Friday, November 18, 2011

First Impressions

Before Pride & Prejudice was published as Pride & Prejudice, it was a manuscript known as First Impressions. And so I thought this excerpt from The Jane Austen Book Club was perfect:

Sylvia's first impression of Allegra was that no one had ever before had such a beautiful baby.
Jocelyn's first impression of Grigg was that he had nice eyelashes and a funny name, and didn't interest her in the slightest.
Prudie's first impression of Bernadette was that she was startling to look at and dull if you listened, which you hardly ever had to do.
Bernadette's first impression of Prudie was that, in all her long years, she had rarely seen such a frightened young woman.
Grigg's first impression of Jocelyn was that she appeared to think sharing an elevator with him for a few floors was some sort of punishment.
Allegra's first impression of Sylvia was blurred with her first impression of the larger world. For me? she'd asked herself back when she had no words and no way to even know she was asking. And then, when Sylvia, and then, when Daniel had first looked into her eyes -- More for me? 
Purchase Now from Amazon: The Jane Austen Book Club (movie tie-in)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler

Rating: 4 stars
Shelf: Reading Now

Incredibly, incredibly surprising. I really never count on the books that are the inspirations for chick flicks to be very good. The only one I can think of actually enjoying reading was Bridget Jones. Other than that, Under the Tuscan Sun was pretty disappointing and I preferred the movie. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was another one I couldn't get through. Yet, I love the movie so much.

So, when I saw this calling out to me at the bookstore, I carefully skimmed the first few pages just to make sure I liked the language. I could tell immediately that it was very unlike the movie (which I love). And I could tell that THAT fact was entirely to the novel's benefit. The story is gorgeous and well-told. We get a bigger picture of who each character is. Each is much better fleshed out.

In the movie, there are lines and situations which annoy me about some of the characters. These lines were often stolen straight from the book - but removed from the context so that instead of flowing as beautifully and having as much impact as it does in the book, it falls flat.

So, in essence, I don't know if I'll ever be satisfied with a movie I had once loved so much in the past.

At least both put you in the Austen state of mind!

Purchase Now from Amazon:  The Jane Austen Book Club (movie tie-in)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life Among the Savages - Shirley Jackson

Rating: 4 stars
Shelf: Reading Now

In this memoir, Shirley Jackson writes beautifully and hilariously about the growth of her family, from two, to three, and finally four children. She captures their constantly changing and charming personalities by describing often ridiculous family conversations around the dinner table.

But, what I found most interesting about the memoir was the social aspect. Shirley Jackson - author of The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (and more) - is obviously a brilliant woman. But she's often caught up in feeling guilty over her lack of housewife ability.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Shirley describes going to the hospital to have her third child. The nurse asks her for her name and occupation. Shirley can't at first remember her name and tells her that she is a writer. The nurse insists that she "just put housewife." When the nurse asks for her husband's occupation, Shirley tells her to just put housewife.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Life Among the Savages

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Exercise (For Me)

I'm busy cranking away at NaNoWriMo. I fell a little behind over the weekend, but not so far behind that I couldn't easily catch up. The goal for today is 13,336. I'm currently at 10,759 - a difference of 2,577 words. Not too shabby, I think.

I got a little stuck on the chapters that I'd decided to get out of the way because I knew I was going to hate writing them. These chapters are located in the middle of the book and are the only three that are semi-based in reality. I always get tripped up on this. I think I've written about it before. I become so focused on getting it right, getting it exactly how it happened, that the narrative suffers for it. Greatly. I finally "finished" (I'm about 3,000 words short of where I wanted to be with each chapter) 2 of the 3 pseudo-reality chapters and decided to go back to the beginning, which is all make-believe. I'm much happier there.

Still, for all that I hate writing memoir, or memoir-ish chapters, I started thinking back to dear old Anabel & Paul - the novel I was working on for last year's NaNoWriMo and which I'm currently editing/polishing/finishing(?). I started taking a writing class Wednesday's after work and decided to use the class to aid in my editing, to try and get reactions from an actual audience about my characters. In re-reading Chapter One, I realized how much I use from my own life to flesh out the characters and the home.

So that's why this exercise is for me. I wanted to go through and see how much of myself I insert and, from there, try and determine how I can better work/edit the memory-based chapters I'm working on now.

- “Ana,” he grumbled.: Ana is a name I use for a lot of my characters. It has everything to do with my work with and study of eating disorders in college.

