Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Show Not Tell

I apologize for the prolonged absence. I am sorry to inform you that I've been spending all my time with another blog. Please understand that just because I now have not only one, but two new blogs, it doesn't mean I love you any less. You were my first, and you will always have a special place in my heart, even though I may not get to spend as much time with you.

Now...

Non-Smoking Status:
Quite good, actually. I've only had two packs of cigarettes in three weeks. But, having negative dollars in my bank account kinda helps, you know, in those "hmmm, do I eat today, or buy a pack of smokes?"

Novel Status:
Also quite good. 41,440 words. Yes, the numbers are dropping again.

I've taken dozens of creative writing classes, seminars, and workshops and been teaching creative writing for 16 years. I've been writing poetry for 24 years, short stories for 20, screenwriting for 10 and now a novel for 2.

And a lightbulb just went on inside my head. Unbelievable.

I've been preaching the SHOW not TELL mantra for years. It's an important one. Especially, in poetry where people tend to write these unbearable "My soul lives in a dark, eternal abyss" poems. Yeah.

I've always been able to catch the "telling" in other's work, and fought against it in my own. But for some reason, maybe just repeating the mantra so many times, I now see it more clearly in my student's work, the novels I read, and best of all - my own work.

The latest rewrite of the novel feels so good, because I'm taking away all the talk and replacing it with image. A lot of this "lifting the clouds" I attribute to reading many, many 1st pages posted over on Ms. Snark. And also reading a bunch of middle grade novels.

Okay, pushing on. It's crazy. I'm producing a film festival in 5 weeks. Baby comes home in 2 1/2 months. We get to move May 1st. And I've scheduled my book tour for September/October. Really! It's on my calendar.

Interesting Fact of the Day

It was Franz Kafka who developed the safety helmet, popularly known today as the "hard hat." Soldiers had been wearing helmets for centuries, but usually only for combat. Before Kafka, apparently nobody had seriously tried to adopt the military helmet for civilian use on construction sites or factory floors, let alone demand its use, as Kafka did. He was appalled by the number of fatal occupational head injuries reported to the Institute, and received a medal for this invention in 1912, because it reduced Bohemian steel mill deaths to fewer than 25 per 1,000 employees.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stuff On My Cat

I just had to share this.

One of my favourites:


And no, I don't have too much time on my hands.

(And yes, this would definitely qualify as a disapproving cat.)

Monday, January 8, 2007

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Happy Hooker

Blog of the Week: Miss Snark (see sidebar)

In which the anonymous literary agent "Miss Snark" vents her wrath on the hapless world of writers and crushes them to sand beneath her T. Rexual heels of stiletto snark.

Miss Snark is indeed quite snarky and it's fun to watch her strike out at the dim-witted and the kiss-asses. However, she is also quite generous and informative when dealing with serious writers who have done some research (and can actually read instructions).

If you have ever thought about sending a query to an agent for any piece of storytelling, you should check out her Happy Hooker Crap-o-Meter (HH COM) in which she allows bloggers to submit a 250 word "hook" during a 24 hour window. She posts all the entries and writes what she thinks of the hook (and so do her fans, who can be just as snarky). Her last Crap-o-Meter garnered almost 700 submissions and she read and commented on them all. She is currently doing a "round two" of the ones that perked her interest, during which the lucky contestants got to submit the first pages of their novels.

Round one of her HH COM comments ends with entry #682 on Dec 30.

My interest was not always perked when hers was and it became obvious that we enjoy different types of stories (she admits that she doesn't read much sci-fi / fantasy). However, 9 times out of 10 we had the same responses to the quality of the "hooks" no matter what the genre. Plus, it was also a very interesting look at what kinds of things Jack and Jill Q. Public are writing these days. A LOT of recurring themes.

I was also very pleased to see that no one came close to having a story line like mine (albeit some very general kinds of things like magical elements, going on a quest, having to leave a protected realm, etc).

Saturday, January 6, 2007

More tales from HERE not THERE

Just for fun I thought I'd post an entry from my travel journal. Other than this blog and sometimes keeping track of my dreams, I only journal when I travel. I don't know why. I've always equated it with school assignments, I suppose. Although I did find myself journaling for a while after my Dad died. Mostly because my friend Erin (who drove me to the airport when my Dad went into the hospital) bought me a journal and told me to write in it. And yes, I do everything Erin tells me to.

19/20 - Dec - 2006 Train from Paris to Madrid
I meet Maiti in my compartment. Originally from Madrid, she now lives in Paris. She speaks Spanish, French, and English ("Not so good," she laughs, embarrassed. Ha! Better than either MY French or Spanish). She says she misses her family and also finds the French to be cold, grumpy, and always complaining. If I could have understood them, I might have known. She prefers the Metro in Madrid as well. "More room and cleaner." She says the French distrust each other, but this could simply be the effects of such a large population. although, checking my Lonely Planet Guide, Madrid's population is greater than Paris'. I would not have guessed.

