Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Slow Down

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Well, I had visions of very detailed blog posts about my many trips to the outside-apartment, but I don’t feel that motivated.  We had a good time, and now I’m back to doing work.  And back to being by myself, left alone, still with some thoughts about Dad, intermixed with small challenges of being abroad (no applicator tampons.)

Painted building

Painted building

I feel so heavy and serious lately, and I think I mentioned the mood started way before Dad.   When my friends came, I again just didn’t feel that drawn to drink.  While I feel like I’ve retained positivity and kindness, to some extent, I feel like I lost my capacity for lightness and laughter a little bit.  I feel like I’ve misplaced an old self, and I don’t know where to find her.

DSC01549I associate my new self with wanting to stay inside more and only talk to people who things flow easily with.  I always feel I should be out there, gaining new experiences, meeting new people (especially guys), but I just haven’t had the will power in a while.  Maybe it’s too much freelancing (and its solitary nature).  I’m trying to observe without judgment.  I just feel a lot of my interactions in the past were about trying out new things, and that no longer appeals to me.

 

Anyway my mood definitely fits the Chekhov stories that I’m reading. They actually seem less melancholy than collections I’ve read in the past.  The first, “The Lady with the Dog,” was quite sweet.  There were a couple of others about being trapped in boring towns and/or in boring households . There is a lot of yearning in all these stories.

At the Berggruen Museum, I think I might have mentioned, that I saw some pretty cut-outs by Matisse.   Really liked those.

Cut-out, pulled from the web, though similar to one I saw at Berggruen.

Cut-out, pulled from the web, though similar to one I saw at Berggruen.

I think a lot of what I’ve been grappling with is a sense of lack of fulfillment in future events.  Or rather, how I feel the future has been snatched from me in some ways.  For instance, it’s hard for me to conceive of anything in the next few months (as in at least this year), that doesn’t have the pall of Dad’s death hanging over it.  I almost feel like I’m under anesthesia and that a lot of work is being done under the skin to recover from this event–or at least understand that it’s happened.

Anyway, that’s a separate thing, yeah, by coming to Berlin, I fulfilled a goal that was years in the making–to be able to afford to work abroad, and of course, with finally reaching the end of the book, too.  I guess a couple of years ago, I depended on the promise and hope of romantic encounters that would be leading to the One as the proverbial green light in the distance, but enough disappointments, combined with a rising interest in other things (apartment cleaning, dental appointments) just took that off the table.

 

Writing Process Blog Tour

Monday, March 10th, 2014

imagesI’ve been tagged for a blog tour spotlighting the writing process.  I’ve never done anything like this before—okay that’s not true, I am often blogging.  But no tour.  I’m supposed to acknowledge who asked me, answer four questions, then tag three authors to answer the questions and continue the tour on March 17.  I could only get two authors, though.

Who Came Before?

My client, Tracy Ewens, tagged me.  She’s great and writes sensitive romance.  Here is her contribution to the tour.

The Questions

1) What am I working on?

I turned in my book on February 28ish and it’s supposed to be in copyediting now.  So I am taking a much-needed break.  I have an idea sort of brewing . . . but I feel like I want to let it sit inside me for awhile before I start writing.  There’s a girl, though, and she’s a teenager.  I think it’s going to be another not-quite-our world-but-very-close-to-it setting.  Part of the idea was that she was going to be an orphan and being exploited by her adoptive father, who works for the government, for some supernatural ability she has that enables the government to oppress a people far far away.  At this point, I started trying to imagine the far far away, and it reminded me too much of Avatar, so I stopped.  I had another idea I was working on for awhile that was way too similar to Avatar.  I wish I knew how to deal with the Other in a way that didn’t involve infantilizing, but I seem to have trouble . . .

This is probably the most I’ve written about the idea!

2)   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure that it does, but I have a feeling that I write maybe with a tad more darkness than many contemporary YA authors.  I don’t think I am very sentimental, but I am very emotional, so that probably also comes across.  Young adult is so open and wide, though, it’s hard to say.

3)   Why do I write what I do?

I think it’s hard for me to set my books in the contemporary, real world because I don’t feel as intellectually stimulated since it’s all so familiar.  (Thought at times I have felt it would be challenging to accurately depict today’s teenage world.)  My favorite subject in high school was history, and I came somewhat close to majoring in anthropology.  I just really like settings and cultures that are new to me.  So that’s something I’ve always gravitated toward, when I write.

Writing is usually an escape for me.  I’m not conscious most of the time between the connection between myself, my life, and my writing and I feel like when I am, it probably means whatever is being put on the page will cut.  At its best, writing is a really welcoming, satisfying distraction from the real world.

I once interviewed a professional violist, and he said something along the lines of how the most satisfying thing about the artistic process is having a vision in your head of how something should be, and then getting to see it emerge into reality.  There’s definitely a pressure, that seems very analogous to giving birth, where you feel the story or idea is out there to be written down.  But I think it is your choice if you’re going to see it through or ignore it.  With the idea I’ve been toying with for awhile (the idea before girl-government-adoptive family, the one that kept bumping into Avatar), I felt strongly it was there, that I knew the characters, and it was meant to be written down, but then I was getting the feeling that this was just not the right time for me and that story.  I mean I don’t know how all this will turn out, but I think those kinds of impulses play a pretty important role in why writing occurs and what is written.

4)   How does your writing process work?

Eh, I’ve broken all the writing rules, but I try to write in the morning, write with Freedom on (the program that blocks the Internet), and most importantly, letting everything else slide (shows I want to see, parties I want to go to, books I want to read, friends I want to talk to, letters I have to send, etc.), almost so that I feel there’s nothing else left to do except write. I think it helps that I do like to stay inside and sit around.  That seems to be like 50% of the battle.  I like to write, but I was never die-hard, I was born to be a writer.  Other things that seem more true to me is that I come up with fictional scenarios a lot, communicate often and easily, don’t mind being alone, and get bored/am inept at a lot of other things you could do around the house (…cooking.)

Who’s Next?

 On next Monday (March 17), fabulous agent-sisters, Jennifer Chen and Lara Erlich  will post their answers.  Read more about them below.

Jennifer Chen is a freelance writer and editor, playwright, and author. She has written for Cosmpolitan.com, BustEvery Day with Rachael RayNatural Health, andVegNews. In April 2013, she won a Maggie award for Best Feature Article for her piece on the survival of independent magazines. She writes middle-grade and YA fiction and is represented by the lovely Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary.

She blogs at typecraftwriter.com and can be found on TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest at @jchenwriter.

Typecraftwriter.com features all types of crafts from writing advice, cookbook reviews, vegan hot spots, and knitting projects.

 

Lara Ehrlich is a freelance editor and a fiction writer represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary. She recently published two nonfiction stories, “You Can Do Anything, As Long as It’s Nothing” and “Last Night I Drempt of Leo,” in The Hairpin, and her poem, “Crush,” is forthcoming in U.S. 1 Workshops. By day, Lara works for Boston University, where she edits four alumni magazines and writes feature stories on subjects ranging from a groundbreaking anthropological discovery that reveals how our human ancestors walked, to a documentary film program that bridges two worlds, to a profile of the first female puppeteerfor Sesame Street. Lara blogs at LaraEhrlichWrites.com.

 

 

Malaysian NYE

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Staying inside, with no book as an excuse, just feel insular these days.

I had Malaysian food and spent the day tweaking my resume (for freelance) and writing up some business copy.  I was at my friend’s apartment in Queens–Jackson Heights.  It was awesome, although cold.  I had coffee and afterwards we had Malaysian food.

Yesterday, I delivered a manuscript for a client.  I really want more novel editing projects for the next year.

