he corrected softly.

I heard and understood. The man who spoke English as a second language had better grammar than the English major.
(A Single Pearl, Chapter 6).
Here's your chance to be part of the book. I need a color for the drapes. Any suggestions?

Lisa: +stifling house; -concise, clear handwriting (don’t need next reference); +leases (what do you like to read?); +Chloe’s mom whispered; Yikes, Lee seems controlling. Chap 7 I think Chloe would have a different response to marriage; +Lee’s mother’s response; What was finger gesture?; +soap opera and the whole family in Korean; +volunteer at elementary school; +it wouldn’t be cooking (for fun) + can’t wait…

Melanie: +Good tension—parents not coming to wedding; +Like to read leases (character development); +Tension—he wouldn’t tell her where college—not good. +Love the mother’s wailing. +Gifts a payoff. +Embarrass about no ring for Lee. It wouldn’t be cooking. Call between Chloe and Kerri Ann.

Pam: What sports car—make? Ah!! Corvette-nice. Within budget? What is the budget? ! I’m beginning to have second thoughts about Lee—. +”Eyes disappeared into a grin.” Ch 7 +Pretty dress!! (In my mind). +Kind of like the dad, +interesting mom, +great visual of parents’ house. +And I like the cleaning of their own house for the new beginning. Why would tuition be out-of-state?

Peggy: +Staring at her shoes…has reader wondering and then realize it’s the song :-), The whole shoe thing’s cute. +He quirked an eyebrow…”No.” Sorry I missed so much :-( Send it to me, please!

EDITS: Sometimes you know what happens, but you don’t always have the right characters handling the action or spelling out the dialogue. In one instance, I changed the speaker to make better sense within the lines of characters already drawn. Melanie also steered me over the bump of the entire reveal of meeting the parents happening during a phone conversation between Kerri Ann and her friend Chloe. Mel wanted to see the drive over to Lee’s parents house and the scene blossomed.

The feedback makes mention of a song Kerri Ann listens to. In real life I was cleaning the kitchen and listening to 89.10 FM and heard this clever tune by Fats Waller. It wrote itself naturally into the manuscript, outlining the tight financial situation KA had at college, and brought in an exchange between Lee and KA that answers the question: why he is so driven to make money? You won’t get any answers from the YouTube tune, but it's still fun.

Since beginning Pam has been questioning if Lee was too good to be true, this chapter was her first cloud of doubt. The teeter-tooter continues through chapter after chapter. She likes him, she hates him. If I’ve done my job right she’ll feel about him the same way I do at the end. Looking forward to finding out that outcome!

Okay, now help me -- what color are those drapes?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"I love you," so where do we go from here?

Scene: Despite their geographical distances, Chapter 6 escalates the relationship between Lee and Kerri Ann. It's obvious he hasn't stopped thinking about her, and they stay in contact daily.
I tried not to live in my imagination too much, but Lee was the last thing I thought of when I placed my head on the pillow, and my first thought when I woke, mostly because that’s when he called. He even paid my phone bill once, but I sent back the check and told him it would really cost him if he stopped calling, I simply watched the clock aware of what I could afford.

We chatted, regular routine, then something changed in his voice, he started asking about numbers, odd things, wanted to confirm my building number, my dorm room number.

“What are you doing?” he chuckled.

“Sitting here talking to you.” I flipped a blue pen through my fingers. “What’s funny?”

“Walk outside,” he said.
(A Single Pearl, Chapter 6).
Lisa: +like him in the outside scene; inched forward?; +I like how.. <--can’t remember what damn! +He loved being bossy; +never tell me about that girl again; +I want you so I can work, live…

: +You’re for real (suggest she say it into the phone?). What was his reaction when she said, “I miss you.” Why was she furious he said I love you? +Chloe’s question: did he ask about you? Ring – suggest just a smidgen of thought about gift, +never tell me about that girl again.

Pam: Love the image of the geek’s limbs (Lurker). Name of the restaurant? I don’t think, “I miss you,” sounds needy? She couldn’t have said it first—she doesn’t have Lee’s confidence. +Like your details about and on the Space Needle. ++Organic, evolving Seattle. Why doesn’t she tell Chloe she loved him? +”Trout out of a Montana stream.” He doesn’t seem…(Pam crossed something out here) to me.

