Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm Not a Slob...I'm Just ADD

This afternoon isolated to clean up my desk area. I don't actually have some office. iWeb I moved into my house I intended to use one of the spare bedrooms, but my desk didn't fit through the door. It's a lovely piece of,furniture, an old fashioned roll top desk with a slide out shelf for placing papers. But the desk is also  monstrously large. So a corner of the living room serves as my home office , and that space is almost always cluttered with bad manuscripts of failed novels (my own. Sigh)  writing magazines, books, journals, and miscellaneous loose pages on which I have written stupendous ideas to use later. I also keep a paper bag for recycled paper nearby. This week I am on vacation so I am determined to clean this mess up.

I recycled two pieces of junk mail, then came across a photocopied article one of the Rock stars of Reference from our local,library gave me last week. I sat down and read through it. (Did I go back to cleaning? No. I started writing this blog post. I am hopeless.)

The article, from Book List, is a Will Manley column about graphic novels and their role  in developing young readers. Libraries are undergoing changes with lightning speed, and more of my school library colleagues have fallen into black holes, leaving behind ghost towns filled with lonely books and magazines. Some libraries have taken action to attract clientele by promoting graphic novels for kids who claim to hate reading in the hopes of leading them into more text based stories. Yet, as pointed out in  the Manley piece, "that's like saying you can get meth addicts into a rehab center by baiting them with [drugs] and expecting them to go clean."

If we want to develop a culture of readers, we need to read. And not just in Language Arts classes. The Common Core standards schools are adopting are not new. They are just a new name for teaching all subjects through narrative. (A new fangled name for ancient dialogues in Plato's time, and the Renaissance education.) It's the way I was taught in the late 60s and 70s, learning of the relationship of all things. As my former student Aaron miller once said during a eureka moment, "everything's connected !" 

I'm not sure this post has anything to do with any of the Scintilla prompts, but since everything's related, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Back to my stacks of papers....

Happy Writing.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Scintilla Day 3.5

This poem has a marginal connection to the “singing in the car while driving.” Prompt.  Meh. Not my best, but this time change has my brain addled.
Anyway, here goes.

Strange Days Have Found Us

We are five teenagers scouring
Vancouver streets
in the pink wet light of 2am.
Riders on the storm!
We sing-shout through open windows.
Into this life we’re born!
The bum on the street opens a stinkeye,
flips us a shaky bird,
a streetlight burns.
Into this world we’re thrown
On a runway pointing nowhere,
no flight plan.
The night on fire
Like a dog without a bone.
We are actors, all alone.

Laura Moe

Happy Writing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Lost Girl On the Road

Scintilla 3.14.13 prompt.

I chose the one where we describe an event as a set of instructions. I have written about much of what appears here in other forms, but as poet Jim Daniels said in a workshop last summer, “writers get obsessed and stay obsessed.”

A Lost Girl On the Road

1.      Have your first kiss on an abandoned runway of an airport never built because of a war. Make sure the night is moonless, yet contains stars.
2.      Let your lips linger over his. Taste the future.
3.      Feel the tectonic plates divide, swallow you whole.
4.      Lie across the front seat of his car. Run your fingers over his bare arms, breathe in the teenaged boy smell imprinted on his white T shirt.
5.      Take a snapshot of this moment. You will not be this happy again for a long time.
6.      Move away to the other side of the world shortly afterwards.
7.      Live in paradise, lost in a lonely ocean.
8.      Walk barefoot and watch men land on the moon
9.      Move to a rainy city in the Pacific Northwest and wear the wrong kind of clothes.
10.  Watch your mother die.
11.  Move to a college town in Ohio and lie to your new friends. Tell them your parents are divorced so you don’t have to say the words,“My mother is dead.”
12.  Read far too many books. Get drunk. Do drugs.
13.  Get a fake ID and go to college bars while still in high school. Date lots of young men who fail to fill the vast crater growing inside you.
14.  Eat. Never feel full. Stab yourself in the leg with a pen for no apparent reason. Leave a scar.
15.  Develop strange phobias: riding in cars, flying, driving.
16.  Move again.
17.  Start college. Drop out. Work a series of shitty jobs. Fall in love with shitty men.
18.  Restart college. Take it slow. Fourteen years. (While you work more shitty jobs.)
19.  Outgrow your phobias. Avoid shitty men. Get a cat. Get a real job.
20.  Forgive yourself.

Happy Writing.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mad Dog 2020.