- The door had its knob in the center instead of to the side,: The door to my Grandfather's second house had the knob in the center. I loved it.

and a multicolored granny square blanket that her Nana had crocheted when she was a little girl.: I don't think my Nana ever actually crocheted me anything. But she did crochet and she was my Nana. Actually, she taught me crochet basics, so I guess that's something.

- but since he disliked being baited, he said nothing and continued fiddling with the part in his dark corner.: I HATE being baited and will often make situations extremely uncomfortable if that's what you're trying to do, just by simply not asking. I was working on a project with a girl in class once, someone I had only just met, and she kept hemming and hawing over something semi-tragic that had happened to her that weekend. But, she wasn't actually coming out and saying what it was. She definitely wanted me to ask. I didn't.

- She put down her copy of Little Women on the bench beside her: I read Little Women for the first time around this time last year and resolved to make it a yearly, Christmas time read. I already have the movie on constant rotation during the holidays.

- Anabel’s eyes were one blue, one brown. The pupil in her brown eye was shaped like a lima bean, disfigured from the time her younger brother loaded a snowball with a rock and aimed for her face.: Weird that I attributed this to a female character when it comes from a boy who I was in (puppy) love with in grade school. His eyes were the same and I believe it was because his brother threw a snowball at him that was loaded with a rock.

- and a bag of peppermint tea from the tea canister on the wooden shelf above the stove.: Peppermint tea is my favorite!

- she smiled, tilting her head in his direction: Not that this is personal, but I picture the way that Rachel McAdams looks at Mark Brendanawicz (who cares what his real name is?) at the end of The Family Stone, when they're hanging the last ornament on the tree.

What about you? How much of your own personality do you tend to insert in your writing? And if you don't, if you prefer to keep your writing solidly based in fiction, why? What's your process? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Launched!

It's that time of year again. When I resign myself to writing 50,000 words in a mere thirty days. When I actually take the time to write. Make excuses FOR my writing, instead of against it. Every year the process is horrifying, daunting - overwhelming. Yet somehow, by the time fall hits each year, I've forgotten the pain and can only look towards November and NaNoWriMo with anticipation.

My past two years were a... failure? Year One, I abandoned pretty early on. I didn't like what I was writing coupled with the fact that I was using someone else's personal experiences to write the story. It was all just wrong and devastating. Year Two, I plodded along full steam ahead until about 35,000 words. I only quit because of a different, more lucrative opportunity. Year Three? I've finished editing the gargantuan ms. I've moved to a new place - a happier place. A place more conducive to my creative exploits. I'm taking writing classes with women who foster my creativity. And - I have a decent idea. I think I'll make it.

Yesterday, East Line Books hosted a launch party. Launch party it shouldn't be called, actually. Because a few people showed up expecting a PARTY and were a little more than disappointed to find us all silently working at our tables. How is this fun? Seriously, though. How did I have so much fun?

For me, it's wonderful just to be in that environment. Surrounded by other writers who are silently working, silently struggling, silently hoping. It's universal. And not only that, to write in one of the most gorgeous  bookstores I've ever been in, surrounded floor to ceiling by books! The smell of them! How could that not be fun?

Excerpts from "A Kentucky Love Story"

One I love:

Tobacco mixed with saliva in his mouth. Instead of aiming for the rusty tin can which had been set next to his rocking chair for just such an occasion, Brent Engell chose to careen the sloggish brown mixture toward the bushes at the edge of his porch. The spit hung precariously from a barren branch before slowly stretching itself thin and falling to the ground with a satisfying plunk.  A lone fly, quicker on the uptake than its brothers who buzzed incessantly in Brent’s ear, alighted from the can and hovered over the freshest dropping. Brent grunted and continued to clean his rifle.
It was hunting season in Kentucky for the muzzleloaders.

And another not so much:

A hawk took off into the sky from somewhere deep within the woods. A smaller bird fretted around it, seeming to fight off the larger, more dangerous bird. Brent watched as the hawk soared high and away from its tiny prey. The smaller bird settled back into the treetops and the hawk began to circle, giving the area where the bird had disappeared an extremely wide berth at first, but gradually coming in, ready but willing to wait. To lull its prey into a false sense of security as it burrowed safely back into its warm nest amongst the already changing leaves.

Ugh... how do you even fix that? But that's what so freeing about NaNoWriMo. I stared at that for a while and started to try and edit it. But I thought, NO. I've written it. It counts for my NaNo count and that's that. When November's over and done, then I'll edit. Move on. Keep writing.

Are participating this year? What are some of your strategies for staying on task?

Visit my profile if you'd like to be writing buddies. I'd love to hear about what you're working on!

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