I was also thinking about what book I should write next.

I decided to just move forward with calling my book that’s almost done, SCRIPTED.  I’m glad to have made a decision, and I updated my twitter profile accordingly.

Editor Said, Author Said: Nadia Bennet and Eveline Chao on Niubi’s Editorial Process

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Today marks the inauguration of a new blog post series, “Editor Said, Author Said,” wherein I interview editors and authors about their experiences with the editorial process on particular books.  I am starting with editor Nadia Bennet and author Eveline Chao, who worked on NIUBI , a humor book about Chinese slang, together.  As the assistant to her agent, I worked with Eveline to get her book proposal  for NIUBI  in shape for submission to Plume, similar to the work I do now as a freelance editor of manuscripts and proposals.

Editor Said . . .

Nadia Bennet is an editor at the luxury art book publisher, Assouline. Nadia has worked as a freelance editor with clients like Booz & Company and Melcher Media. She started her New York publishing career at Penguin’s Plume imprint, acquiring and editing all manner of nonfiction titles: memoirs, humor, popular science, art, and more. Originally from Los Angeles, she has also lived in Santa Barbara, CA, and overseas in Paris and Lyon, France.

 

Editor extraordinaire

Editor extraordinaire

Q: Where did you work, and what was your position when you edited NIUBI?  How did you come to be assigned to NIUBI?

I was an assistant editor at Plume, an imprint of Penguin group. The editor who was originally working on the book left, so NIUBI was assigned to me.

Q: What was your vision for NIUBI?  

Plume has a series of slang language books that they have been publishing since the 1990s. Because of China’s economic strength in the world, we felt it would be a popular addition. I hoped that the book would give Americans a deeper insight into day-to-day Chinese culture–especially youth culture–and I think it succeeded in doing that, in an informative, but entertaining way.

(more…)

Confessions of an Anxious Journalist

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Sometimes writing journalism pieces makes me wonder if the only reason I prefer writing fiction is that I don’t have to constantly switch focus.  It seems with these journalism pieces, my mind splits constantly, searching through the tapes, the written transcriptions, googling facts to make sure they’re correct.  While writing fiction, at most I’ll have to stop and just stare at the screen while I think up an answer.

I feel like I’m missing some really nice walking days, but I don’t really know if I can commit to them.  I’ve been sleeping a lot, waking up and working on my book and then moving onto current editing and writing projects.  I haven’t even had time to read a new book, and I have three unread books on the Kindle (oops).  I also have been continuing along with my efforts to get this blog more into a professional state.  While this is a fun challenge, and I do like the click feeling of assembling a piece I’ve actually spent a lot of time on crafting, it definitely feels more like a job I’m doing for an employer, except now the employer is me.Mystic flowers

More interestingly, I’ve shifted back to cooking more for myself.  What a relief this is!  No more mental flailing when it’s lunch or dinner time—I have a plan.  Pasta is a big part of my plan.  The other day I was looking at the cheese offerrings in the Amish Market, and I saw that the shredded Romano cheese costs $2 more than grated Romano cheese…I bought it.  Never again!  That Romano cheese is GONE.  A great snack.

Stephanie successfully installed Shareaholic onto the blog, so let’s see how this pans out.  I think it might get me more into the habit of sharing pictures because it has little boxes that represent like posts that take pictures from the posts.  Gotta love posts with pictures!

How to Stop Procrastinating with Your Writing

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Sometimes plunging into a big writing project can be terrifying.  Why?  There’s probably a myriad of reasons, but underneath most lie that primordial, soul-crushing emotion fear.  Ultimately if people let go of all fear of judgment, I think this planet would be awash in paintings and music and dance and novels.  It’s a brave new world that’s a long way away.

Perhaps that world is inconceivable because many people feel as I do–when I try to deploy that age-old advice “letting go,” I find I stumble into its less friendly cousin “getting no [where].” So, instead of relying on a huge mindshift, I have come to depend on a lot of little tricks to jumpstart my writing.  I share them below.  Hopefully, they can help you stop procrastinating with your writing.

 

Freedom Icon, right next to prime procrastination ally, Google Chrome.

Freedom Icon, right next to prime procrastination ally, Google Chrome.

Freedom.  Freedom is a delightful program that blocks the internet from your computer while you write.  I like it because it’s pretty simple–you just put in the number of hours you’d like to be without the internet and then you’re good to go.

Getting Up Early.  When all else fails, getting up early usually works as as way for me to bypass my critical mind.   When you’re looking for one, even the sun can serve as a distraction.  At five in the morning, there no needy sunrays in your way.  There’s just not much at all but you and your work.

Writing Dates with Friends.  Writing dates with friends can often get your fingers flying across the keyboard, especially if one or both of you has an important deadline.  I still fondly recall the period I wrote alongside my friend studying for the bar exam.  She was very quiet and focused.  Not everyone is going to be like that, but still, a meet-up or two with a friend might at least get the ball rolling when you’re stuck.

Your writing date with a friend will be much more fun than this kind of date.Your writing date with a friend will be much more fun than this kind of date.

 One Sentence Is Better Than None.  Sometimes if I feel reluctant to write for whatever reason, I trick myself into getting more done by opening up a document and not committing to doing anything more than a sentence.  That makes me feel as if the pressure is off, and I usually end up writing more than I intended.

Deadlines.  Deadlines can help, especially if you have a friend you can work with this on.  Unfortunately, I find I tend to blow off my own deadlines.  Consider asking a friend to give you feedback or enforce your deadline.  You might even want to consider hiring someone to do this, to really ensure they get the job done.  (I have done this as part of my writing coaching work).

Quitting Social Media. I have found that taking long breaks from social media (as in deactivating accounts), which can really contribute to mental clutter, has helped me get my focus back on my writing.  This gets harder and harder to do as Facebook and Twitter have grown increasingly important for business reasons.  On the other hand, just the fact that I wrote that sentence shows how much I need to whisk myself away.

Retreat.  If you can get away for a week or a couple of days, the new surroundings can often prompt some writing.  Even a cafe or a library can do the trick.  I don’t like working in cafes too much, but I find if I’m stumped, the switch, even for just a morning, can help.

Soothing Music.  Recently I got clued into the world of white noise tracks on YouTube, ambient noise that effectively drowns out  the hollers of construction workers and chatter of new neighbors on fire escapes.

Relaxing music tracks will "take you there."

Relaxing music tracks will “take you there.”

Like a gateway drug, these tracks led me to tons of relaxing, soothing music on Youtube.  Corny, yes, but they work.  I always thought the magic of spas stemmed from having the permission to lie down, but now I recognize the integral role the sounds play.  I’m listening to waves lapping a shore as I write this.

Don’t Leave the Neighborhood. Think of it as the opposite of a retreat.  I find if I confine my activities to my neighborhood, eventually my mind will have nowhere to go but deeper and deeper into the world of my project.  It sounds brutal, but it’s actually very liberating.   And when you do finally venture  out, passing through a turnstile  will contain all the excitement of embarking on the Orient Express

“No One Else is Going to See This.”  Sometimes if I tell myself this, I’ll loosen up and get started.  Like a knife, cutting right to the heart of your fear!

 

To conclude, I find that it is more important that I invest the time and energy into making sure I have created a space in my life that I can fill with writing rather than stress about how the writing itself will turn out.  That’s something that editors and agents and overzealous Goodreads reviewers will handle for you.*

One last item–Close this Web Page.   

 

*Elizabeth Gilbert has a good quote along similar lines. “All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.”

 

When Should You Seek Professional Book Editing?

