Image: brian fitzpatrick via flickr

So, I just finished the entire Twilight book series in 5 days after swearing I would never read them. I blame frustration with the movies for the last week of my life. I only grudgingly saw the first two films recently & wasn’t impressed. I had no intention of seeing Eclipse, but alas, a good friend wanted to see it, so I went. While it was slightly better than the first 2 films, I still found it ridiculous & cheesy. I was the one in the theater laughing at all the wrong moments & secretly heckling under my breath. When we got out of the movie, I just wanted to know how the series ended because I wanted to know the point of the whole thing. My friend, who has read & is a fan of the books, obliged & finished the story for me. But still, I didn’t think I was getting everything. So, because I’m impatient & don’t want to wait for the final parts of the movie series to fill in the story, I decided to go to the books.

Now, why was I so steadfastly against reading this series before? Admittedly, I’m not its target audience–I’m about 2 decades older than the target audience & I have a cynical/anti-melodrama streak that runs deep. But more than that, I’d read the critiques of Meyer’s writing, her technique, & I was turned off. I admit I read bad books–some by choice & some by accident; but the skewering of Meyer’s writing skills put her on my blacklist. Besides, I am a surprise fan of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I’m not usually a sci-fi/fantasy fan, & really hadn’t read YA fiction since it was age appropriate for me. I’d read Stephen King’s comparison of the two writers, & sharing his praise of what Rowling accomplissed as a storyteller & a writer, I didn’t want to waste time with Twilight. But my impatience & a horrid cold that kept me home from work for 3 days won out. And so I proceded to read all 4 books in the series over the course of 5 days.

…and my impression now that I’m done? (more…)

Ok, just realized it’s been over 2  months since I’ve posted here. Eeks!!

How time flies!!!

Well, the biggest distraction keeping me from posting on a more regular basis is my new job. In February, in a whirlwind chain of events, I was offered & accepted an associate editor job at a magazine. This position has been the one I’ve been hoping for for sometime, & all of a sudden, on the day I decided I was officially tired of the freelance life & really wanted a full-time job with wonderful things like benefits, it magically appeared. I’d been looking for months for this exact position, & there was never anything quite right. But, there it was on one of the job boards that morning, & 8 days later it was mine. (more…)

Image: eflon via flickr

Image: eflon via flickr

I can’t imagine a world without bookstores. Of course, 5 years ago I would have said I couldn’t imagine a world without record stores. Always a record store junkie, I was slow to embrace online music sales, one, because I appreciate the actual CD, & two, just because I love the atmosphere inherent in a good record store. But for the most part, I’ve accepted browsing and shopping for my music online.

There are definitely advantages: I can listen to samples & I can buy only what I want. Admittedly, online music sales have likely increased my music buying given the fact that I can try before I buy. Still, I always make a point to stop by my favorite record store in LA–Amoeba–when I’m in the neighborhood or when I really do want the hard copy of a favorite CD. I’m thankful Amoeba, and all the other independent stalwarts, have held-out. But, I guess if they too disappeared I would survive.

However, I can’t say the same for my favorite bookstores. (more…)

I’ve never been one for borrowing books from the library. Admittedly, the major reason could be my complete inability to ever return a book on time. But, that’s not exactly it. I’ve never been one for borrowing books from the library for the same reason I’ve never been one for used bookstores: I like the feel of a brand new book. I like knowing that I am the first one to crack it open. The first one to fold down the pages to mark my place. The one to make those creases in the bind. The one whose handwriting lines the margins where I had to note an exceptionally beautiful line. But as I’ve ventured into the writing world, I’ve become an even bigger proponent of buying my books new because that’s the best way to support the writers I love. (more…)

As I’ve meandered along (ok, scraped, clawed, & tortured myself) through this novel-in-progress of mine, I’ve never seriously expected to make a living from it. Of course I’ve had the occasional daydream of such a life & of calling myself a working novelist. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’d be happy just being a full-time working writer. Admittedly, I’d like all my future writing to be spent on work I love, and not on work I need; but still, I’d just like to be able to answer that inevitable What do you do for a living question by saying I’m a writer.

Writer Steve Almond, author of (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions and The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, has an funny/interesting essay in Sunday’s LA Times Books section, Can’t Say No: Why One Writer Can’t Turn Down Any Assignments, about what it means to be a working writer & why being considered a writing “slut” isn’t such a bad thing.

