27 March 2012


Still having way too much fun working through this edit...

24 March 2012

Reading, Writing, and Blurbing.

One of the things I've been noticing lately is how this intensive writing/editing I've been doing for the past year has changed the way I read. I've really learned how to spot the character details and subtle clues as to what's going to be a big deal later. I mean, I've gotten really good.

I've always been a good reader (I was Grade A English Major...), able to look back at a text after the big reveal and remember all the clues that led up to it. What's different, is that I've gotten to where I can read prophetically.

It's just a different way of reading and I find it interesting and it really became apparent to me this past week as I read The Art of Fielding (an excellent read, I might add). There were so many little things where I said to myself, "Hmm, I'll bet that means x is going to y." And I was right.

Also this past week, The Blurbist struck again with the latest B&N Recommends title, Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. My latest blurb was chosen for the press release. "Imagine is one of those books that has the power to change the world. It's a book that artists, writers, musicians, comics, CEOs, elected officials, educators, scientists, anyone who wants to create change or something meaningful should read."

It really is a very good and interesting book...and also that non-fiction book I was complaining about having to read a few months ago. In the end, I was so glad that I did finish it.

I've also been plugging away at a complete manuscript edit. As the Facebook crew knows, I've been fortuned with a fantastic opportunity to have my manuscript professionally critiqued and so now I have even more focus to get through this revision so I can send it off and get some insights and feedback. I work best with deadlines, so I've promised to send off my manuscript around mid-April. (I also like flexibility.)

I have a lot of work to do before then so every day I try to sit down and get through at least a few pages, even after a long work day.

When I went and saw Heidi W. Durrow earlier this month, she told a story about how she put an ad on Craigslist looking for readers. She offered dinner at a Zagat rated restaurant to those who agreed to read her manuscript and give her feedback. I loved this idea and wondered how I could make something like this work for me.

I am fortunate enough to have many people who want to read and who have offered to read this manuscript. In time, I hope everyone who wants to will get that chance to read it.

But there is something beneficial about having a stranger do the work. A stranger is more likely to say what needs to be said without any fear of hurting my feelings. I have no doubt that some of you are more than capable of doing this as well, it's just harder. It can just be a little more complicated.

I wasn't looking to do this, but through a lucky accident, an opportunity arose.

And that's what I love about life, how I never know exactly what to expect.

16 March 2012

Mix Tapes and a Request

The other day I was rooting around in my old desk (the desk my dad built for me some 20+ years ago) and when I opened one of the drawers I stumbled across my collection of old mix tapes. These tapes date back to high school and college, the days before you could burn cds. I didn't save every one that I ever made, nor every one that someone else made for me, but these I saved even though there is currently no device in our house to play them on.

Such memories are wrapped up in these tapes, in these songs.

My friend, M., gave me my very first mix tape as a graduation/going away present in 1994 (as pictured below). I loved, loved, loved this mix and listened to it so many times over the years I'm surprised it survived. In fact, now that it's resurfaced, I am planning to make a playlist out of it so I can enjoy it all over again!

Music has saved my life on more than one occasion. My childhood had its share of trauma and I remember when my grandfather gave me my first Walkman for Christmas. I felt so cool since they were so new and none of my friends had one yet. I was not used to being the first to get much of anything.

When things got rough at home, I would crawl under the covers in the dark and I would put my headphones on and turn up the volume, losing myself to the music. This was a tactic I used for many years, music as a method of escape, as a method of therapy.

As I've mentioned before, in other blogs on other days, music is an important part of one my primary character's life. Holden is obsessed with music in ways that I am not, and for him, the music has been less about the diversion, and more about the passion. Holden is always making playlists and has made hundreds with different themes.

This all being said, I have a request. I would love any of you reading this to make me a playlist/mix cd. If you do this for me, I would kindly return the favor.

My very first mix tape
A sampling of some of the salvaged mixes.

10 March 2012

Everybody Reads and Heidi W. Durrow

Tuesday I got a surprise phone call from a colleague who was unable to attend an event so she offered me her tickets. It was an event I'd been very interested in attending, but had never gotten around to actually getting any tickets. Each year Multnomah County Library organizes a community reading event called Everybody Reads. The idea is to use the power of a book to help create a stronger sense of community. More information can be found here.

This past Tuesday was the final event with Heidi W. Durrow, author of this year's selection, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. I first stumbled upon this book in early 2010 pretty soon after it was published. I can't remember what drew me to it in the first place, whether it was the title or the cover or my curiosity over what the Bellwether Prize was about. It could also have been the blurb from Barbara Kingsolver, a personal favorite, on the cover. Whatever it was, I took it home and pretty much devoured it in one sitting. I remember my initial evaluation was that it was a book filled with sadness and with hope. I remember liking it very much.

I was quite pleased to hear, this past fall, that it was going to be the 2012 selection for Everybody Reads. I was looking forward to revisiting the book and discussing it at the book group we would be hosting. So on the flight home from my grandfather's funeral, I began reading the novel for the second time.

One of the things I noticed on my second read was how much discussion there was about telling stories.
"It's not a true story, but I tell it to myself. What difference does it make anyway? I tell myself that story because it could be true. It could have happened that way. Things happen in different ways."
"I don't know if the true story about Anthony Miller or about the day on the roof or about any story you could think of matters. If there's no one else to tell another side -- the only story that can be told is the story that becomes true."

I have long been enamored with ideas of stories and truths. In An Abundance of Katherines John Green writes, "You don't remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened." I think a lot about memory and history and how two people can remember the same event in such different ways. There is a reason eyewitnesses don't always make or break a case.