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Often writers approach me with  uncertainty.  I think I’m ready . . . This seems like the time.  They’re not sure exactly what their manuscript needs.  Should they just send it out to agents?   Do their manuscripts need more rounds of self-editing?  Is it time to start checking out self-publishing venues?  Or do they need professional book editing?

My post today tackles the last question.  Most everyone who writes soon realizes the importance of editing.  After all, for most writers, not a day goes by that they don’t do some sort of fiddling with their manuscripts—even if it’s only tweak to a title, a swift uprooting and resettling of chapter breaks, or, if nothing else, a change in fonts.  It’s not a big leap to move from self-editing to the idea of getting outside help.  At this point, some might try getting feedback from their well-read friends, which often leads to advice that may feel good, but not be the “real love” that’s needed.

But does that mean they need professional book editing?

Do you need professional book editing?

Here are signs you might be ready :

  • You have revised your manuscript on your own at least once.

Though you may feel a tremendous rush at having written so many words, there’s no way your manuscript is ready to be seen by anyone until you have revised it yourself, at least once.

  • You can’t keep your manuscript straight in your head.

 Sometimes you get to a point with your manuscript when you’ve done so much rewriting and so much story evolution, that the details are  foggy.  You might have characters walking into the party with red curls bouncing and then flirting at the party by flipping raven-colored locks.  Or you might have worked hard on the amazing reveal that your protagonist’s uncle didn’t die in the car crash but is alive and well has in fact been orchestrating the takeover from Martinique.  It took awhile for you to figure how it was all going to play out and you’re left with a manuscript that still has traces of past ideas—the uncle is in Morocco, the uncle is an aunt, the uncle has an amnesia.  You need an outside eye to clean it up for you.

  • An agent gave you a bit of advice on how to improve your book and offered to take a second look if you revise.

A nice situation to be in, but  also a delicate one.  The agent sees potential, enough to give you some suggestions, but they don’t have the time to go into detail.  And you might need that detail to make sure you make improvements correctly.  At this stage, you could probably benefit from a line edit, which would give you more targeted advice than the sort of general comments one finds in an editorial letter or polite note from an agent.

 

  • You have an agent, but it can take him or her months to get back to you about your work.

Agents have a lot on their plate and sometimes they are unable to give you the close reading you need.  Working with their schedules can be hard.  They’re superbusy, and you feel guilty every time you check in with them.  Hiring a professional book editor can give you more control over the timeframe and quality of the criticism you receive.  Please note that I have been in situations where the agent has known about this arrangement and some where they have not.

  •   You like deadlines.

 No matter how great a reader or editor the friends who offer to critique on your manuscript are, the only way to ensure that you’ll get a response when you want it is by hiring someone.  One might say, “You pay the cost to be the boss.”  If you hire a professional book editor, you’ll be able to keep a tighter grip on your schedule than if you rely on free labor.

 

  • You are ready, eager and willing to make the changes necessary to improve your manuscript.

If you’re sending your manuscript to a professional book editor, you will receive substantial commentary back that will necessitate major changes and a lot of work.  If you feel invigorated and excited about working to take your manuscript to the next level, you can really make the most of a professional book editing.

 

In today’s publishing world, more and more people are using freelance professional book editors, people unencumbered by the responsibilities of selling your book like agents and publishing house editors–whether to book chains, sales teams, or (in the case of agents) editors at publishing houses.  This new breed of editor is taking on the work that the harried house editors and agents cannot do.  See this incisive article by Marjorie Braman, which explains well how professional book editors currently fit into the publishing ecosystem and how their role may evolve.  If you think you may need the services of a professional book editor, check out my book editing services page.

 

Five Key Tips for Getting a Literary Agent

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

You typed in the magic words “The End,” and it’s true, your final page is one sort of end, but “to be continued” may be more appropriate in terms of your writing journey. Where will it continue?  Into the publishing blogosphere, into immense tomes that contain information on agents, into the pages of writing magazines, into the post office, into new files on your computer, with carefully personalized query letters addressed to dozens of strangers—strangers who hold your destiny and dreams in their hands.  Strangers known as literary agents.

Getting a literary agent is an intimidating process, and the world is rife with information on how to lure in one of these mystical creatures.  In this blog post, I’ve distilled my myriad observations from time spent as a literary agent and as a writer down to five key tips that should inform your actions throughout your search.

Tip 1: Write Something Amazing

Too obvious? If you’ve ever had to read the slush piles, you’d know that it actually can never be said enough.  Too many writers are so excited by their bestseller wishes and National Book Award dreams that they end up skipping over the many steps necessary to perfect their manuscripts.  Getting a literary agent in today’s hardscrabble publishing environment is difficult enough when you have something stellar in hand.  Don’t lower your chances by sending out anything less than your best, which might mean having a trusted friend or skilled editor assist you in revisions.


Tip 2:  Choose Your Targets Wisely

You have the next big thing in historical romance.  You read an interview with a Phd making a splash with the latest neuroscience-meets-your-life wherein the author praises his agent effusively.  This agent might be a perfect match for the good doctor, but will he really appreciate the hours you spent mastering the intricacies of 18th-century hairstyles?  More to the point—does he know the editors of your genre?  By making sure the agents you approach are the right fits for your work, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, rejection, or worse–acceptance by someone who doesn’t really know how to market your book.

Tip 3:  Follow Submission Guidelines

A synopsis and a letter.  A letter and a synopsis and two pages.  A letter and a synopses and ten pages.  Only a letter.  A  partial. A whole.  You can’t keep track of the everyone’s preferred submission format, and you would get your submissions out so much faster—in seconds, really—if all you had to do was replace the name after the salutation and hit send.  However, it’s worth it to take the time and tailor your submission to what the literary agent has requested, since deviation from the requirements might lead them to ignore your submission.  Do your research and also pay attention to whether the agent is even accepting submissions right now—you could save yourself a lot of time in your path to getting a literary agent.

Tip 4:  Create a Good Query Letter.

I’ve written before about the importance of query letters—and one of my most popular service is editing and refining query letters.  As the saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression.   This is actually true for literary agents, who you cannot query twice. So labor over that query letter.   When a document is short, it’s even more vital that every word is carefully chosen, every paragraph polished to its highest potential.

Tip 5:  Be Patient.

The time between when you send your material to agents and the time in which it takes them to respond may feel like an eternity.  But agents are plowing through tons of material, so don’t take the delay personally or let your imagination run wild—Perhaps it got lost in the mail!  Occupy yourself with a new project, or catch up on all the television shows you missed out on while writing your book.

What Do Writing Coaches Do?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

When I first started Rock Editorial Services, I only offered line editing and editorial letters for manuscripts.  Over time, however, I received requests for writing coaching, and so I adopted it, primarily for fiction manuscripts, into my services.  There was a learning curve, but eventually, I settled into a groove and came to fully understand what separates writing coaching apart from the more traditional editorial services.  In today’s, I’ll share what I’ve gleaned.

Writing Coaches Have A Personal Touch

When I create an editorial letter or line-edit a novel, I feel as if I’m donning my professor hat.  Although I always leave room for writers to ask me specific questions, most of my interaction is with the novel itself.  The process does not vary much according to the writer.

With coaching, I put on more of a personal tutor hat.  Clients receive an approach that is more targeted to their specific needs.  That might mean discussions over the phone or a mix of line-editing and editorial letter that the writer determines, based on how he or she best receives information.

I also tend to communicate with clients I’m coaching on an on-going basis, which allows for a close relationship to develop—this allows a sense of trust to develop.

Writing Coaches Can Give More Specific Advice 

People who want coaching usually want more targeted, specific advice.  That usually means working on a single chapter or a couple of chapters at a time rather than a whole novel.

