26 February 2012

Something to hold on to...

This morning I finally finished reading through my manuscript with some minor editing. This was the very first time I've read through what is now the second part of the novel since it was written during NaNoWriMo 2011.

There were some moments I had completely forgotten about...it's a very strange and surreal experience to read something that you know you've written but can't actually remember writing. This happens to me the most during NaNoWriMo due in large part to the nature of that experience. It's about breaking in the path rather than stopping to smell the roses. Sometimes you don't even see what you've done until you can look back from the other side.

I have to confess, for the most part, I'm feeling really good about the work done this past November. I think you can really see the growth between 2010 and 2011. The dialogue is better, the characters really come into their own, the plot moves along. There is still much work to be done, but I really feel that once I give the book one more read through, it'll be ready for some outside eyes and opinions.

It's about time to begin sharing.

This afternoon I (and by "I" I mean my husband) printed out the first hard copy of the book that was once two halves.

I knew it was big, I just had no idea it was quite so big. (That's what she said!)

There is something amazing about holding the weight of my words in my hands, to feel physicality of what has primarily existed in my mental space for the past year and a half. It's beginning to feel like a real book. That's probably the main reason why I had to print it out. I wanted to be able to experience it with multiple senses...to feel it, to touch it, see it, to smell it.

Tonight is Oscar night and I will be watching and sipping champagne. I will likely place my book on the coffee table just so I can glance at it periodically. Maybe I'll even let it sit on my lap for part of the show.

It's 422 pages of hard work and the manifestation of a great deal of time and effort. I can't help but feel proud.

The printed manuscript with a mini-figure Jess for perspective.

19 February 2012

Love Lessons

It has been bothering me since Tuesday, when I posted my list of ten books that taught me a little something about love. I can't believe I left out one of the most important books. Well, series of books, really.

It was the summer between my 6th and 7th grade years and I was, per usual, spending the summer living with both sets of grandparents. They lived only a few miles apart, one set in Minnesota and the other in North Dakota. I would bounce back and forth between the two. My best friend in the world (I moved around a bit as a kid) lived next door and I would also spend a great deal of time with her and her seven brothers and sisters. Each summer, this only child felt a part of their enormous family.

My dad's parents decided to take me along for an extended trip to visit my great grandma in Ashland, WI. I remember not being terribly thrilled to be taken away from my friends to a place where there was no one my age to hang out with. There were some second cousins, but they all seemed much older to me and only seeing them once every year or two (for a day or two), we weren't very close at all.

On the drive up to Ashland, I remember stopping at a B. Dalton at a mall in Duluth. We went into the bookstore and my grandpa told me I could get any book I wanted. My dad and I didn't have much money so most of my books came from the library. It wasn't until high school and into college that I really began to have a library to call my own.

I wandered through the aisles and came across the book Anne of Green Gables. I picked it up, read the back and remembered hearing somewhere that it was a good book. I chose it.

I finished it the next day.

My other grandpa had sent me along with some money and so I walked into town to the local bookstore where I then purchased Anne of Avonlea.

The next day, I finished it.

This continued for another two days until finally I was sent to the store with enough money to buy the last two that I needed. (I didn't know there was a book 7 or 8 until I returned to Oregon).

I was in love with those books. I wanted to be just like Anne (in fact, I desperately wanted to change the spelling of my middle name so that I too was an Ann with an "e.") I wanted my own Gilbert. I wanted the friendship and the romance and the happily ever after.

What these books taught me was that love--lasting, enduring, honest, love--is grounded in friendship.

It's a lesson I've carried with me ever since.

The very book(s) that started it all.

14 February 2012

10 Love-ly Books

In celebration of Valentine's Day (a "holiday" that I could honestly give or take), I've decided to make a list of 10 books that echoed to me a little something about the truths of love.

They are, in no particular order (and by no means all inclusive)...

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
Lancelot by Walker Percy

12 February 2012

The Blurbist

So...if you've been following along since the new year, you might recall that I have embarked on an adventure to catalog the books I'm reading in 2012. This is something I've never done. I've never kept track of how many or what books I've read.

I am quite astonished to report that so far this year I've already read 14 books! (This includes reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars twice.)