Aside from stories, this book is about a great many other things. At the event at the Schnitzer Tuesday, the author, Heidi W. Durrow, talked about her struggles getting the book published and how it was rejected because they thought no one could relate to the story of a Danish-African American girl. This at once made me very sad and very angry.

How simplistic! How narrow minded! I have no real life experience with aliens, ghosts, being a man, living in the past, living in the future, or so many other things/people I've read about. But I can love the story, love the characters, and I can relate and empathize with experiences so unlike my own. That is the very magic and power of books.

I don't always want to read something that reminds me of myself, of my life. Sometimes a book is meant to let us escape our daily lives for a few hours. To teach us something new, to share a world previously unexplored. It just made me so sad to hear the simplistic response some publishers gave this work.

But then, I thought back to our book discussion. At one point, one of the ladies (the book group consisted of 100% Caucasian women and I think I was the only one under the age of 50) asked the question, "Why would they choose this book for their selection? I don't really get it." It was an honest question and I'll admit I was a little surprised to hear it. I said a few words and then one of the other ladies began to talk about her son (white) and her daughter-in-law (not white) and how they were raising their biracial children. And then more good, open and honest discussion continued from there and I think I might actually have said towards the end, "I think this is why the book was chosen."

I am so grateful those publishers were proven wrong. I am so glad to hear of so many conversations sparked.

The event on Tuesday night was amazing. Our seats were close to the front (I guess a perk from being connected). Heidi Durrow was delightful and funny and sincere and it was so inspiring and thought provoking to hear her talk about her book and her journey. There was a great deal that rang true to what I've been thinking and feeling about writing and about time.

I've finally learned that no matter how busy I might think I am, time can always be found for the things that are important to me. Like finishing this novel. Like making my writing an important part of my life. Like going for a walk. Like breathing.

I am so, so grateful that I got to go to the event. I am so glad my husband decided to come with. It filled my heart when we stood up to leave and he said to me, "All I want to do is go home and read this book."

There are still many, many things that I want to say about this book and this event, but I think it's time to wrap up this somewhat scattered post. I will leave you with one last quote from The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.
"That night Laronne couldn't sleep as it stormed outside. Her thoughts of Nella and of the boy and baby, now dead, and the girl, these things had made a bookmark inside of her."
I'm going to go spend some time thinking of the people and experiences that have left a bookmark inside of me.

04 March 2012

Sunday Shuffle/Comfort Books

I've decided to let the fate of today's music selection rest in the hands of my trusty ol' iPod and its shuffling ways. So far, I have to say, the choices have been pitch perfect. Resonant. If I had to give it a grade I would give it an A+. Creative, unexpected, and exactly what I didn't know I wanted.

It's been a challenging sort of week, what with being super sick and all, but today I woke up feeling...well, not great, but as close to normal as I've felt in nearly a week. All morning long I've been creating an ambitious To Do List of all the things that I want to get done, things that have clearly NOT been done due to the amount of time spent in bed/couching.

But first, a deep breath. I'm not 100% yet. More like 76%. A respectable score for some, to be sure, but not for an overachiever like me. I was the kind of student who would do extra credit even when I was in no danger of getting anything less than an A.

Having been sick, I definitely didn't get any writing work done this week and I've barely felt like reading. I had just finished the book I'd been working on (The Miseducation of Cameron Post) before I got sick and wasn't sure what I was in the mood to read next even though I have several really exciting things lined up.

I think, like comfort foods, there are comfort books. Books that you go to when you want something familiar, something to warm you up and make you feel good. Right now, my go to comfort book remains Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

I have a HUGE crush on this book and have since I read it in December of 2010. I recently read/heard a statistic that says a crush normally lasts something like 3 months. I'm pushing 13, so maybe this relationship is something more serious...

It is currently the single book I've read the most times in the shortest period of time. I am only a couple chapters away from what is probably my fifth time reading through the book and I love how with each read through, I notice something I hadn't seen before.

I am not a huge fan of the title, which is why I passed it up when I first saw it and it wasn't until someone whose opinion I highly respect mentioned the book that I actually picked it up and read it. Twice. In a row. An action that was previously unprecedented. I don't know what I would have titled it if given that particular task, but for now I have taken to calling it Anna and √Čtienne since I feel like the story is nearly as much his as it is hers, even though the story is told from Anna's perspective.

I've given a great deal of thought as to why I love this book so much. The characters are real people with real people qualities. They make mistakes, they have crushes on people they shouldn't, hearts get hurt, they learn how to forgive each other. It's about friendship as much as falling in love. It makes me happy that I know all the book/film references. I love that the book visits some of my favorite things in Paris. There is a very real quality to this book, something that you don't find in the likes of Twilight (supernaturalness aside). I think my love for this book is similar to the love I have for Anne of Green Gables. I think it may well be one of those novels I carry with me for always.

Thinking back to the list of things I'd like to do today, I've decided to shorten/prioritize.

Savor Coffee
Listen to inspiring music
Update blog
Finish Anna and √Čtienne 
Learn a new chord on ukulele 
Go for a long walk
Watch a movie

Oh brilliant iPod, thank you for bringing this song to my attention today. In the spirit of the NaNoWriMo posts, I'll end with a song...
"If I could do just one near perfect thing I'd be happy. They'd write it on my grave or when they scattered my ashes. On second thought I'd rather hang around and be there with my best friend if she wants me."
           from If She Wants Me by Belle & Sebastian.

My most favorite/fragrant sign that spring is nearing. Oh, Daphne, how I love thee...