Peggy: +Great details, felt there; ++Imagery. +Like how Lee came to visit her at college. –Lost me a little in the business details, how much is necessary? +Like the descriptions of Seattle. +Fish “not Lee’s style.” +Conversation with Chloe, Oh, but would Chloe really move in with someone with whom she truly didn’t know his name? Other than “Lurker?”

This was the first time Lee tells Kerri Ann he loves her, it takes place in the Emerald City (Seattle) and happens in a surprising way. She is taken off guard and has to decide fast how to accept his declaration. Some quick fixes to the chapter, nothing major, but the most minor ones add finesse and ideas came from Mel to plump the scene. Peggy got bored with Lee talking about his business; it may be interesting to note the next time he gives a big talk about his business Peggy got bored with that, too! My response? How interesting can guys be when they talk about their careers? (or sports). And to answer the question: would Chloe really move in with someone who’s first name she doesn’t know, only his nickname? Yes, she acts first, thinks later. Listen to how she talks! Well, I guess you'll have to get the book to really 'hear' how she talks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yeah, um, that’s not how a guy talks

Scene: The pearl is introduced, it appears as a gift from Lee to Kerri Ann,a little first aid for the soul. She is surprised by her reaction to it, she accepts it, and also accepts the budding relationship with Lee.
He looked over and stared at me thoughtfully. He set the paper flat, flicked his thumb through the pages and smiled. “I was coming for a swim, looking for an open chair to throw my towel, first one I noticed was next to you...
(A Single Pearl, Chapter 5).
Lisa: +Sweet gift reason; +like the necklace application and the goodnight at the door; +Sandy was used to cleaning up after us; -Phrase: what does that matter - doesn’t work; + I like what is being revealed in Lee; +like the food, rice papaya. -Lee’s language a little too flowery when he describes first encounter with Kerrie Ann.

Melanie: +runs finger under silver necklace; +gift feels bad after Chloe; +enunciated each word; Buddha, Mary etc. ? +Ask for what you want; -just a little too flowery for Lee’s description

Pam: Very good/telling scene with Chloe, et al. How could she pack that fast? I want to see why Lee likes Kerri Ann. Oh, good! Now I know why Lee is attracted to her!

Peggy: +Wonderful end to Chapter 5. Would like to hear/see more with the kiss (just after he gave her the pearl necklace). +Like the connection with the necklace! The Single Pearl J Wonderful! +Great that Lee defends her with Chloe. +Wonderful dialogue with Chloe and their friends. +Good details with Lee, “hands entwined,” etc. Would a guy be that thorough with the details? Or is that his personality? Chloe called it quits”?

EDITS: Okay, every one was of the same mind, Lee was just a little too girly when he described the first time he encountered Kerri Ann. Edit, edit, edit. Here’s what I was trying to accomplish: when writing in first person it’s hard to develop a concept of what the character looks like, someone has to describe them, best person on this list had to be Lee, and I wrote Kerri Ann they way I saw her, BUT NOT HOW A GUY WOULD. Erase, fix. I also took out a reference to Budha. Erase.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Really, my kid's fine. Me? Well, I'm a mom.

My daughter came into the bathroom this morning to chat with me as I was getting ready for work. She looked at me oddly and said, "There's two of you." I looked at her oddly and said, "You're seeing double."

"There's a black hole right here," and she held up her hands in front of her face in the shape of a globe.

I looked at her closer, drilled down into her eyes which were black, bottomless pits. "You're not going to school, today," I assessed, with the astuteness of a cum laude college graduate.

"Mommy, I can't see you."

That's when I lost it. Lost control of everything. There was nothing in the eyes, they were open, but nothing there, the blank vacant stare of a blind person. She started to slump down the wall, I grabbed her and she fainted into my shoulder. I'm talking to her the whole time and she is not responding, when she does it's a whimper. I pulled-carried her determined to get her to the car where I could acquire medical attention. I'm strong when adrenalin-rushed and never short of determination. I can do this I thought. We can do this. Her whimpers to get me to stop slowed me down and I managed to plop her in a chair in the kitchen. She was pale as an ivory bone and I could tell from her eyes she was not full functioning.