When critiquing an entire manuscript, my focus must be on the forest, but when coaching, I can concentrate more on the trees.  And without healthy trees, you can have a forest, but it’s rather ghastly.

Okay, so let’s translate the metaphor to what it actually means for your writing.  When coaching, I am able to zoom in on the writing itself—e.g., tendency to overuse certain words; reliance on adverbs; employing too many question marks to evoke suspense; stilted dialogue.

Could I Benefit From A Writing Coach?

 If the answer to any of the below questions is yes, you might benefit from a writing coach.

  • Have you already completed a revision or revisions incorporating an outsider’s edits?
  • Do you feel like you need a schedule that makes you accountable to get your work done?
  • Do you get overwhelmed when you receive a lot of feedback at once?
  • Do you communicate better over the phone?
  • Are you focused on improving your sentences and paragraphs as opposed to chapters and novel?

For more information on my coaching services, check out my services page.

This blog should now have Shareaholic!

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Saturday nights in are good times to update my blog.  I am seriously so sluggish and full.  I can’t wait to wake up reenergized.

Ok let me see if I will be able to Shareaholic this.

 

Hmm…that didn’t work, let’s try again.

Nothing to say but sigh!!

Interview with Starglass Author, Phoebe North

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

I took Phoebe North‘s young adult scifi Starglass with me on a weekend beach trip, and I couldn’t put it down, missing out on group board games to stay in the well-crafted world of generation ship Asherah, eager to find out if it would reach its destination before revolution hit and whether Terra, North’s passionate-and-confused heroine, would ever get her love life together.

Starglass is not only suspenseful, it’s intelligent and insightful.  I found myself raving about it for days afterwards, and I am so happy there’s a sequel coming out so I don’t have to say goodbye to Terra’s world just yet.

I was lucky enough to interview Phoebe, who I connected with through my agent and hers, Michelle Andelman at Regal Literary.  (I actually remember Michelle telling me about Starglass right after she sold it, and it was just as good as her enthusiasm led me to believe!)

 Q:  What are the origins of Starglass?Starglass cover!

Phoebe: Well, it’s kind of a convoluted story.  Starglass started out as a short story I wrote in graduate school for a class on James Joyce.  I was an MFA, a creative writing student.  I did a YA rewrite of “Eveline” set on a generation ship—a vignette of a ship falling apart.  The ship was culturally Irish. I really liked it, but my professor hated it.  I asked him if I could rewrite it, and he said no, he didn’t want me wasting my time on it.  I heard right around that time that Beth Revis’ Across the Universe had sold and YA scifi was what I wanted to do.  So I got the idea to put a space rebellion in this James Joyce story and expand it into a book.

 Q: Can you tell me more about your relationship with scifi?

Phoebe: I’m just a huge science fiction nerd—it’s where I started in terms of both reading and writing.  I loved Star Trek, and everyone in my family is a Trekkie.  I loved Star Wars too, and I was obsessed with this show, Space Cases, I was really into Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders novels, too, and I started doing writing in middle school that was set in that universe.

When you are a big scifi reader, you approach world-building differently—the world-building tends to be more dense [than in other genres].  Jo Walton had an article at tor.com called “SF Reading Protocols” about how scifi authors use a process called “incluing” to construct the universe of their book. I found this helpful.   I think there’s less handholding in world-building in scifi.  You trust readers more to put it together.

 Q:  What was the process of writing Starglass?

Phoebe: It was not very organized process.  The very first version of Starglass didn’t have any of the Jewish cultural elements; it was just a very generic sort of YA space setting (vocational counselors were called voc counselors). I was just trying to tell this story about this girl, but eventually I thought, you’re capable of much better world-building than this.

At the time I had named Terra,“Terra Fineberg,” just because Fineberg was my mother’s last name.  Then I thought, maybe she actually needs to be Jewish.  Judaism in diaspora has a lot in common with generation ships, as the people are wandering from their homeland.

I had to answer questions such as, why would there be a ship of Jews in space?  It required a pretty big rewrite to get all those details in.  I really had to interrogate the book to create a universe that feels real and cohesive.

Q:  Starglass has some mature themes, specifically it goes pretty deep with sexuality and death.   Can you tell me more about your experience writing about these themes?

Phoebe: I really enjoyed a lot of YA dystopians, but sometimes they seemed not to answer all the questions they raised.  For instance, if you have compulsory heterosexual marriage, who is that really dystopian for?  Who would that impact the most?  That’s how I started exploring issues of sexuality in the book.

[About Terra’s very realistic grief at her mother’s death] I once read a blog post, by an agent who shall remain nameless, about books with dead parents, and the agent said they never want to see another book that starts with a funeral.  That it’s depressing and kids don’t understand it. I got really angry about that. I wanted to explore loss and grief.  I wanted to approach that really honestly.

Q: I loved Terra’s untraditional romances (untraditional for today’s YA, anyway).  Can you tell me more about your thoughts behind her not-always-logical love life? 

Phoebe: That was pretty intentional on my part.  I knew that I didn’t want her to end up with the first person she ever kisses because she lives in such a small society and her options are so, so limited.  Her romantic arc grows out of that—she’s in a very constrained society but on the verge of entering a much more diverse experience.  It’s like how you know people in high school and then you get to the people in college and your options open up in ways you never anticipated.  In Starglass, there’s no clear love interest. Terra has different romantic encounters and these boys have good things about them and bad things about them, she tries to make the best of whatever situation she’s in.

Q: That’s a great way to sum up Terra—she always seems to be trying to make the best of whatever situation she’s in.  She’s not exactly the most certain or confident heroine.  What was it like writing about someone who could be rather mercurial?

Phoebe:  She is a hard person to be with—it’s hard to be in her head. I come from a similar background and experienced some of the same things. My husband insists that she’s more me than I think. She wants to be loved, and she makes mistakes trying to achieve that love.

She faces these big life choices.  She messes up a lot.  When I think about who I was at that age, I know I did a lot of things that would easily qualify me as an “unlikeable character.”

 Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the sequel?

Phoebe North, AuthorPhoebe: The sequel’s done—it’s called Starbreak and it comes out in July of 2014, and it definitely closes up Terra’s story. It’s a duology, which I planned from the beginning, for reasons that I hope become clear.  I love the sequel a lot, but writing it was difficult, even though I had it all plotted out before we ever sold Starglass.

I got about 50,000 words in, and was thinking in the back of my head, this is not the right book. I sent it to my agent, she looked over it and agreed.  So I started again from scratch.  At the end of the first book, Terra could go down one of two paths, and in the first draft she did the first thing and in the second she does the second. It’s much better this way. Yay for starting over!

Q:  Do you have any reading recommendations?

Phoebe: I just read In the After by Demetria Lunetta.  It was superintense.  I read it in two sittings.

Q:  What’s your writing routine?

Phoebe: By any means necessary.  I have a lot of tricks to trick me into feeling that it’s not work.  Writing with friends on Google Hangout.  Posting snippets of what I’m working on in forums.  It gives me a little more accountability, because otherwise I’m surfing the internet.  I’m a fairly fast writer, but the minute I think I know what my process is it changes.

 

Many Nights

Monday, July 29th, 2013

I have been having trouble getting to sleep for many nights in a row.  Life just seems to be moving so fast, and my thoughts are moving fast, too.  I have been writing a lot (relatively) in my new project, and I almost feel guilty.  I just stopped to do a title list for what is on this website called SCRIPTED and which I then switched to calling MADE YOU LOOK.  But I think I really like MADE YOU LOOK.  It just feels so right to me.

