Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Confluence

I've been revising my middle-grade novel. With my kids out of school, it's been tricky finding the quiet I need. On the flip side, having them around has also created otherwise missed opportunities.

We rented a cartoon for a family movie night. It was cute and the kids enjoyed it. I did to, but it wasn't one I wanted to rush out and buy or even watch again. Contrast that with Pixar films, Monster's University being my favorite, and my mind began to ping-pong between the two. I started to wonder how Pixar is able to create such solid, timeless and cross-generationally appealing scripts. 

My husband and I also rented a movie for us. It was a low-budget film to be fair but the script was a tragic missed opportunity--too many deus ex machina moments and one-dimensional characters. I loved it though because it forced me to take a hard look at my novel and see things with a more critical eye. 

I also picked up a book I thought my daughter would like--Bunnicula, by James Howe. Of course I started reading it first. I'm enjoying his whit and tight sentence structure. He wraps a lot of humor and character development in tiny, tidy sentence packages.

To top it off, I received my copy of One, by Kathryn Otoshi a few days ago. Every time I read it, I find something new to blow my mind. It reaches a level of picture book perfection that's almost impossible to achieve. Kathryn did work in the film industry so I wonder how much of her work with scripts, both good and not so good, informed her ability to craft such solid material. There is something to be said about learning from successes and mistakes.

Needless to say, all of these events crammed in a short space of time tricked my mind over some of its dead ends. Here's hoping for more.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Three Books That Changed You

In the video above, Neil Gaiman talks about three childhood books that changed his life. I've been trying to sort out what I'd say if I had to choose three. 

I was fortunate to be the youngest of five with a 15 year spread between me and my oldest brother. I sort of slipped into the world seven years after my sister who was number four in the line-up. Needless to say, I had an interesting childhood. 

My brothers all left the house for college when I was learning my three Rs. They all lived overseas at some point in their college years and brought back with them authors and stories I'd never heard of. One of my favorite discoveries was my oldest brother's stack of Asterix and Obelix comics that he'd stored in the extra room after one of his trips. 

Two of my brothers were big fantasy and sci-fi readers and I often took my cues from them. One of the first sets of books they got me hooked on was Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series. I read everything of hers I could get my hands on. I also went through a morbid phase reading everything by Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe and as much Frank Herbert as my teenage mind could stand. Once high school English hit, I had reading lists of authors my brothers never told me about--Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Arthur Miller--and my tastes started to shift.

If I had to narrow my list of life-changing childhood books, the Narnia series would be tops, but since Neil Gaiman already mentioned that one, I'll take it as a feeble and start with:
1) A Wrinkle in Time--Madeleine L'Engle
2) Fifteen--Beverly Cleary--I still have my original, beaten-up copy that I read a thousand times at least.
3) Jane Austen--okay it's sort of cheating to use an author, but pretty much anything she wrote, I read. I'll pick Pride and Prejudice if I'm pressed into it. 
Honorable mention to The Hundred Dresses as well. I still have my first copy. And one other book I checked out multiple times from the library, Behold Your Queen, by Gladys Malvern.

Now not everything I read as a youngster inspired me. In fact there are a few books I wish I could unread, mostly the ones I was required to read in my Honors English classes. Metamorphosis comes quickly to mind. As I Lay Dying flies up right behind it. 

Your turn. What three books (childhood books) changed your life? 

Have a great week.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Drawing--sometimes literally--From What You Know

Drawing my son did for his A stroll down the Rale Rode Line story.
One of the biggest rewards I've found from starting this writing journey is watching my children join in. They started by "illustrating" my manuscripts and have moved to writing and illustrating their own. 

I receive thousands of papers from school--turkeys made from palm prints, etc.--most of which end up recycled. The stories my children write, however, I file away. Like this one I just received, original misspellings intact:

A stroll down the Rale Rode Line
Once aboute when I was a baby we wer on a trane going mak one. They dont call it a bullit trane for nothing. We only went throw 6 tonels Bfore my hare was sticking up like a porkypine! In about ten mins We wer at our stop at the childrins muzeume ther are toys instead of pantings and fosels. Oh no I forgot to tell you I was three! Oh it says it on the first sentenc sory. As I was saying we wer at the childrins muzeume. I went in a tonel with toy bats wen we got out we wer at the pool for the muzeum. I went Houem after the pool and said "good by" to all of the kids and drove houem. the end.

I've heard of authors who wrote stories and kept journals from the moment they could hold a pencil. I can't say that was me, nor was I a big journal keeper. I did have one, but I usually used it to write scathing entries about how my parents or siblings wounded my feelings. Then I'd leave it conspicuously open where the offending party could see it and be overcome with remorse at their unconscionable offense against my person. 

As the video below shows, however, keeping a real journal can pay off, or at least drawing, and writing, from what you know, which is one reason I'm holding on to my children's stories. They may want them some day.

Before I sign off, Literary Rambles is host in a Q&A with Stephen Barbara of InkWell Management. If you have a question, you have until tomorrow noon (June 10, not sure on the time zone) to send your answer to Casey's email listed on her site. Only five question will be selected, so get on it if you're interested. 

Have a great week.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fat Men and Girdles

Well, I've done it. I've finished a working draft of a novel I've been belaboring over for a while now. Yes, it still stinks and yes, it needs major revision, but I finally got it to a place where the need for beta readers is fast encroaching. As my former college roommate would say in moments of great relief, "I feel like a fat man with his girdle undone."

In celebration for this happy occasion, I've included a brief video about revision...just to get me inspired all over again.

Have a great week.