I'm chattering the whole time, nervous rush, 'drive you to hospital, emergency room, can you get to the car, I'll carry you, you don't want me to carry you, calling an ambulance, 911, dialing.' Someone without any sense of the pressure-panic I'm under answers the phone and asks thoughtful questions, what is your emergency, what is your location, what is your name, is she responding, can she see you now. I answer each question in airless whispers, realize I'm not breathing, sweat is trickling down my back, later it will pour. I'm getting hot, any minute I'll be the patient.

The 911 operator keeps me talking, assures me help is on the way, reminds me to assure her help is on the way, instructs me to unlock the front door, turn on a light, make sure any household pets are put away. Dogs in kennels. They're on their way, they're on their way. 911 tells me they're hanging up now, if anything changes in her condition, call right back. They're on the way. Next call to my sister, not because she can help, but because, because, just because. No, don't come, I'll call you and let you know what's happening. Noise outside, I'm thinking I need my insurance card it's in the car, I fly out grab it from the car, rush back to my drifting daughter, and leave the door open behind me, guy walks in with a big bag and kenneled dogs burst into bellows. No one can hear themselves think let alone talk. I carry three kennels down to the basement one-by-one three trips that leave my frightened child alone with strangers with big bags, lots of equipment. It's the equipment that scares her.

When I re-appear and settle back into her emergency, three big, brawny guys in blue are hovering and a very nice lady is asking her question after question, out comes the medical equipment, taking her blood pressure, more questions, she is propped in the chair, pale-pale, blank face, big eyes watching, no 'yes' answers, takes too much effort, only uh-uh and a shrug of the shoulders. Phone rings, phone rings, phone rings. Probably sister, probably mom. More questions for me, more questions, questions. I ignore the phone. Tension slackens, they don't think they need to take her by ambulance, she doesn't want to go with them anyway. I ask her if she'll go with me, uh-huh. I sign their form and wonder why no one asked me for my insurance card. Don't you have to pay...

Emergency room, not busy, lessens my guilt that I'm bringing my child in for a fainting spell. It's not for me, it's not for her, it's for my father. Only a doctor with a degree will determine if his granddaughter is okay. I KNOW he won't take my word for it. Insurance card, four pages of information I could care less about, nurse, room, pee in the cup. She can't. Nurse will take sample later. Nurse Byrnne, twenty-seven-year -old Asian from Orange County who became a nurse in two years, I want to ask what nationality she is but I already asked her how old she is and she patiently answers my rude, nervous mom questions with the fortitude of a pretty saint, really pretty. Nurse Tammy is my age, don't ask her anything, I KNOW that age (old) except can my kid leave her bra and panties on, doesn't want to take them off. Nurse asks her more questions and ends with, "Do you feel like you are in a safe environment." "Yes." Am I glad someone asks those questions to give other kids, who are not safe, a chance at life.

Later, thirty-two-year-old physician's assistant Andrew asks, "You're not pregnant right?" Answer, no. Then a laugh like 'duh.'

Blood pressure laying down, standing up, drops. Slight fever. But she can stand, raise her hands above her head, answer questions. But she can't pee in the cup. Andrew gives us the scoop. Vassal vagel, which he must explain again to me before checking us out. Not unusual to faint given these circumstances: sick for four days (fever, coughing, sneezing, ear pain), loss of appetite (applesauce for breakfast-lunch-dinner), dehydrated. Gave me the wicked symptoms to watch out for and if any change bring her back. Now we'll hydrate, they bring in pop, my kid doesn't drink pop, they came up with orange juice and Gatorade, which she hates. Okay, I'm thinking how much is this orange-juice-gatorade adventure costing me? Unbelievably, I don't care. Next, I'm wondering how much I'm going to SLEEP when the adrenalin flood drains out of my body (about three hours).

We got home and she slipped off, as in SLIPPED off the hospital band, and tells me the blood pressure glove they put on her finger tip wouldn't stay on either, fingers to slender. I'm looking at her like I should fatten her up.

Okay, that brings us up to the moment. Now, I'm thinking...we're those paramedics CUTE? I can't remember! Neither can she. Man, we were out of it!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

“If I said it once, I said it 16 times!”

