Monday, November 30, 2009

Whew.

I've got one more post on Twilight on the runway and then NaBlogWriMo is done!

What do you all that? The endless blogging a success? A wincing nightmare of self-indulgent ranting? Weigh in!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Defense of Twilight, even though I hate it; Part--Oh,who cares what part it is.

Just letting you know that, yep. Still hate Twilight. But I still much to say!

Related to my entry two days ago, this entire article treats girls like they are stupid. Except for points 13, 18, 19 and 20, which are actually funny.

Second, I think one of the things Twilight does do well is explore the beauty, intensity, and untamed nature of a girl's sexual awakening. I might roll my eyes at the overblown language when I read about Edward sparkling in the sun, but that's exactly how it feels. I'm about to be heterosexist for a while - forgive me.

When a girl looks at a guy's chest (ass, crotch, arms, hands, back - you get the idea) and gets her first nose full of hot testosterone, your entire being flips around. Trust me when I tell you that Bella's rhapsodizing about Edward's crystalline skin is pretty damn tame compared to the things girls think about when they discover just what that turns them on.

Fiction allows us to revisit the cathartic, life-changing moments of our existences. A woman's first flush of arousal is so amazing, so overwhelming, and so important that we read to reinforce all the lessons we learn from it. We get to find that wonderful, ripe, glorious feeling of sexuality, of power, of delight in our bodies, without the negative side effects of judgment, dissatisfaction, or shame.

I think reclaiming that moment of pure ownership of our senses is something all humans must do. The chills, the excitement, the way the hormones made you feel like champagne flowed through your veins instead of mere blood - the world needs more of that joyous feeling.

If you're a writer, go write some thing that makes you remember an awakening. If you express yourself in other ways, do that instead. If you are in love, tell that someone that you desire how maddening their scent is or the brush of their skin on yours makes you moan.

Reclaim that tension that Bella has discovered again for us.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cheater's post

I ended up with a nasty computer virus today. My husband, The Charming Man, spent hours and hours getting me back up and running.

It's been a very long day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Back on Track. And pissed off.

Ok, back to In Defense of Twilight, even though I hate it: Part Three.

As you may or may not know, I have a degree in Library and Information Science. Save the Dewey Decimal jokes - I've heard them all. We're going into the jungle of literary criticism today.

Library school gives you amazing perspective on popular culture. The criticisms aimed at Twilight for being misleading, wrong-headed, and a bad example to our youth have been fired at writing as far ranging as Harry Potter to E. B. White to the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew to Tom Swift.

Yes, I'm serious.

Literary critics used to claim that reading these kinds of books as akin to feeding your child poison. After all, children are weak minded, you know.

To all the people who tell me that Twilight is going to tell women to fall for a gross, stalkery freak, I have one thing to say.

Women are not stupid.

Could it be possible that females are perfectly capable of discerning the difference between fantasy and reality??

When a young woman makes a poor choice in a mate, the example she's using comes from up close and personal observation of adults around her.

Not fictional characters.

If we honestly thought that women yearned for maltreatment, why don't we believe that every man reading a James Bond novel yearns to be shot, stabbed, tossed out of airplanes, dunked in arctic ice cold water, and have no emotional life to speak of?

Of course that is ridiculous - because we don't think men are stupid.

Why should we think our girls are stupid, impressionable, and helpless? Reading about Waif Bella does not turn a girl into a passive Waif. Reading about James Bond, the man with no sense of self-preservation, does not make a boy into a moron who thinks that getting shot is just business as usual.

Twilight (and romance) is popular because girls and women know it is fantasy. They get to experience what it is like to be passive Bella, or pretend they are dangerous Edward (more on that next time), or even learn how very wet the Pacific Northwest is.

What would the world look like if we believed that women were smart?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Caring for your instrument, part whatever.

While I was working out this morning, I came to the conclusion that even though I write with my hands, my bad knees have distracted me too long (like, since High School).

So I plan to call a physical therapist* after the holiday and see what can be done. If I don't blog about it, nag me to make sure I do it!