Ken and I are in separate sleeping compartments because Spain doesn't allow men and women to sleep in the same compartments on the train. I meet him in the train cafe at 21:30. His compartment-mate Louis (from Madrid) is already a 1/2 bottle of wine ahead of us. The car has a festive atmosphere. A half dozen dark young men speak in fast-paced lines, toast each other and laugh. I begin practicing my Spanish. It flows easier from my tongue than French. Una botella media vino tinto, por favor! I have no idea if I put the sentence together properly, but the cashier smiles and hands us a 1/2 bottle of red wine, so at least I'm understood. After wine, Baby and I kiss and separate for the evening.

There's another Spanish girl in our compartment now. She smiles shyly at me in that "I don't speak English" kind of way and I give her the American version of same smile. Maiti talks to us both, switching languages and translating.

I discover I like sleeping compartments on trains. Although my rest is disturbed by strange dreams, I still love everything about it. The cozy room. The little surprise packages of water, towelettes, toothbrushes, soap, and earplugs. Sleeping to the rhythm of the clicks in the tracks. The movement. The sleeping through movement. The feeling of going somewhere while dreaming. Momentum. I find comfort in it. That someone else is driving while I lie and dream. I decide that whenever possible I will travel in a sleeping compartment on a train.





Palacio de Cristal,
Parque de Buen Retiro,
Madrid
21/12/06






~ ~ ~ ~ ~





At 8 am a buzzer goes off somewhere outside of my head. We slowly stir awake and I grin at Maiti across the bunk beds. I get dressed and find bleary-eyed Baby in the breakfast car, Louis having kept him up all night with frequent visits to the bathroom without his room key. Ah, vino!

9:30 and we're in the station, sleepy and dazed, as we adjust to the new language. We book our reservations for the train to Portugal and then find the metro. Maiti was right. It is cleaner and roomier. We emerge smack in the middle of busy old town Madrid. On the corner, a man with no arms begs for money with a small bucket of coins in his teeth. We turn the wrong way down Calle Carretas and end up in a small square. It seems like everyone knows where they are going except us. We most definitely have that lost tourist look. Perdon, I ask a stooped elderly woman, Donde esta Calle de Sevilla? No se, she responds, but tells me there's a police station around the corner and I could ask there.

We forgo the police station, certain our map-reading skills will get us to our hotel, and they eventually do. After approving of our room (two single beds we automatically push together as we have grown used to this in European hotels, a full bath with tub, plenty of storage, a TV, and a small balcony - ole!). After a nap for Ken and a bath soak for me, we're off to explore the city.

I immediately love Madrid. The narrow streets, the beautiful old architecture, the mix of reverence and celebration, the thousands of people in the streets, the bizarre combination of itmes for sale in shops - kitchy plastic flamenco dancers for tourists, sexy sequin clothing, exotic imports from Asia and Africa, polished stone jewely, and of course food! Restaurants, taverns, tapas bars, cafe's, panerias, chocolate shops, queso dealers line the streets. And the funny as hell pork-o-ramas. Jamon! Museo de Jamon! Palais de Jamon! I laugh and ask Baby if we can visit the Palace of Ham! But the display of hanging pigs wards us off.

My favourite, though, is a shop called Buddha y Jesus. An import store full of laughing Buddhas, textiles, and variations on the suffering Christ. For every shop, there's the one consistency. In every display window, no matter what the store (from the pharmacies to leather goods), rests a nativity scene.




Danika enjoys the Madrid night life.











Ken tries a traditional Madrid favourite: chocolate dipped churros!

Yes, hello, I'm here... but not there.

Non-smoking status:
Yeah... um... funny story there. I've been in Southern Portugal with Baby for two weeks and well, cigarettes are very cheap (EU$2 per pack) and the only place they don't smoke is in elevators. I swear I saw ashtrays in toilet stalls. But don't worry... we're back in London, flat broke (a temporary local circumstance of course), and cigarettes are more expensive here than going to the movies. It's enough to make one quit, er, yeah! Baby and I haven't bought a pack since we've been back and aren't planning on it.




Here I am having coffee on our balcony in "new town" Albufeira, Portugal on New Year's Eve morning.

(Canadians, fear not, that big bright spot is not an atomic bomb going off in Morocco. It's the SUN.)


Novel Status:
(see picture above)

On the Reading Pile:
I read Tithe by Holly Black just before leaving Vancouver. I wanted to see what other kind of modern faerie tales were out there. It's very dark and really meant for girls ages 13-16 with its teen angst elements (the protag's mom is a flaky, alcoholic rock singer and the girl smokes and drinks and ditches school). Not exactly my novel's audience. But I liked the book and she has a way with metaphor.

Currently reading Second Sight by Judith Orloff. Basically the autobiography of an intuitive psychiatrist and her theories on cultivating one's intuitive side and how to intigrate it with a more "scientific" practice. (i.e. family doctors who use healing touch) I'm really enjoying the book and it's reminding me about previous intuitive moments I've had in the past. It's also motivating me to start meditating again (which could be helpful in perminantly quitting smoking as well). I was in tears reading the passages about her mother's death as it reminded me so much of when my Dad died 6 months ago.

10-day Challenge Status:
I'm planning another 10 day challenge some time at the end of January. Just giving you advance warning so you can prepare yourselves. Regarding my previous queries, I'm still waiting from the two agents who asked for partials and a few who have yet to answer my original query. I did get one very nice "no thank you" from Levine Greenberg.

Baby says that dinner is ready, so I'll post more later, including more pics (to inspire you, not to make you jealous, honest).