It really wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Mood: Frustrated with my procrastination

Currently listing to: Wisconsin by Bon Iver

I’m expecting a book order from Amazon today. Just 3 books this time around, as I’ve realized I have quite a book backlog on my nightstand.

  • The Bell by Iris Murdoch (one on my summer reading list)
  • Best Friends by Martha Moody (a gift from a friend)
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (I keep starting this book, but can’t get past chapter 2. I should just give up, but I hate to leave books I buy unread.)
  • The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte (another one that I keep starting & can’t get through. It must have been a bad book buying day when I bought this, because I bought Love Walked In the same day.)
  • Archetypes for Writers by Jennifer Van Bergen (one of those craft books. Looks interesting. Just haven’t been in the headspace to read it.)
  • The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley (just bought last week. Will get to it.)
  • The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf (this is one that I just open up & read a story here and there when I have time.)

…and soon to arrive:

  • Straight Up & Dirty: A Memoir by Stephanie Klein (read about this book here & it sounded like a fun read. Also, I like Klein’s blog & keep meaning to read one of her books.)
  • The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg (I read her book Open House a while ago & liked it. I’ve been meaning to read something else from her. Noticed this is written in 1st person, so that made it appealing given my current needs–read below.)
  • Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design by Danielle La Porte & Carrie McCarthy (this book is part of my quest to figure myself out. Never hurts to be more self-aware.)

…and currently reading:

  • The End of the Story by Lydia Davis (half-way through & really liking this. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking to read.)

I’ve just been a slower reader than usual the last couple of months; but a apparently a very prolific book buyer. I don’t know what’s going on. Probably just a phase. Will say I’m really liking the book I’m currently reading. I think part of my reading funk has been because I can’t seem to find exactly what I want. Because my plan is to work on draft #2 in 1st person, I really want to immerse myself in 1st person. But I’m having the hardest time finding books that I want to read. Yes, there are plenty of good books out there written in 1st, but I guess I’m just looking for a certain voice. I keep walking into every bookstore I come across, pulling books off the shelves, & reading the first page. More often than not, it’s not what I’m looking for. But I guess I’m realizing that what I’m looking for is what I’m trying to write. My head wants to hear a certain voice that letting in any others, any that aren’t quite right, is just difficult.

I know what this all means. I need to write my own book.

On that front, the reading of draft #1 is taking longer than I expected. Not because I hate it or anything, I just keep saying I’ll get to it, & I don’t. This is starting to frustrate me. Yes, my procrastination & I might soon come to blows. I want to get started on draft #2, sooner rather than later. So, to get that going, I need to finish reading this & figuring out what I can take from it & what I need to do to make it better the next time around.

So, instead of saying “I plan to…”, I’m going to say: I AM WILL FINISH READING DRAFT #1 BY THE END OF THIS WEEK.

And: I AM WILL WORK ON AN ARTICLE IDEA THAT’S BEEN FLOATING AROUND IN MY HEAD THE LAST COUPLE DAYS.

I love books. (I’d be amazed to find a writer who doesn’t.) And I especially love the books I own. I know in today’s recycling crazy world, selling your used books is the thing to do. I appreciate the idea of sharing the story. But, I hold on to mine. I keep all my books. Since college I’ve held on to every single one. Admittedly a few have disappeared after being borrowed into friends’ hands & homes causing me to consider some kind of library overdue book policy for the more blatant offenders. I remember the title of each missing book. I know, I should learn to let go. But I can’t. My books are part of who I am. Looking at them, I can recall where I was when I read them & what was going on in my life at the time. The fact that I picked up each one in a bookstore, choosing that one out of thousands, bought it, brought it home, & read it, says something about what was going on in my head at that moment. When it came time to pack up and move from DC back to LA, the movers were nice enough to tell me that I could cut my moving fee in half if I’d just give up the books. But I couldn’t. I paid the $1000+ and they came along with me on this next chapter in my life.

Today, they reside in my living room. They & I have made do with white Ikea bookshelves until such a time when we can find a home with built-ins. Space considerations require that each shelf is filled left to right, top to bottom. But we’re together and that’s all that matters.