It's that time of year again where crazy people like me respond to a daily prompt. Follow the link above for more information on the project. Enjoy!
Scintilla. 3 13 13 

I was a junior in high school, back in the Pleistocene when guys wore their hair as long as girls. I went on a date with my brother’s friend Mark, a sophisticated senior: an OLDER guy, AND a guitar player in a band. Mark resembled Peter Frampton with a long wavy shag, and he wore a leather bomber jacket. How cool is that? Those twelve to sixteen more months of life provided  Mark with an enormity of experience I could only view with awe. We were planning to go to a party, and  he suggested we begin the evening with a bottle of wine. I was like, wow.  Wine! And he was SO experienced he even knew what KIND of wine to buy : Mad Dog 2020. Double Wow. The name was rad, and the bottle was so cool, square and stout, with MD 2020 blazed across the label. It looked more like a bottle of whiskey than wine ,and it didn't even need a corkscrew. The wine itself  was blood red, 20% alcohol.
We sat in the front seat of Mark’s station wagon on a frigid night in the parking lot outside of Kroger, taking gulps of wine like it was cough syrup. In fact it tasted like cough syrup. This was So cool. Until it wasn't..

Before the bottle was half empty I transformed from the bookish girl in glasses who read too many books into this giddy, silly girl who had trouble pronouncing words.

We never made itto the party because I started throwing up outside Mark’s car. He got worried and took me home. Mark had to escort me inside, where my brother screamed at him. “What the hell? You got my sister drunk?” My father heard the commotion, and came out of his room tying his bath robe, yelling, “what the hell is going on out here?”

I got grounded, Mark and Paul’s friendship was at odds, but I had a new badge of honor; I had tried (and survived) Mad Dog 2020.

"A Writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it." Samuel Johnson

Happy Writing.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bad Query Contests Are Good for the Writer's Soul

Recently I participated in a Write a Bad Query Contest. Alas, I didn't win, but It was a pleasure to purposely write a bad query. It wasn't difficult; all I had to do was channel my litany of bad queries and poke fun at my own mistakes, or rather misteaks. The contest was a hoot, and I enjoyed reading the variety of submissions and comments. They all poked fun at the shared experience of crafting the dreaded yet necessary query letter.
I despise the query process. It forces me to dress up and behave, but the fabric itches, the pantyhose bind my fat, and these shoes are killing me. I’m not good at faking it. When I tried acting in High School, the audience erupted in laughter with each of my lines. It wasn’t a comedy; I had portrayed Joan of Arc’s mother in The Lark. So I wonder if each time I submit a query with a sample, the agents and office staff roar with laughter.  If  they save the best of the worst to read aloud at the annual holiday party, I wonder if some of mine are in that batch.

Here is what I wish I could send:
Dear Agent. 
Here is my book. Hope you like it. Call me.

Unfortunately, the work cannot speak for itself..We have to sell the agent on the idea of even reading the manuscript. .

About a year ago I hired a consultant to help me with the whole wretched query process. Part of the process forced me to analyze my writing history, the successes as well as the failures. Mark helped me recognize my weaknesses, which are many. (He has yet to help me cure them.) Even though I still languish in the dark, scum ridden pool of underrepresented authors, with Mark’s help, my rejections are now gold standard .
Currently I am reading The Fire in Fiction: passion, purpose, and techniques to make your novel great by agent Donald Maass. I am hoping to gain insights into what agents look for in a manuscript. Maass presents several examples of what he deems great openings, and examples of passionate writing  While I do not find every example engaging as Maass, I agree with his statement, "passionate writing makes every word a shaft of light, every sentence a crack of thunder, every scene a tectonic shift." (I plan to print that up and tape it above my work area on my desk.) So far I have only read the first two chapters, but Maass has helped me rethink some thin gs about one of the novels I have been shopping. While I have a passion for the story and the two main characters  my secondary characters are beige. Also, my story starts in the wrong place. So in effect, every agent who has rejected me has done me a favor; my novel needs surgery. (Yes, I know it's not about me, it's about the story, yet it still stings. I care about my characters and it's a little like not everyone adoring your children.)

I’m not a gamer, but it seems like like  D& D or WOW, persistence is the key, and if I don’t give up on this writing gig, the keys to the kingdom are within my reach, even though by the time I make it to gate I will be bloodied, bruised, battered, and hairless, and I will need to hire someone else to pose for my author picture so I don't scare off readers. But it will be so worth it.
Happy writing (and querying.)