I guess the new book seems to be flowing so easily that I began to worry that I hadn’t given SCRIPTED/MADE YOU LOOK the proper treatment.  I’m not sure what stage it’s at now.  It’s different from what I originally intended it to be.  Some characters hit their strides, but others, like the main character (Nettie) and the love interest (Callen), I’m not so sure about, and I wonder if I was too harsh on them, because I identified the most with them?  Then I worry that it’s way too autobiographical.  What’s funny is that there is an insidious thing to the autobiographical stuff, where one feels bad  or at least cheeky about deliberately putting in autobiographical stuff, and then there’s this slow dawning of horror as you reread and see all this potentially autobiographical stuff that just crept in.  Anway, we’ll see, I’ve been through so many stages with this book, and I’m so close to the end, and right now in the middle of the tumult of my late night thoughts, I just want it in my hands so I can revise it.

Should I see either of these books published, though–and that has always seemed like such a far-off reality to me, hence the should, I think they will work as companions in a way.  I feel like I stuffed so much angst and anxiety and craziness into MADE YOU LOOK/SCRIPTED.  I just feel like the main character is sort of filthy in a metaphoric way, throughout, and the whole book is her attempt to get clean.  I think I left her clean, although before she chose her new set of clothes (metaphorically).

And now in seriously untitled Book #2, well, this isn’t someone who will be willing to compromise herself to get attention.  But she does have a struggle, and I’m trying to figure it out by writing it now, because I’m not sure what it is.  I think it may have to do with being content with something she’s good at but missing out on opportuities for something she’s great at ? (Undecided hat that something would be,)

Wooooork

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I am grateful to have more work coming in, but sometimes I let stress get to me.  I end up thinking ten steps ahead when I’m really only at step 1 or 2.

I haven’t been able to go for my walks.  I’ve been trying to make up for it by eating a lot of salads and nibbling on these wretched baby carrots.  I blowdried my hair for the first time in a serious way the other morning.  I’ve been daydreaming about getting a new computer, and I downloaded a book by Jeannette Winterson that I’m excited about reading.

Winter is lingering.  I’m so ready for consistent blue skies.  Days seem to be running at breakneck speed.  Where to, who knows . . .

Anyway, I’m tentatively excited for the weekend.  I’m going to see a bunch of people and finally get the work done on Maya’s website, which I promised awhile ago.  I also can weigh in at Weight Watchers soon.  Let’s hope I kicked that excess off.  I have been eating tons of fruits and vegetables except for the day I went into Brooklyn College (hello chips and cookies).  Most importantly, tomorrow I think I’m going to make an admin/rest day.  I have some forms to fill out, and I need to relax.  I think I’ve said before I often feel a natural inclination to make Friday my “weekend” day.

 

April activities

Monday, April 9th, 2012

I was lying on my bed wondering what exactly I did this fall. It seemed a smudge. I remembered handing my book in and visiting Baltimore and then being a shut-in with me rewrites, but September and October just seemed to leave no memory behind. I know now—on the prowl for work and cleaning. And then working with the work I procured.
I went to Brooklyn College today. Well, first I went to Starbucks, and I got my free coffee! That’s right, even though the slip said it would be $1 off, my drink was actually free. I wrote for two hours then left and chatted with Maya L. for awhile. I showered, left and got a free bottle of water on my way to the 1. Outside, today, was really nice, windy, and it seemed like the light kept shaking.
At BC, I had difficulties with my memory stick. I don’t know what the deal is with memory sticks, but they seem pretty flawed. I later found out this one was bent. For lunch I had two bags of Pop chips and a bag of pistachios. I worked on some copy and then I came home.
I think a former classmate of mine might be sitting near me. He’s reading The Economist.
One thing that happens with mostly everything I have to write is that I have to start a new document where I paste the text I have to cut from whatever it is I’m writing. I almost never open up that document again.
I boiled pasta for dinner and chatted with Hyeseung who was talking with Zane. Then I returned a call to my former boss. There was a sense of delay hanging over all these activities. I popped a bag of popcorn, and then I came here, to Caffe Bene. That’s right, I’m sitting in Caffe Bene, my friend, my foe, flipping through pages of interviews and occasionally switching windows to my book, reading A Course in Miracles and then, this other book The Golden Road by Caille Millner, which I found here. Caffe Bene has quite the evening crowd. Definitely less touristy.

Big Day

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

I had a big day. I woke up and went to Starbucks. The store wasn’t open on time, so I kept walking to my old favorite, Caffe Bene. I waited on the line at CB for five minutes and then left, disgruntled. Starbucks has spoiled me. I returned to the Starbucks and wrote and then left at around 9:15. I chatted with Maya L. and went to Weight Watchers. I went back home and really I think did nothing. I added a few words to my manuscript in the nothing time. At two I met up with Mathieu, Maya’s friend from Paris. I had a pear and ginger drink and a hot chocolate. This was all at World Wide Plaza. So, a couple of weeks ago I noted to Darren that I was running into people quite regularly on the street. That day I had run into Peter. Since then I have run into Darren himself, Hillary (I mean, Ginevra) and today, this guy Alex. Alex and I meet at a party a couple of months ago and ended up taking the train back together. This party was pretty notable because an Italian guy used a racial slur in reference to Michael Jackson’s music, and I had taken it upon myself to “educate” him.

Mathieu went to Rockefeller Center, and I met up with my friend Caroline at old standby McGhee’s where I had a big pile of french fries. I returned home and lay on the bed and played Amy Winehouse’s A Song For You twice. I knew what I had to do. That’s right, there’s only one way this story can end. AT CAFFE BENE. That is where I sit now, procrastinating about writing suddenly alive to all these possible texts to read. The first I grasped onto was an article in The Writer magazine—“Whip Writer’s Block: We Show You How.” One technique—write an entry for your blog while minimizing the window where your writing-for-work is. Just kidding.

There’s something really special about being intimidate or anxious. It’s scary and uncomfortable but also thrilling in some way, like you really think there’s something on the line.

I have been around a lot of French-speaking people lately because I keep going to these cafes. I live in a tourist area, and that’s why.

I’m reading a young adult novel by somone with an engineering background. The specificity of the description of these materials and creatures that do not exist in our world is really good.

My Picture

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

The picture on the About page, the landing page as they say, of this website is completely outdated.  I actually just saw it and didn’t even recognize myself for a second.  Perhaps it is not a coincidence that lately I’ve been loving flaunting my officially long hair.  There’s so much of it.  It is like a cool accessory.

I’ve been busy.  I’ve been reading Crossed by Ally Condie, doing further revisions on my own book, tackling different freelance projects, trying to force myself to cook.  I’m also reading a manuscript by a former client that I’m enjoying.  I’ve gone out to Brooklyn College a couple of times.  Last night, I had Filipino food and sang some karaoke, including a stirring rendition of Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window.”  Today I took my first walk in the park in a long time–it’s been so dreary out.  I got my coffee from the bodega on 59th where you pour your own.  While I was in the middle of creating my cup, a man came in so suddenly there were two people at this tiny station, maneuvering around for stirrers, equal packets, milk–it was strangely intimate.  The cashier lady is a kind of surly Korean girl around my age who I always put a big smile on for…I want to be friends, but I don’t think she does.

I also started listening to a lot of Nas.  What can I say, what an authoritative person.  I’ve also been going to sleep fairly early and waking up, also fairly early.  I’ve been pushing myself not to nap, but sometimes it’s difficult.

Vacation

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I’m going away–it’s a working vacation, but I definitely feel like I need the vacation half.  Every time I get the book off my hands, I feel a little down, combined with an immense sense of freedom.  Ever since I left my job, I’ve been able to ward off some of the uneasiness about freelance by periodically getting immersed in my book to the exclusion of all else.  Not just of freelance but of life.  Very quickly all this newfound freedom can become overwhelming.  It just seems like…freedom to be worried.