With that in mind, I was a little disturbed by this article in today’s Wall Street Journal. In her article, “Why Libraries Are Back in Style,” June Fletcher writes that there is a rising trend in personal libraries, or “memory rooms,” in people’s homes. I love that home libraries are back in style, but I’m horrified by the reason why.

This trend in libraries is not about the books Fletcher writes, “…their appeal is often about creating a certain ambiance.”

She adds:

What can make libraries more soothing than other formal rooms isn’t so much books but the framed family photographs, awards and mementos that share the shelves and define a family’s interests and identity, says McLean, Va., architect Chris Lessard. “They’re memory rooms,” he says. Because libraries are public rooms, oftentimes the books are purely decorative and don’t say as much about the family who lives there. The books that people really read, like paperback novels and how-to guides, often are kept out of sight elsewhere in the home.

….

Tucson, Ariz., interior designer Terri Taylor says she spends a lot of time scouring flea markets and bookstores for books with fancy bindings for her clients’ bookshelves. She selects books to match color schemes rather than for their content.

Yes, my “library” is a memory room, but it’s the books themselves, all read by me, that provide the memories. I have never looked at them as decorative items used to accent the knick-knacks I’ve picked up on my travels or the photos of family & friends that I’ve placed on the edges. There’s no color scheme. Although, I have tried to institute a category system. Basically, fiction with fiction & non-fiction with non-fiction. Simple but it works. It’s all there. I never hide my books & the record of what I’ve read. Hardcover and paperback peacefully coexist. The great literature, the chick lit, the history tomes, the career advice guides sit side by side. I’ve always believed that if someone really wants to know me, they should spend some time looking at my bookshelves. It’s the one place where I seem to have no problem admitting to all my odd and passing interests, & sometimes questionable taste.

I was relieved at the very end of Fletcher’s article to know that there are still people like me who appreciate books & libraries for what they are:

Similarly, author Jay McInerney and his wife, Anne Hearst, happily mix dog-eared paperbacks with first editions of Fitzgerald and Joyce in the overstuffed bookcases of both their Manhattan apartment and their Hamptons house. Mr. McInerney thinks the visual jumble of thousands of mismatched books is appealing. “If you’re not reading what’s on your bookshelves, you should find something else to decorate with,” he says.

Proof that there are still sane people in the world!!

Image: erik via flickr

Mood: Craving…a nap

Currently listening to: The evening news

This afternoon I had some time to kill so I wandered into Borders bookstore. I was browsing the fiction shelves. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to go about it alphabetically. Even if I’m looking for a specific book, if I have the time, I still start at “A” and make my way through to “Z.” You never know what you might find.

So, today I found myself stopping to see where a book written by me would be shelved. I have to say, I like the company such a book would be keeping. To my left, Eudora Welty and to my right, Edith Wharton. Not bad. All the more motivation to write something good.

Still reading draft #1. Slow going. Not necessarily because it sucks, but because this has been a long week. Still hoping to get through it by the end of the weekend. Reading it is definitely motivating me to want to start on draft #2. I want to try again. I want to start over & see if I can address some of the ticks I’m noticing in my writing. We’ll see.

Image: gadl via flickr

Found this meme here. Of all the memes I’ve done, this is probably the most blog related. So, here I go…

1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Both. My paying gig is doing newsletter, brochure, and web site writing. And, I should be doing some freelance writing, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I write fiction for pleasure. I’m not quite ready to verbalize any professional aspirations there. Let me finish this novel & then we’ll talk. (By the way, I’m answering all the following questions based on my fiction writing.)

2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

Yes. More of a writing notebook than journal these days. But there’s a little bit of both in it. I carry it with me everywhere, just in case I have a spare moment to write & am nowhere near my computer. But more often than not, I need it around because my short-term memory is horrid & if I try and remember some brilliant phrase or idea to write down when I get home, it will be lost.

3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I have an idea, but I’ve found that much of my characters’ personalities, motivations, etc., only come out once I’ve started writing. It wasn’t until about half-way through my 1st draft that I really could get a handle on my characters’ thoughts and motivations. Even now, going into my 2nd draft, I’m finding that I’m still discovering things about them.