Over the past week I've been working on a tumblr project that combines my new found reputation as a blurbist and my photo project for the books I'm reading. If you're curious in checking it out (and possibly following) you can find my work in progress here. I'm still fiddling around with the layout and such, but I think you'll get the point.

Lately I can't seem to stop the creative momentum. It's been wonderful to feel so inspired and curious and ambitious and hopeful. It's keeping me incredibly busy, but you're not going to hear me complain about that...

More restrooms should be chalkboards.

09 February 2012

Savoring Time

"When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second---put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal---but even three months will do...You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it's not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who's read it in twelve different versions. It's the head of a smart stranger, who picks it off a bookshelf and begins to read. You need to get the head of that smart stranger somehow. You need to forget you ever wrote that book."
                                                                          Zadie Smith

This is perhaps some of the most eloquent advice I've read about editing. Right now I feel caught somewhere between the thick of it and the head of that stranger. I began this novel on November 1st, 2010 and finished on November 30th, 2011. Now it is February of 2012. Some parts of this novel have passed the year mark. Others have yet to reach the three month point. There are pieces of it that surprise me and fill me with such pride to think that those words tumbled out of my brain and through my fingers to that Word document. There are other pieces that I still struggle with, knowing that they haven't quite hit the mark, that they're still a bit off center. Close, but still in need of work.

Every day new ideas circle around inside my head as my brain tries to fit the puzzle pieces into their proper place. It's what I think about when I get up on the morning, what I think about when I drift off to sleep. It's what keeps me moving forward. It's what gives me the hope that I'm on the right track.

So I sit in coffee shops and put in the headphones and listen to music and sip espresso and jot down notes/ideas. I watch people come and go, lovers and friends. I lose hours to this task and never feel tired. In fact, if anything I feel my energy level increase the longer I work.

I find myself savoring time rather than spending it.

05 February 2012

Fame and Procrastination

This past week has really reminded me of something that I'd pretty much forgotten about since college. I really don't like being told what to read and when to have it read by.

A few months ago I was chosen to be involved with a program at work. This means I am sent books to read and am responsible for giving my feedback on them by a certain date. I read the first book back in the beginning of December and it just came out this past week. The first book is called Defending Jacob and was written by William Landay. It was just released this last Tuesday it's exciting to finally be able to talk about it. It's a fascinating book and as I am quoted on every display in all 700+ stores, "Defending Jacob is excactly the sort of book you can't help but want to talk about once you've finished. It is a well-written, deeply haunting tale of family and tragedy that lingers with you."

This is the hardest part about reading an interesting book two solid months before its release date. There is no one to talk to about it with. I'm glad it's finally out and I'm glad it's finally something I can talk about.

What I wasn't expecting was that my quote would be so widely used both internally and externally. They used my quote in the official press release and on Friday I got an email that my quote had been picked up and used in a few articles. Finally! My big break!

Which brings me to this past week. And the book I've been told to read that I've been avoiding quite skillfully.

The next book I've been asked to read is non-fiction. I always have the best of intentions when it comes to reading non-fiction. There are so many things, ideas, events, histories that I'm interested in knowing more about. But I rarely sit down and make myself finish them. I'm awful that way. And this non-fiction book is about a topic that fascinates me and is certainly interesting and presented in a very readable manner. But there's also this childish, rebellious, procrastinator in me who refuses to sit down and just read this book. I only have a few days left to submit my comments so it's going to have to happen sooner than later.

I almost think it's driving my husband more crazy that I haven't finished than it is me. He keeps finding me picking up another book and wondering what I'm doing with it. On Thursday, we had a rare day off together and went to see Hugo at the Living Room Theaters (Amazing!) and since we were right next to Powell's we decided to get some coffee and wander around. I ended up with two new (out of print) books that I am super excited to read. (One is the hardcover of David Levithan's Marly's Ghost...which appears to be another of his Valentine's Day projects! and was illustrated by David Selznick.)

Thus far I've been disciplined enough not to read either of them until I finish my homework.

Which I will do.

By the end of my weekend.

I swear.

I've also been inspired to start another little side project (blog/twitterish). More details when it's ready to launch...which will likely be in the next two weeks.

I will probably reflect more on the John Green Experience another time. For now I will simply say it was everything I wanted it to be (aside from the fantasy where John Green and I became BFFs and started writing books together) plus screaming and hysterical teenage girls.

From "my" display