Anyway, yesterday I had coffee with Sangeeta and Eveline at Gabby O’Hara’s.  These are my friends who are also freelancing.  Gabby O’Hara’s is an old standby.  I had a birthday party there, Art told us his story about scrabble girl after a bunch of us went skating there, and I even immortalized the place in one of my online dating columns.  I always feel very comfortable within the confines of Gabby’s.  There is always a friendly Irish waitress and as Sangeeta and Eveline both noted, the food is pretty good.

I am slowly packing, putting items in my bag one by one, feeling very sluggish.  I printed out my notes and the seven pages of the book I’ve been working on in between breaks from this last book.  That means since 2010.  I named all these characters after birds, which would be cute if I hadn’t made bird last names in the other book (Scripted).  Still, it seemed to matter thinking about how much I’ve been listening to October Song by Amy Winehouse and now am committing myself to buying a bird necklace made by my friend David’s sister.  There’s a metamorphosis coming.

“It’s about a bird I used to have, who is now… dead.”

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

I handed in my revised manuscript.  Yikes.  I ended up staying up rather late, writing it.  I feel like my life has been handed back to me.  There are a million opportunities.  You have to understand choice has not been involved a lot for the last month beyond what selection I should make at the Amish Market and what Youtube video to put on next.

I ended up going for a walk in the park.  There were two kids playing and one took a diamond of power from a street lamp, threw it at his companion who caught it, and then they ran around some more.  It was really incredible.  It’s so natural for kids to make up stuff that it seems like it must be taught or learned “don’t make up stuff” at some point.  Or maybe the impetus just runs out.  Anyway there was also a really cute little dog toddling around off-leash.  Whenever I see these off-leash dogs, I always fantasize it’s lost, and I’ll get to take it home with me.

I thought about my tremendous plans for the future.  I’m writing a big list of everything now.  I would love to keep working on that “in-between-the-real-book” book I have going on.  But I also had plans for a long memoir piece I wanted to do. Then I’ve been thinking maybe I should try to branch out a little into the “blogosphere.”  I guess I feel like this should be around the time I think about publicity for the book.  And then I want to read all these books.  I guess I have always felt this blog should focus more on “writerly” topics than it does.

Oh, I wanted to single out this Amy Winehouse song, October Song, as one I found particularly inspirational.  It’s to her bird who died and it just seems like this great coalescence of all these wonderful images and ideas–Amy’s bird who she used to sing to, has died is the starting premise,  and this is connected to Sarah Vaughan, death and rebirth, love etc.  It actually sends chills down my spine, because it mixes so many disparate things so well and it almost feels like her singing it and writing it is also a total part of the deliberateness of the whole piece.  (Sort of makes sense to me.  I think in my new, perfect blog, too, I’d take the time to think out more what I’m trying to say instead of just throwing it out there.)

Poor Me

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Blegh, I’m at the last 10% of the book where some of my notes to myself to go back to, are covering kind of long/complicated things to write a la:

TOMORROW GO TO FINCHER’SXXI

They mentioned something about the transporting the patriots from EdenXXX.

Scoop is nice, but I wish I could confide in her again, tell her how scared I am.  XXXX

Lia inviting me back into her circle feel steadying and the memory of my old life, alluring.   APPLICATIONS SCENEXX

intending to take the Dinky to Fincher’s to get the XXX.

the XXX if I decide not to go.

“Okay, I’m really looking forward to it,” he says pointedly.  Guilty, I pull away and say, “All right, I just have to get this book from Fincher’s to fix my radio and the XXX, to fix the XXXX.”

pull the XXX out of the mess of tools in the bin behind the workbench. Mr. Fincher comes in and sees me putting it into my bag.

“I need it to do XXX,” I explain rapidly, feeling

Okay one of these things is a tool I basically have to look up the name for, but I really don’t want to.  :(  But then one is a whole scene. One is just some space to put in something emotional and touching.  (I refer to “I am. XXXX”)

XXX Maya

Yoko Ono twitter

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

My friend David follows Yoko Ono on twitter, and now I do too.  I kind of have a bit of a crush on Yoko Ono.  I like her whole life story, and I like “Imagine.”  Oh gosh I just realized the Beatles were part of my dream last night.  I’m not so into the Beatles music either, so I support ditching them.  Anyway, Yoko had this tweet I really liked: People think I’m doing something outrageous and ask me if I’m trying to shock people.

I am thinking about my various dating articles and how I have a faint regret for having written them.  I guess I thought I was being a little subversive.  Like I think with the Battlestar Galactica article, I was truly more interested in publicizing Battlestar Galactica than feeling disappointed about dating, but sometimes I feel like that’s not what people are taking away from it.  As far as the online dating, I mean I felt it was a strength of mine going into that that I didn’t care that much about finding someone.  I mean the hidden story behind that was more like, I need to establish myself as a “writer” and get some jobs.  The online dating thing was one of a slew of random applications I sent out.  I can’t disavow these articles completely.  They’re always what people who are actually interested in me (not specifically romantically but personally as opposed to professionally) dart to first.  But in some ways I feel just as distanced from them as from the other articles I do–if not more so, because the pressure to be objective is much more on my mind.

Also, I don’t know how people publish memoir.  I went to a hotel bar with Hyeseung Thursday and remembered how I had written a whole piece about last time I had been at this bar.  I feel like I can’t put it anywhere–it doesn’t seem fair to the people involved.

I really feel like it is only in fiction that I can actually express myself.

Anyway I had a good morning in the neighborhood.  I went to Weight Watchers.  The meeting is held at a church and the receptionist is one of those who always makes a point of saying Good morning in this way that I feel indicates she’s very proud of herself for being someone who says good morning.  Then I picked up my coffee with sugar and milk large.  I checked out a book at the library.  And I came back here.  I’m revising this action scene, listening to Amy Winehouse.  My birthday is coming up, but the idea of being 31 is totally turning me off.  It’s such an awkward number, I feel like it will be like standing on a pin.

The Bleak Life of the Lonely Revisionist

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

How many more hours?

I’m not enjoying my revising process.  As I told Hyeseung, I feel I have to just “white-knuckle” through it, since the book is due at the end of the month.  I’ve noticed when I’m writing the book I have to abandon all petty things of fun and joy, and my life seems to dwindle down to just the big topics occupying me and the book.  There doesn’t feel like there’s room for anything else.  Yet at the same time, I’m really frustrated that I haven’t been getting much email.

I enjoy revising more when I can write paragraphs at a time, but it’s been a lot of inserting words and sentences.  I don’t really get to build up any momentum.  My day has been torpid and revolves a lot around what I’m going to eat.  I have been enjoying this microwave popcorn that I have.  I have not been going for my walks.  It’s too cold.  I stare at the light by my bed occasionally.  I think about scanning that contract in.  I go on Facebook and often consider commenting but usually only do so 20% of the time.  During the day, I sometimes talk to Hyeseung.  I consider phantom other lives.  Today I decided I was probably meant to live in Big Sur, but I still can’t wrap my head around an ocean that seems mostly decorative instead of swimmable.  I’m looking forward to Saturday when I’ll play Wi and go to Glenn and Mia’s.