Oh, and

I hope you had a superb Thanksgiving. :)





*After many years of seeing a chiropractor for my headaches, I realized I wasn't getting better. I went to a physical therapist, got some amazing exercises, and now I have hardly any. And when I do get one, I know what to do!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sidetrack: Examples of The Waif

The prototype of The Waif is, of course, Cinderella. Some say Sleeping Beauty was a Waif, but I always felt her passivity was born out of her family keeping her ignorant of her danger instead of teaching her how to save herself.

Other famous Waifs are:

Ilsa Laszlo in Casablanca
Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz
Juliet in Romeo and Juliet
Amanda in The Glass Menagerie

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Defense of Twilight, even though I hate it; Part Two

Today is the discussion of the Return of the Waif. *insert drum flourish here*

For anyone who is not as insane for archetypes as I am, here is quick introduction to The Waif from The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Cowden, LaFever, and Viders.

The Waif projects a child-like innocence, a soul-stirring susceptibility. She is naive, enigmatic, yet reslient. Everyone she meets wants to save her, but she can surprise people with her incredible inner strength and fortitude. She touches the vulnerable place deep inside all of us with her soft touch and wistful glance.... Her delicate fragility makes her an easy target. She always seems between a rock and hard place. She adapts to any situation she falls into without complaint. The Waif does not fight back; instead, she endures untold hardships untils she is rescued. (pg 76)

Bella is the Waif. Her purity is not merely her virginity, but also a sense of being unspoiled by greed, temper, or the cruelties of the world. She is also trusting and (more or less) kind. I personally find she is far too good of an example of the failings of the waif: impressionable, passive, insecure, and isolated. (pg. 77) As a Waif, Bella lets other people control her destiny, rather than pursuing her own interests. She's not even sure what her interests are.

Fairly obviously, the Waif has fallen out of favor with modern writers. I personally find it dull to write someone who refuses to act. But there is a reason why she is making a resurgence in literature.

The Waif appeals to the exhausted side of our personalities. The Waif rarely fights back or initiates action. Instead, she allows life to surprise her and take her where it goes.

Even the most motivated of self-starters get tired. There is something refreshing about letting go and allowing something or someone else to run your existence. And wouldn't it be restful to expect the best once in a while, rather than always anticipating the worst?

I think readers like Bella because everyone needs someone to take care of them every so often. It feels good to imagine taking your hands off the plow and letting another person till the soil.

I must admit, though, that I like it when a Waif decides to risk the blisters and dirt of her own labor.

I wonder if Bella ever will.

Monday, November 23, 2009

In defense of Twilight, even though I hate it: Part One

I have a lot of legitimate criticisms of Twilight. I read the first book, and never even tried any of the sequels. I have a strong disdain for passive heroines, and Bella is about as passive as it gets.

However, this is not about my baggage. It's about what makes this series resonate with so many people.

Let's talk about one aspect of Bella's passivity - namely, that you don't have to do anything to be considered worthy of love. You just have to be you.

We all seek to earn love - we get good grades (or bad grades), keep a clean house, save money, wear the right clothes and the right perfume, know all the outrageous sex tips, try to read someone's mind....

You get the picture.

But Bella is the object of Edward's obsession merely by sitting around, sleeping, and smelling really really good- all on her own. No special powers, no twisting herself into something she's not for approval, no Cinderella-type makeover to make someone notice her.

How powerful and hopeful of a message is that?!

You. Don't. Have. To. Earn. Love.

It's a radical thought in a society that tells women how they need to act to 'get a man'.

Twilight isn't my cup of tea, but it beats The Rules any day of the week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No fear?

A dear friend of mine has characters and stories roaming her head. She wants, no, yearns to write.

Just like the rest of us, she is frightened.

Writing is scary stuff. Let's list a few of the things that can scare someone.

  1. Rejection by publishers.
  2. Rejection by agents.
  3. Rejection by friends and family.
  4. The possibility that you really DO suck.
  5. The possibility that you might learn something about yourself that you didn't want to know. (I was pretty surprised that I wrote vampire stories. I wanted to write screw-ball comedies).
  6. Bad reviews.
  7. Good reviews.
  8. Not getting published which leads to...
  9. Feeling like you've wasted your time.
  10. Not making money.
Not too shabby for about five minutes of thinking on what scares me, eh?