I carry around a mini-notebook where I capture class feedback and include advice from published authors. On one page is an Arizona newspaper clipping. Diana Gabaldon is quoted sharing her three rules: read everything, write, don’t stop. At the moment, I’m reading a New York Times Bestselling Author (not Gabaldon) with 16 published works and wondering if Gabaldon needs to add a fourth point, repeat yourself, a lot. In my author-of-the-moment focus I’ve identified this collection of similarities in the first two books I've read:
  • Female protagonist pep-talks self out loud, saying things like ‘get yourself together

  • Female characters have sickly stomachs and tend to throw up a lot

  • Comes from a wealthy, influential family, with a domineering father

  • Lives in a small town near a large city, and drives a jeep

  • Siblings are more attractive

  • One sibling is developmentally delayed, or socially-underdeveloped

  • A character works for a newspaper

  • A man sires a child with someone other than his wife, child is hidden

  • Female characters ride horses bareback -- ever tried it? Give me a saddle, geez

  • Characters hook their thumbs at their chests and hitch their chins

  • Young male characters talk basely about women, driven by baser instincts, i.e., they think about sex a lot and its not pretty, nor is it love

  • Female protagonist makes bad choices in men, then suddenly makes a good one?! [Has anyone connected with something has to happen to change her/him, maybe soul searching with a friend, counseling?]

  • And those good men they finally pick were: social outcast, pined over girl for years, and as youths had a trouble with the law

  • Someone has a girl who is their sex slave, willing to do anything to keep her man, which doesn’t seem to work out so well for her, and ultimately is not appreciated by him

  • Someone practices a sexual deviancy: brother to sister, husband caught with 15-yr-old…

  • Someone has gold eyes (I guess that’s better than the oft repeated green-eyed, red-haired girl), but gold eyes? While extremely intriguing in the first book, feels like cheating in the second

  • Both books take place in Oregon -- okay, that’s not fair, I just threw it in to make my list longer. Writers write about the area they know, or like me, they add one they don’t know and say, “This will give me an excuse to travel to…”

  • Someone dies -- okay, now I’m just completely off the deep end, they’re romance mysteries, for heavens sake

  • Alright already, the author has given the female protagonists different personalities, but still…
In the first book I read, I wanted to do the class thing on the author, mail her a minus sign, draw her attention to a particular portion of the book and explain she had not properly laid the groundwork for a twist one of her characters seized. Then I realized, I could only comprehend that misstep because I’d made the same mistake myself, and our class had caught me and hauled me up on ‘reader abuse charges.’ I’d felt the stab of their feedback, but in order to obtained desired future readers more than preserving a fragile self-image, I did a revision, found very, very simple ways to interweave missing links, and lay hints. Occasionally, I’ll remark to the group, oh that’s something you’ll catch when you read it a second time. How arrogant am I? Well, egotistical enough to keep writing.

And if it’s as easy as repetition, then my books will always have these five key points:
  • A woman who hates cooking

  • A man who doesn’t understand she hates cooking

  • A struggle as she competes in his world

  • His surprise at how successful , (smart, talented, creative--fill in the blank) she is

  • His discovery: only by giving her what she wants will he obtain the life he wants

I am beginning to conceive that getting published is because you’re really, really good, (and how many of us attain that category first book out), or you’re really, really lucky, and how many…well, to sum it up, luck or talent wins. I’d like to find a third item to round out my list, maybe persistence. Would make me feel more professional with a minimum three bullet point list, and slightly closer to Galbaldon.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Visit by the teacher, no holds barred critique, crawling off to lick wounds

We met at Lisa’s house this week, Pam’s off on a trip, Alaskan Cruise. Lisa extended an invitation to Carolyn Rose, our professor from Novel Writing Boot Camp. Carolyn made us shake in our boots as she showed us all up, deftly handling gut wrenching critiques of our work, far deeper than we’d been venturing, and made us wonder if we’d been too easy on each other.
White wave ruffles floated on top of spinning water, came in close, collapsed, receded, repeated. We trudged through the dry sand, and as we got close to the waves I slipped off my sandals. “Please don’t buy me gifts,” I started, sentences coming out ruptured, held together with sighs. “I don’t like them. I know that sounds dumb, but they have never meant good things to me.” I realized that explanation would not be enough, and I didn’t want to be badgered. “Give me a minute,” I whispered, and shivered even though the sun was hot. I gathered my thoughts as waves tumbled.
(A Single Pearl, Chapter Four).
Scene: Lee’s first attempt to buy Kerri Ann a gift, her violent reaction, introduces their polar experiences: family life, finances. His persistence to know about her prior relationship, and the reveal of how things ended with Gary.