I think plotting books can be helpful, but I wish I’d stayed away from them until I’d really developed my writing practice and my voice. If I had to do it over again, I’d say, stay away from the craft books until you’ve had some time to just write. And when you do get around to reading the plot books, I would recommend reading a how to write a screenplay book. I know it helped me really think about how to frame a scene & pacing.

4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

Procrastinator. Although, I do have moments where I just feel the need to write. I wish those moments were more common than they are. The good thing is, whether it was the procrastinator-in-me or the itch that got me to sit down, once I do, I tend to stay with it for a good amount of time.

5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

It depends. If I have time, I can write for hours with no problem. If I’m just trying to fit it in, then I can also do a couple hundred words to just make some progress on my WIP.

6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

Actually, morning or night, but night more than morning. The only way I can write in the afternoon is if I started in the morning & it’s carrying over into the afternoon. Or, if I’m out at a cafe or something with the intent to use that time to write. My afternoons would be more productive if I could just take a nap. Actually, most of my blog posts tend to be done during the afternoon because it’s the only thing that will keep me awake & seem somewhat productive.

7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

Most of the time, music. Instrumental movie soundtracks are the best. Sometimes there are songs that just help me get into a mood or into a scene, & I’ll play that song on repeat while I’m working on it. In essence, it becomes white noise for me.

I can also work in silence. That’s usually a result of the music having stopped & me being in such a zone that I haven’t realized that it’s stopped.

8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

Computer for the most part. I only do longhand when I’m not near my computer or if I’m just jotting down some notes. But, I have found that if I’m having trouble writing on the computer–you know, a nice case of writer’s block–then switching to a pen & notebook can help clear my head. Just like a change of scenery is good; sometimes a change of method is good.

9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

No. Honestly, I tend to only have my stories plotted out about half-way through. After that, it’s a total & complete freefall.

10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

No. I’ve honestly never given it any thought. I just believe in writing well & having a good final piece that I’m proud of.

11. Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?

Hmmm…jury’s still out on that one. I’ve done professional editing and I don’t mind it. But I will admit, I’m not the best editor of my own work. I have a lot of trouble “killing my darlings.” Once I have a draft of this current WIP ready to edit/revise, I’ll be able to give a more honest answer.

Mood: Wondering how 4 hours have already gotten away from me…

Currently listening to: SW by Blonde Redhead

As previously mentioned, I’ve been reading Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose. One of her recommendations for finding a “life” that works for you is to find a schedule that allows you to do everything you want to do, so that you don’t feel like you are denying yourself anything. My goal this week, as I decompress from finishing draft #1 and gear up for draft #2, is to set up a schedule for myself. I work from home for the most part, so I can set my schedule. But most days I find that I end up doing all the stuff I have to do, and not the stuff I want to do. And it’s not that there isn’t enough time in the day. It’s that the day just gets away from me. Part of it is that I’m easily distracted, & the other part is that sometimes I don’t want to do what I’m doing, so it takes longer than it has to.

One of her recommendations is to set up a schedule like the one you had in school. You know, where from 8-8:15 you had homeroom; 8:20-9:20 English; 9:30-10:30 Calculus; 10:40-11:40 Chemistry; 11:40-12:40 Lunch; 12:50-1:50 History; and 2:00-3:00 Art. Your life and your attention span was divided into short chucks of time. Every hour you got to work on something new. Well, I think this might work for me. So, I’m trying to figure out a daily/weekly schedule that works for me. Something that makes me do work, but also allows me to schedule in my other interests, like, I don’t know, writing.

I keep trying to plan out my schedule and so far haven’t quite found one that works. There are some things I need to do daily and there are other things I only need to do a couple times a week. So, I need to figure out what days are for what. I guess mine will be more like a college schedule, where your poli sci class met Tuesday & Thursdays and your French class Monday, Wednesday, & Friday.

Here’s everything I’m trying to include:

  • work
  • writing my novel
  • attempting to get moving on that freelance writing goal
  • blogging
  • email & other internet distractions
  • going to the gym on a regular basis (some weeks are better than others)
  • a yoga class at least twice a week (my back needs this)
  • and something else I’m sure I’m forgetting

When I list it out like that it doesn’t seem like much. But whenever I try to alot hours for each task/activity, my day ends up starting very early & running very late. Not ideal. If I wanted that, I’d still be working in an office. So, I will keep refining till I get it right, becuase I can’t keep letting the day get away from me.