These fears are real. They stop people in their tracks every day. They even stop me from time to time.

I have no easy answers about how to not be afraid. In fact, these fears are important. You have to look at them and say, "Well. What if I do suck? What if my work does gets rejected from now until the end of time?"

The payoff might not be worth the pain. If so, then congratulate yourself, and realize that there are many other dreams waiting for you! Maybe you will find fulfillment in improv comedy or Linux open-source work.

Make your fears work for you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's the difference...

between not blogging because I have literally been away from my keyboard for the last two days (not even able to check my email!) and not blogging because I didn't feel like it??

The end result is the same, but it certainly feels different!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My brain is a strange place.

Just how would a totalitarian regime based on fun instead of fear operate???

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back in the saddle again.

I'll be honest- yesterday's post was a little bit of a cheat, but I'm back on track today.

I want to talk more about Getting Things Done. Here's a section of the back blurb:

David Allen's premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax.... From core principles to proven tricks, Getting Things Done can transform the way you work and live, showing you how to pick up the pace without wearing yourself down
I'll be honest. Before I read the book, that sounded like so much snake oil, thank you so very much. Then three things changed my mind.

On page 15 (of my copy, at least), he says:

Why Things are on Your Mind
Most often, the reason something is one your mind is that you want it to be different than it currently is, and yet:
  • you haven't clarified exactly what the intended outcome is;
  • you haven't decided what the very next physical action step is; and/or
  • you haven't put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust.
Then, in Chapter Three (I love this chapter), Mr. Allen discusses two crucial and related points that just blew my mind the first time I read the book.

First, he talks about clarifying the purpose behind a project. For example:

It never hurts to ask the 'why' question. Almost anything you're currently doing can be enhanced and even galvanized by more scrutiny at this top level of focus. Why are you going to your next meeting? What's the purpose of your task? Why are you having friends over for a barbeque in the backyard? Why are you hiring a marketing director? Why do you have a budget?...

To know and be clear about the purpose of any activity are prime directives for clarity, creative development, and cooperation.
And then comes my very favorite part.

Here are three basic steps for developing an outcome/vision:
  1. View the project from beyond the completion date
  2. Envision "WILD SUCCESS"! (Suspend "Yeah, but...")
  3. Capture features, aspects, qualities you imagine in place

How many people encourage you to envision not just success, but WILD SUCCESS? In a world where the most common reactions to someone's bold dream is, "How will you support yourself?" or "Grow up" or even "Get a haircut and get a real job", the mere act of seeing what your idea of greatness is will inspire and thrill you.

My WILD SUCCESS is not just about NYT Bestseller List (but believe me, that is right up there!). It's about sharing beauty, ideas, and making the world a better place, even in a very small way.

What is your WILD SUCCESS?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Place holder post

Sorry I missed blogging yesterday- I was immersed in the wonderful world of Saqra's First November Belly Dance Showcase.

I loved it. It was a wonderful way to kick off the holiday party season. More later!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lazy Saturday morning

Today seems like a good day to talk about what books I think every writer should have. We all have our favorites, so why not share mine? ;)

If you only have one book on your shelf, make it Getting Things Done by David Allen. Too many people suffer from feeling overwhelmed by their dreams, wishes, and to-do lists. GTD (as the hipsters put it) shows you the way to feeling calm, creative, and on top of your game. If you don't have it, buy it, get it from the library, borrow it. It's a quick but intense read, and it'll make you much happier.

My next few are more writer-based.

I adore Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life. Her section on dealing with rejection should be required reading for every single person who yearns to write. No where else have I seen such down-to-earth and funny insights into why people say no, and how to cope with it.

A tacky title, but an awesome book is Write Away by Elizabeth George. I really like her comments on research, setting (my weakness), and brainstorming on her characters. It saved me a lot of hassle.

Old-school is awesome, so I suggest kicking it with Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. She debunks the myth of someone stealing your ideas, tells you how to get started, and gives wonderful suggestions for feeding your head.

