Thursday, February 28, 2013

“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody. Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideals hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different.”
-Martin Luther King

Love and Light,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Every so often I work on a Saturday.  It is voluntary but I wake up, begrudgingly put on my favorite weekend jeans, work spectacles (totally made that part up) and head out the door.  It never fails that my house always feels extra comfy.  The perfect amount of early morning sunlight is pouring in through the gaps in the shades.  The quiet of the night is still wrapped around my children and my husband is lying in the shape of a spoon, his warm body practically magnetic as it tugs me back towards the bed. 
It always sucks.
This morning, I dutifully put in a few hours at the office.  Getting a head start on the coming week and tying up loose ends from the week before.  I practically darted out of my office shortly after 2, leaping into my car and letting my foot fall heavy on the accelerator as my SUV whizzed through the winding roads on my way home.
As I entered the final leg of my trip, a light rain began to mist through the gray sky.  I turned on my wipers as I rolled onto the 'on' ramp of the highway and looked up, noticing two large black ravens perched on top of a green and white highway sign.  The bird on the right had his wings stretched wide and the other bird, wings closed, was at its side, likely not feeling a drop of rain as it was shielded by the wings of the other bird.  I slowed down, observing the birds while trying to watch the road, looking back in my rear view mirror as I passed them by - wondering if I just witnessed a strange coincidence or if I could have possibly witnessed some sort of love and/or protectiveness in a species I usually give little thought.  Was it a private display of bird monogamy? Bird partners taking a moment to look out on the world as one bird kept the other bird dry?  Was it bird parenting? A momma-bird protecting her bird child from large drops of rain falling from the ominous sky?  Or was it merely two thoughtless birds, one with wings spread ready for flight and an insignificant, unknown bird that just happened to get it the way?
I totally over thought it.
I've been quieting myself lately.  In Stephen King's book On Writing, he devotes a large part of his book to work ethic and taking yourself seriously as a writer/artist.  He maintains that, in order to fulfill your potential as a writer, you must eliminate every possible distraction.  His says, "When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not?  Of course you do.  When you're writing, you're creating your own worlds."
And because I have made a commitment to be a life long pupil of the craft, I am following his advice.  I have seriously cut down on  my television watching and have been off social networking sites since November.  I have forced myself to be comfortable with the silence (that rare occurrence when the boys aren't screaming) and depart with unnecessary distraction. 
The result:  I make up stories about birds in my car.
The goal, according to King, is to unleash the muse.  His chomps a cigar.  Mine has a big fro and writes in silky lavender lingerie (I'm allergic to silk).  This exercise in heightened awareness has not only been good for my writing, it's good for my soul.  I am sitting at my kitchen table right now and I can smell the scent of the tomatoes and pepper that floats through the air from dinner. I can hear the hum of the dryer in the basement below me, the tick of the analog clock on the wall behind my head, and the feel of the smooth keys as they meet the balls of my fingertips. 
It's kind of awesome.
So folks, what have you done to quiet yourself lately?

More importantly, what do you think those birds were doing?!
Love and Light,

Saturday, February 16, 2013

When I was in college, I had an amazing writing professor named John Vernon.  He was the first person in my adult life to encourage my writing  (that wasn't my Ma, brothers or friends).  He even tried to persuade my mom to allow me to spend a semester in London.   Ever the overprotective mom, she wasn't convinced (but I somehow managed permission to go to Senegal for three weeks during my last year of college).  Truth be told, I am still a little sad I never got to go.  Being an American writer abroad has a certain appeal, doesn't it?

Anyway, in one of our conversations/classes, I remember Prof Vernon making a comment about a fellow writer, Wally Lamb.  Wally wrote one my favorite books of all time, She's Come Undone which went on to be an Oprah's book club selection in 1996.  I remember Professor Vernon said - he went from being a professor to a millionaire.  Pretty much just because Oprah liked his book.

My best friend works over at Harpo Productions in Chicago and a part of her job was to work on Oprah's 2013 book club selection, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis.  When she was finally able to divulge what she had been working on for months, she could barely contain her excitement. 

"It is her first book! She reminds me so much of you," my best friend, and one of my biggest cheerleaders for the past 16 years, gushed.  She practically insisted I watch her on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday two weeks ago.

I did. 

I DVR-ed it so I didn't watch it until a week after it aired.  Curled up under a blanket on my favorite chaise with an oversized cup of hot tea, I was smitten.  Have you ever seen someone who is living the exact life (professionally) you hope to be living in the future?  Oprah aside (although her approval would be a nice perk), Ayana's goal is to write character driven stories that are so thoroughly human they practically curl up next to you and take a sip of your tea.  She articulated a desire to create multilayered characters that, though unique due to race, class and other circumstance, are human and relatable... by all who read them.  The theme of the episode seemed to be how reading is an opportunity to take a path you wouldn't ordinarily take - an opportunity for a suburban housewife to live as a death row inmate or a middle aged male banker to experience life as an overweight teenage girl. 

Ayana's goals as a writer and even her take on spirituality and divinity seem to mirror my own journey.  Although, I am admittedly much closer to my starting point.  I actually got emotional watching her! She was poised, thoughtful and funny - at the end of the interview she revealed how surreal it felt to be sitting on the stage discussing her book with Oprah because to her - the book was still "that word document."