Lisa: I feel she should suggest going to the beach. I like the gift explanation. I like that she was industrious/independent when young. I like the sunglasses (protection). The intro of the Gary story was awkward. I’m not sure ‘sounds like you’re falling in love’ fits. I like gift to herself.

Melanie: + She didn’t let him buy gift, but I wanted to know why earlier. ++Back story of work she did. I’m confused as to when she found out about Gary. + ‘Accept a gift to me from me.’

Sallee: + ‘artificial apologies’ good sentence; + ‘no gifts…friends are important to me;’ interesting story about Gary, ‘filter from the scrutiny’ (good),. -Need more sexual tension description, -more emotion, feelings, reaction, -need deeper descriptions.

Carolyn: What are Kerri Ann’s thoughts and visceral reaction about the pearl? - 'water cylinders,' sounds like tanks of water. +Great backstory about father’s drinking. More reaction, given what he asks about gifts (he’s so weird), does she think he can understand? What’s her reaction when he says, ‘you need to accept a gift’? Reaction to his talk of finance. What are his inane questions, give us some conflict. Do the girls know the truth about Gary? Give us more of the basis of Lee’s and Kerri Ann’s attraction beyond the physical, make us see and feel the chemistry. Why is Chloe adamant Kerri Ann not be with Lee, what’s Kerri’s reaction, what’s Chloe’s objection, dialogue? Explore giving herself a gift, what about this trip! Other gifts. Are you spending too much time in Hawaii? Can you shorten it, it could outweigh the rest of the book.

EDITS: Almost too many to mention after Carolyn’s dogged pursuit of perfecting writing among her students. Oh, and it stings she thought Lee was weird, but of course she’s coming in mid-stream, we’re already on chapter five for heaven’s sake, and she’s missed the best, near perfect portion of my writing, this was just a minor hiccup. And not to add insult to injury, but Carolyn organized a seminar with Elizabeth Lyon immediately following our meeting. Okay, enough of that rant, at least she doesn’t think we’re hopeless, obviously believes were trainable, and yes, I’ll admit it, I reaped the benefit of her advice, Lee actually asks his questions that had earlier only been dimly referenced:

“Were you very close?” Lee asked.
“We knew each other about a year, we were good friends.”
“You were more than acquaintances, then.”
“I just said we were friends.”
“Close enough to be…at risk?”
“What do you mean?”
He stared at me.
“Do you mean intimate?” I asked.
The thought process Carolyn started sent me back to Kerri Ann, and got me in her head. She now reflects why she finds Lee attractive, dependable-reliable, which gave me references to draw on for other head-discussions she has further on in the book, and of course his reliable-routine will unsettle her in the future, nothing unexpected, then naturally he’ll do things very unexpected.

REFLECTION: At each turn, the writer decides what they will alter to please others weighed against what they believe, know and what no one else sees coming--dang it all, sometimes you just have to let go of some of the feedback. The reviewer comes with their prejudices and shouldn’t sway the author when their course encourages a slide down a muddy hill. I slipped a bit. You’ll just have to crawl back up, put on clean clothes and a clean tableau on the laptop. Doesn’t this picture look like a water cylinder? “White wave ruffles floated on top of cylinders of water….” Tanks of water?' I mean really, grumble, grumble. How would you explain it? No really, I'm asking, describe it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

National Buy a Newspaper Day

Monday is National Buy a Newspaper Day. Supporting a news source in your own local community can ONLY be a good thing. We spend far too much time poking our noses around the globe, finding fault with everyone else's 'neighborhood,' or even our own national government without ever taking part in the very community where we live.

Buy a newspaper, read it, support writers who make a living writing, then recycle it and get out and change the world--the world you actually live in, which is a lot closer than the world we all comment on, and it costs less than a dollar.

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