What do you keep on your reference shelf?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Well.

Some days, you just have to take a nap.

:)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I love deadlines!

Deadlines are another trick I use to get myself to work. I love them because I can then play the, "I am so superior!" card when I beat the deadline.

And when I make it right on time, I can say, "Damn, I'm good!"

The only downside is - I hate having to move my deadlines when things are going poorly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remember.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tips and tricks.

Let's be honest. We all experience insecurity and fear about our writing. Everything from "It sucks", to "I suck" and everything in between.

It can paralyze an artist in a quagmire of self-loathing misery. Sometimes, though, it's possible to make a few steps out this nasty, leech-ridden, malaria-infested swamp

I call upon my 'tricks' to make it easier to find a shortcut. Here's few of my favorite tricks in no particular order, in a handy numbered list for quick reference. :)

  1. Change writing locations. I'll write in the library, different rooms in the house (I'm writing this now on my second floor landing), a coffee-shop (Starbucks is a cliche for a reason, folks!), or even just go outside. Something about a different visual geography can shake me out of a funk.
  2. Bribery is both functional and traditional. One of my critique partners says, "I don't need a lollipop every time I finish five pages." Well, I'm not nearly that mature. I love to bribe myself with hot baths, visits with my friends, a good movie - you name it. I try to avoid bribing myself with food, though. That way lies getting stuck in the different quagmire of body image issues.
  3. Ask for help. Somewhere out there, someone believes in you. Give them a call or an email. Say, "I'm going in. Cover me!" For some reason, this works really really well.
  4. Set a timer. When I'm exhausted and nearly falling out of my chair, I can fulfill my promises to myself by setting a timer for however long, and then letting myself rest.
  5. Read your work aloud. Something about hearing the story usually gets me ready to rock and roll.
  6. Crank your tunes. Turn that knob to eleven. Let the music drown out all those nasty, self-defeating voices.
What are some of your favorite tricks?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Freakatude.

I will admit it. There is nothing to be ashamed of, for these are enlightened times. We can confess to all our weirdnesses. So I will say it and I will say it loud.

I like to work out.

Please put down the breakable objects. It's really not that strange.

I like to work out for a couple of very simple reasons. First, it makes me feel better. It combats chronic pain and the depressive tendencies of the Pacific Northwest winter.

Second, it means I write better. When I exercise, my body tolerates writing for longer periods of time with no pain. When I exercise, I focus more easily on what I need.

I call my workout "Caring for my Instrument." Painters know they need to clean their brushes to create the images they see in their heads. Carpenters know they can't shape wood with dull tools. Musicians know that poorly tunes saxophones or tubas or violas aren't going to do their careers any favors.

If my sciatic nerve feels like a hot wire thrust down the back of my leg, if my wrists, elbows, shoulders, back, and neck hurt - well, I'd be better off turning off my computer and crawling back under the covers.

And really? Writing is a lot more fun than hiding in bed. :)

How do you care for your instruments?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY!

Somehow, I don't think my monster truck announcer voice translates well into text, but it was worth a shot.

Because I really wanted to say --

Pancakes, PANCAKES, PANCAKES!

My beloved Charming Man is making his world class pancakes for Sunday breakfast.

Sometimes, life is good. :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Raphael to Foxy Brown: Part Three

You might be wondering why in heavens name I did such oddball stuff last Tuesday. Well, I've learned that the word-creating part of my brain loves the visual arts. The more I immerse myself in art, history, and live performances, the better I write.

So back on the road from High Art to Popular Culture. :)

After I wrote on Tuesday afternoon, I took a break and watched Foxy Brown. I had never seen this movie before.

My first thought is that Pam Grier should be in every movie ever made. What a powerhouse actress! And quite possibly one of the most beautiful women ever.

My second reaction was one of profound discomfort - which is a very good thing. I was too young to be aware of social conditions in the early 1970's. While I remember the trailers for many of the blaxploitation movies, I certainly wasn't old enough to see them. Seeing how racial relations have changed (and haven't) made me determined to make sure that my characters are not white by default.