That made me laugh out loud.

So watch the doc here. Meet Ayana. Pick up the book and be inspired.  I was :-).

Love and Light,

Thursday, February 7, 2013

So, a few procedural notes.  I just added a new link to the Linkety Links - located to the right of your screen (*striking a Vana White pose).  It's called Pub Rants and it's a blog by the Nelson Agency, a literary agency I am slowly developing a crush on.  Not only do I love their client list - I love the story of how the agency got started - with a dream - like most amazing things do.  Special shout out to my writing buddy, Ros, for the point in their direction.

Also, I LOVE this week's quote of the week (also to your right).  I'm going to put it here so it will forever remain on this page:

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”Kurt Vonnegut

Sigh.  I love that.

Well, folks, today is the one week anniversary of completing my first draft.  I took the weekend off... sort of... my husband printed out my manuscript and I walked around clutching it in a giant Manila envelope wherever I went.  I really don't have a coherent rationale for this.  I just wanted to be close to the physical manifestation of the imaginary characters in my head (I told you it wasn't coherent).  My writing instructor from the Writer's Center, Barbara gave me strict instructions to let it breath for a few days before I started the re-write.  She actually sent me a list of things to do (or not do) that was all in bold caps so I felt obligated to listen (she is also a published author who has had film options for two of her books so she knows what she is talking about).  The instructions included stepping away from my manuscript, researching agents and starting to write my query letter (Grooannnnnnnn, can I just tell you how anxiety inducing the query letter is for me!?).  She suggested that in the interim, I should send my manuscript to people I trust and wait for them to get back to me.    I sent Part I out but I am putting some final touches on Part II.  I am now up to 245 pages (at a little over 71K words).  Some parts just needed a little Botox... you know, spaces and cracks that needed to be filled in?  I am proud of how it's coming along.

Another new battle is finding a title.  I have had two children and titling my book is BY FAR more difficult than naming them.  Thank God they are still too little to take offense to that.  I keep hearing "when you know, you know" and "it will just come to you" but so far it hasn't.  Just when I think I have decided on a title - something clicks and I practically lunge at my computer to take that heinous set of words off the top of my manuscript!  I think it's so difficult because unlike the names of my children, I care a great deal about what other people will think.  If I am fortunate enough to get my first book published, this will be the title that draws people to my pile of paper at the bookstore - or lures readers into clicking the "buy" button on the Kindle edition at Amazon.  No pressure but SO MUCH pressure. 

My novel is a story of a new adult navigating his way through his early twenties trying desperately to escape the pain of his past while redefining who he will be in the future.  He makes some horrible (disgusting, despicable) mistakes in an effort to forget his past and they all catch up with him in a way he didn't expect.  He is self destructive, self involved but sexy and tragic.  Really your quintessential bad boy.  How do you embody that in a few words?

What I do know is I need to get it together! I have a book to market and having "block" about the title? Ain't nobody got time for that!.

Love and Light,

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My second year of college, I moved into apartment style housing on campus with three good friends.  We lived across the hall from an awesomely fabulous plus size brown girl and her five gay, male roommates.  They used to throw these parties full of sugary sweet cocktails, high energy and notoriously bad dancing that would last into the wee hours.  If you've never been a straight girl at a gay male party, I highly recommend you add it to your bucket list.  The men actually just want to dance with you and if you want to try out Beyonce's Crazy in Love booty pop without anyone judging you? Go ahead... the guys will pull together to convince you into believing you are actually doing it better than Beyonce (I still can't do that dance... but I still try, haha).

At one particular party my darling friend Christine* and I attended, we were, as usual, having an amazing time when a flamboyantly happy guy came bouncing over to us busting some serious moves.  Ice Cube's You Can Do It had just started and if you know anything about the early 2000s, you not only remember that song, you remember the movie it was attached to - 2001's crazy corny but equally adorable interracial love story, Save the Last Dance featuring a young Julia Stiles and a hilariously miscast, Sean Patrick Thomas (I miss him... where is he?).  So, the guy, let's call him Hector taps my friend Christine on the shoulder and proceeds to do the WHOLE dance from the scene were the song plays in Save the Last Dance, the fancy footwork, the Michael Jackson spins and even the part where Sean Patrick Thomas gets up close with Julia and proceeds to do this cat and mouse, back and forth, urban tango - here see for yourself:

I apologize for the poor quality - I didn't do it. 

Anyway, my friend, Christine - who was/is hands down, the best dancer in my college circle, turned into a cross between Kevin James from Hitch and Hugh Grant in Love Actually - she just couldn't keep up with his obviously well-thought out and meticulously practiced routine.   I mean, what else would you expect? Most of us don't live in a musical, prepared to break out into choreographed routines at any given moment.  Except Hector... Hector was made for moments like that.

To this day, it is one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

The day I sat down to finish my novel, this story popped into my head  It all just reminded me of how awesome is to be different.  How awesome it is to own it.  If there is nothing else I hold on to in my life.  It has to be that.

I have to call Christine and remind her of that... I need a good laugh.

*names changed

Love and Light,
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