There’s this one character.  I have nothing to say about him.  I was looking for my former boss’s book, WRITING THE BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL, because Al always had interesting ways to spice a character up.  I paged through Eat, Pray, Love and didn’t like it as much as I used to.  I also thought of Damon Galgut’s rather sad books today.  When I went to the library, I saw the library reading group is going over Never Let Me Go.  This was a book I really enjoyed reading.  Once I was out.  Actually, it wasn’t so long ago, I think it was in November 2010, and I was in one of those strange lounge like places which play music I enjoy but are really inhospitable to conversation.  Anyway, Since You’ve Been Gone (Since U Been Gone?) came on, and one of the people I was with said it made him sad because he felt like if she was singing the song, she couldn’t really be experiencing the emotions of freedom and happiness she was claiming.  So Never Let Me Go is named after a fake song in the book (I think) called Never Let Me Go and in this really poignant scene, the main character as a little girl is singing the song and clutching onto a doll (or something like that).  I was thinking that the whole phrase is moving in part because like Since You’ve Been Gone, her even having to say that is signaling some kind of dreadful imminent letting go.  It’s deconstructing itself as Hyeseung said earlier.

Brushing Noises Out the Window

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Last night I went to a party in a store.  This store was like a museum curated by Wired magazine.  Afterwards, I walked home in the rain.  I’m astonished whenever I walk through the city at how I had this whole chapter in my life that had to do with walking everywhere and seeing the same streets and having similar feelings (“Oh, that party was fun.”  “How do I get out of this job?) and now it’s just over.  I rarely go through Times Square anymore, to the extent that when I am there, I marvel at all the lights and feel awed whereas in years past, I’d barely see it, my feet automatically traveling my favorite paths, my thoughts a million miles away.

I’ve been doing my revisions.  I’m really wrestling with these two love interests.  I think at the beginning of this year (2011) I had a pretty clear mental picture of what the first nine months would be like because I had to write the new book.  During those nine months,  I envisioned fall  as being like walking off a cliff–uncharted territory.  I remember having the same sensation last year, 2010,  when I basically did the same thing.  In that case the freefall/postcliff stopped when I sold the book and finished hammering out the outline.  Anyway, when I was locked inside writing for a lot of this summer, I felt like Tony from West Side Story, all “Something’s Coming.”  There were some other personal things going on, too. So now, I’m like in the uncharted time, falling off the cliff and I sort of feeling it.  It’s like I’ve given up making a lot of decisions.  And it’s connecting to the way I’m treating the development of these love interests.  I think I’ve always been more personally drawn to one, but feeling like, because the other was such a better fleshed out character, he had to triumph.  But I feel like I’m breaking through with the original, vaguer one!  I don’t know.  We shall see.  In my experience with authors, it’s hard to diverge from the original bones of the story.  But all that’s to say, I’m trying to just let it go and see where the writing takes me.

Stephanie is working on a new version of this website for me.  I’m really excited!  Just as I left my job she need an example website to build for her class, it was fortunate timing.  The website has really helped me, though I’ve been sort of shocked by how fundamentally uninterested I am maintaining it.  It’s even a bit of an effort to link to things.

I feel like I haven’t mentioned any random people recently.  Well, one thing I think is funny is it basically clear to me at this point that I feel like the 49th and 10th bodega is “too cool” for me.  It’s the one with all the younger guys.  There are always people there, it was just renovated and at night I sometimes walk down the block to other bodega because I’m intimidated at all the witty banter being thrown around.

Andom-ray

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

I’ve been getting kind of agitated by some of the anti-Occupy Wall Street posts that regularly appear on my FB.  It’s made me think about the truism that you only lash out when you fear something is true.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been a little more sensitive of my thoughts and feelings when I’m upset and a lot of times it does seem like I’m concerned about my own value.  It’s not even that buried.  But the verbiage that’s on top of it is always chosen to convey extreme rationality and objectivity.  I’m just beginning to feel like if you’re upset, you should just not do anything.  I have been moved enough to comment on some of the Occupy Wall Street posts.  I usually try to conceal my real opinion beneath tons of humor, and I’m sure people are puzzled if I’m being sarcastic or not (yes), but nevertheless I regret these posts.  I don’t really want to fan the flames of anyone’s anger.

I spent most of the day inside working on this manuscript.  I took breaks and went to the library.  Every couple of years it seems like I make a decision to try out Joan Didion.  I have these two Joan Didion books that are just lying on my chair now.  I was thinking of her relationship with her husband, where they worked side by side and were extremely close intellectually and how little that appeals to me.

I also left the building assuming I had received checks in the mail and intending to deposit them and stop by Stiles.  I hadn’t received any checks, but I was determined to take a walk anyway.  The leaves on my street are very yellow and pretty.  I had almost passed by all the trees when I decided I didn’t need bananas that bad.  I turned back around and walked back to the apartment.

I did not start Scripted revisions today…will be doing that Thursday.  I did eventually leave the apartment for a networking event.  The array of eating choices was amazing.  I did take out a book from the library…nonfiction about marriage.  I’m vaguely interested in it.  But not really.  I feel like the last good book I read was The Believers by Zoe Heller.  I strongly desire some very good fiction or poetry.  My experiments in poetry writing have continued.  As summations of my emotions, they work really well.  The pressure to make sense has lifted enormously.  With my journal and with fiction, there is definitely an invisible hand guiding the whole way.  With fiction it is a bit alluring because you feel as if you are in a partnership.  With nonfiction, I guess maybe it’s not like an invisible hand.  It’s a pretty visible hand and it’s yours, if that makes sense.  But with these simple poems, there’s not really an obligation to build an argument.

I was thinking too about the various ways in which one can be distressed: sadness, anger, boredom.  I think anger probably feel the best of any of them.

scripted, part deux

Monday, November 7th, 2011

So I had to write a new book over the summer, and tomorrow I will probably start revising it.  I feel a slight dread.  I worry I’m going to hate it on reread.  I worry that I’m not going to enjoy rising (or writing) it.  I don’t feel the trepidation about losing my social life again; I don’t think I’ll have to and maybe because it’s winter I don’t mind the prospect that much.

I’m going over a manuscript, to give editorial feedback.  I wish I could talk more in-depth here about that kind of work, but it feels a little private, because of the authors.  Suffice to say it’s always impressive when someone writes a book, and I often enjoy the journey into a foreign mind.

Tizzy

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

I think I’m getting really excited about my book.  I just emailed it to Eveline for no reason.  It is like having a crush on someone, looking for excuses to talk about it.  And I’m so happy with the title SCRIPTED.  I feel like it is the first one that’s felt right.  Well, what’s sad is I think others felt right to me, but no one else liked them so I had to abandon them.

I finished reading The Forest of Hands…(and the title keeps escaping me).  I zeroed right in on the part where the heroine had to knock some hinges and pins around to break open a lock.  I’m in awe of anyone who comes up with these kinds of complex ideas.  It’s very invigorating to read about a character doing such things, but I have to say I don’t really do them, and I have a hard time depicting them.  Sometimes it makes me laugh thinking of all the bold adventures I read about and then realizing how rare it is that I even go for a night walk alone.

The library website has a new interface. I like it.  It’s prettier, sleeker etc.

I was also thinking I might bite the bullet and give the Lia character red hair.

I went to the river today for the first time in ages.

Mosquito

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

There is a large mosquito bouncing around my room.

Today I went to an event at the Schomburg Library where my good friend Shayla works.  I’d never been to the Schomburg.  The event brought up a lot of thoughts about race, a topic I often avoid talking about except to Robert at Brooklyn College.  They had a wonderful exhibit on Malcolm X whose life story has always fascinated me.  They had a good quote from him about reading books in prison.  Trying to dig it up now…it also made me reflect on his autobiography which was written with Alex Hailey.  Malcolm X definitely seemed capable of writing his own autobiography so I wondered that he chose to have a ghostwriter.  There was a letter in the exhibit from Alex Hailey, and Hailey’s writing did seem more evocative, poetic, than Malcolm’s writing (in letters, also in the exhibit).

That was last night.