Will I screw up? Probably. Will I try to do write characters with rich backstory and strong emotions? I will absolutely do my best.

The point of these three posts is simple - a writer grabs inspiration from everything. No one can afford to dismiss any kind expression, because sometimes the 'disposable' arts will bring some of the most profound inspiration.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Raphael to Foxy Brown: Part two

The next exhibit I went to was China Design Now.

There's something wild, energetic, and disorienting about leaving a highly contemplative experience and being plunged into an environment pumping with modern Chinese pop music, color, and unfettered boldness.

Raphael's delicate sfumato technique with its lack of definite lines and serene atmosphere left me feeling very peaceful.

China Design Now with its youthful vigor was like a bracing splash of cold water. Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen are now dominated by a younger population who are curious, mischievous, and fearless.

The museum showed graphic design from CD labels, animation, and prints exploring the nature of Chinese calligraphy to radical architecture ideas, haute couture (which I fell madly in love with. Chinese haute couture is wonderful!), music, and movie making.

Color, line, and the reality of living in some of the most crowded cities in the world shoved me out of my complacent calmness and into thinking about a global identity. Problem solving is a major goal of mine. I left Raphael with admiration for his technique and his ability to create delicate emotions.

I left China Design Now ready to give my best to the social problems of today.

Which is the better art? And does it matter?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

From Raphael to Foxy Brown: Part One of Three

The Portland Art Museum is currently hosting two exhibits that will blow your mind wide open. I visited them on Tuesday, and that evening, watched Foxy Brown. This is the story of how the different kinds of art can affect you. Or more accurately, me.

The first exhibit is a special showing of Raphael's incomparable La Velata (Woman with the Veil). The Art Museum's website has all the details, but you'll have to read all that there. I want to talk about the emotional impact of art.

Setting plays a huge part in the way visual art speaks to the viewers. La Velata is being displayed by herself in a single room. Only a limited number of patrons are allowed in at one time to avoid crowds.

In this black curtained room, her ornate gold frame captures the light and surrounds her with an angelic glow. Raphael's sfumato technique gives her face and clothing a soft, serene look. Her gaze goes directly to you, no matter where you are standing.

This is what I wrote in my journal after viewing her.

Her eyes are direct, but also peaceful. There is an air of alertness, but not of fear. She is alive and serene at the same time.

Her jewelry is exquisite. Carnelian at her neck, pearl bobs in her hair, and the black ribbons at her bodice indicate not only her status, but invite the viewer (or more accurately, me!) to contemplate the nature of adornment. And makes us (more accurately, me) want to make sure we have shown ourselves love by decorating our bodies.

Her veil glows.

She makes me lower my shoulders and release my tension. For though she looks very young, her face is both compassionate and no-nonsense.

As I wandered the rest of the museum's gallery of Renaissance art, I compared the serenity of La Velata to the action-oriented pieces in the collection. Her elegance and seeming simplicity left me wanting more, whereas the more violent pieces made me scurry by, not wanting to ruin the contemplative feeling she gave me.

Next up?

China Design Now - an overwhelming and exciting display of modern design from Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaBlogWriMo?

Last night, a friend of mine challenged me to National Blog Writing Month. Better late than never, I say.

So, a few days into November, I will now attempt to write a blog entry every day.

*bites nails*

For my first entry, here is something I found online (but with no attribution, so if you know who wrote this, let me know!!)

How to feel miserable as an artist
(or, what not to do. Underline any that currently apply)

  1. Constantly compare yourself to other artists
  2. Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.
  3. Base the success of your entire career on one project.
  4. Stick with what you know.
  5. Undervalue your expertise.
  6. Let money dictate what you do.
  7. Bow to societal pressures.
  8. Only do what your family would love.
  9. Do whatever the client/customer/gallery owner/patron/investor asks.
  10. Set unachievable/overwhelming goals. To be accomplished by tomorrow.
What do you fall into? I'm a sucker for #1, 2, 3, 5, and 10. Especially 1 and 10 together.

Can't you just hear it?

"Jayne Ann Krentz puts out how many books a year?! I'd better get seventy-five pages in by tomorrow!!

Yep. Works every time, let me tell you.