There were handwritten pages from his journal, and it made him (Malcolm) appear so innocent and sincere, sort of like getting a glimpse at someone while he or she is sleeping.

I heard back from my editor about my book!  Really happy.  I definitely feel like I’m going to have a book published.  Pretty much my one worry now is that I might die before it gets published.  I suppose I won’t be able to be disappointed in that case.  I’m glad that the framework is in pretty good shape.  There were definitely a lot of directions that book went off in that were very much its own.  I still have regrets that I wasn’t able to give any of the main characters a happy ending, but I don’t think any of them deserved it.  I mostly mean psychologically happy, not materially complete or whatever.

I had a really nice day today.  My printer stopped working, but I was proud of myself for not obsessing over it and just letting it sit while I took care of business.  I wrote and researched a lot about skin peels, interviewed a violist and got a scanner from Gary.  I heard from a lot of people and had a lot of sushi.  I walked around the neighborhood.  I forget why.  Oh, to get the sushi and meet Gary.  The sky was a blotchy blue, like it had been applied with cottonballs.  I signed my rent check.  I had forgotten to sign it when I handed it in, and the reason was clear to me immediately.  Apparently I had written it on 9/30 instead of 10/1 or 10/2, as usual.  My handwriting was very neat.  I’m sure I was sitting at my desk, thinking, “I am very responsibly writing this check now, with neat handwriting and a day early.”  I’m sure that’s why I forgot to sign it.

Buddenbrooks is a no go.  I find it pretty tiresome.

New project

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

So I started my new project.  It is a novel that is sort of based on the invasion of the Americas by Europe.  I think this has been percolating in the back of my mind for a long time.  I have no idea if it will ever get done, but I have some free creative time.  I think it draws together this series I used to love when I was a kid–The Mysterious Cities of Gold.  Which I think was actually based on a Scott O’Dell book.  I liked a lot of Scott O’Dell books, although not Island of the Blue Dolphins.  Anyway, and then there was this book I read in college that really affected me:  The Conquest of America. We’ll see what happens.  I think it also all looped up in my head after watching the Bolivian miners documentary.  There is something I wanted to say about the landscape.  Actually now that I think about it, I feel like Scott O’Dell did a good job of not romanticizing native peoples.  That’s definitely something I want to avoid doing.

SCRIPTED

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Scripted is the new title I’m trying out for my book.  I was thinking about the differences between the first version of the book and the second version of the book.  For this, I’ll call the first version After Bliss and the current one again is Scripted.

Basically Scripted and After Bliss had the same characters and the same emotional plot and different…um physical plots.  I would say at their hearts, both books are about the break-up of a best friendship.  I think the ideas that go beyond that are a little bit vaguer and harder to articulate.  I think though I was very conscious of how often in my own experiences a lot of what felt like my closest and most intimate relationships have rested on the idea that the other person was somehow godlike and infallible–that they possessed a certainty that I lacked, and that by allying myself with them, I was somehow fixing myself to steady ground.

However that firmness was just my own projection.  Everyone is as vulnerable as everyone else.  The price of having such an idea, I think led to a sensation of actually being weighed down, stuck in the world of the relationship.    In After Bliss I tried to show how both sides were using one another, but I think my sympathies were really with the main character.  I don’t know why.  I remember writing a post about this.  Maybe I had more of an opfer attitude in 2009.  It’s hard for me not to reread this stuff and just try to trace it back to what was going on in my life.  In Scripted though, I had a lot of sympathy for her best friend, the ‘popular’ girl.  In 2011 I definitely had more of a sense that I was in the right place in social structures.  In 2009, I was more confused about how I fit in.  Therefore I think I had much more sympathy for Lia, who has social confidence and a firm sense of who she is.  I think Lia’s problem is she often believes she is responsible for maintaining the structure around her in some place.  I wouldn’t say I’m as conscious about relating to that.  Anyway I guess what often made her edge out in my sympathies is that she is always slightly more aware of what is socially going on.  But I don’t think she is capable of ever grasping a “bigger picture” because she is too attached to her image on the island.

Um, I totally lost my original thread for this.  I guess I was thinking too while writing this about Learning to Lose, the book I read earlier this year and how certain depths of emotion can only exist after certain experiences.  I think everyone in the book is doing their best to respect and love, but their insecurities and divided interests prevent this respect/love from being expressed or maybe even felt or perceived.  It was really grating on me that I couldn’t give the main character a satisfying love story, but after talking it over with Hyeseung a bit and thinking about it, I do think I gave her what she was capable of.  A persistent, gnattish feeling of wanting to possess and be victorious.  Her eyes started opening a bit toward the end, but they still weren’t entirely aware.

Lawsuits

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

I’ve been watching all these informative documentaries on HBO.  HBO is unabashedly pushing a liberal agenda.  I’m on board!  I learned all about the McDonald’s hot coffee suit.  Corporate America is out to get us.

My book is due in 11 days!  I’m so excited.  Unfortunately at one point, I decided to pretend it was due 8/30 instead of 9/1, so this actually feels like a step back because yesterday I was also walking around saying “11 days.”  Will I get it done?  I think so.  I hope by Tuesday to be done with this revisons up around to word 64,000.  Then those last 6,000 or so words need major major work.

It’s crazy going over it and realizing there is some sort of order.  I was reading this essay by Roger Ebert and he talks about how you don’t think about the next word.  I’m not sure that’s true, but I did feel a lot more flailing than I think the pages look.  I was walking down the street (on the way to getting a diet snapple and a baguette) and I remembered this thing I wrote in my journall awhile ago…it sort of matched up with the circle/square thinking I’ve spoken to Hyeseung about.  Anyway I had some kind of great moment of revelation where I realized all my thoughts were like a fragile crystal structure (except I think I said latticework) surrounded by a much vaster space.  Then I thought that was sort of how writing the book felt, like I had to empty out my head enough that the only thoughts that would arrive would be very fragile.  Anyway it’s interesting because I don’t know if it works that way with nonfiction as much.  I definitely have felt more led and less surprised by the results of the nonfiction work I write.

I really liked this song by Amy Winehouse, Long Day.

I also like hearing the cicadas and grasshoppers.  I find their sounds kind of sexy, so I see why female insects would,too!

Misc 3000

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

1.

One of the things that makes me sad about fiction is how you just can’t put one of your friends in the book for fun.  The characters develop their own individual personalities really fast.  When you’re first writing about them, there is some leeway, but it gets harder and harder as you go on.  Sometimes I do summon forth vague memories of feelings–like if the main character feels betrayed,  I draw on some experience I have of feeling sad and angry.  But rarely do I think, oh when was I betrayed.  Let me recollect exactly how that felt.

I’m writing a scene now though where I am remembering how I felt in a very similar experience, and it’s kind of making me forlorn.

2.

The character had a peak moment and as she’s moving on past it, she wishes she could go back and live in this moment forever.  I just thought that was a funny feeling to have.  She almost feels like she left her real self behind in this moment and is a ghost self now going about the rest of her life.  I can relate to that!

3.

I had a tough time with mosquitos last night.  I moved around a lot trying to evade it.  Sometimes when I’m tired and just trying to go to sleep, I really begin to feel connected to the mosquito.  Like, if only I could just talk to it and make it understand, this isn’t working.  After all we have a lot in common, we’re both awake and in the same room, being nourished off my blood.

Also in my delirious sleepy state, I was angry thinking something like, everything would be fine if I could just get rid of this mosquito.  Then I thought, see nothing is complicated.  All thoughts are like this,  I’m done pretending ambiguity exists.  If things don’t work as imply as, this mosquito should be gone, I want no part  in them.

4.

In 12 days I will be done!