Friday, December 30, 2011

If you need a giggle...

You've probably noticed that I'm a total Tolkien nerd (why, yes, I can write in Dwarvish runes and Elvish), so I hope you're impressed that I've waited so long to gush about the upcoming Hobbit movie. I didn't even post the trailer since half of the rest of the blogosphere did...but this "literaled" version was just too funny.
(Warning of slight crudeness...but still, so funny.)
I am so excited about many of the casting choices, and I can't wait to see some of my favorite literary scenes brought to life. ("Riddles in the dark"!!) Only, could anyone explain what on earth is up with Galadriel?
Ahhh...I feel Middle Earth stirring in my blood. There may be more Tolkien-ish posts coming throughout the next year. ;)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No More Drama! (Except a little bit)

(Evidence of our girly life)
My poor husband...he's definitely the minority in our house, being the only one residing here who can lay claim to a Y chromosome. But he manages quite well. Recently he instituted a household mantra that seems to be helping: "No More Drama!"
75% of the time, chanting this will get the girls giggling, making them forget whatever petty molehill they had just turned into Mount Vesuvius. The other 25%...well, Mark and I can only smile at each other and think, "Yes...3 girls. At least they're not 3 teenage girls yet."
Anyway, this is really about writing, I promise. :) Because if there is one thing I have a hard time balancing in my own writing, it is drama and melodrama. "We all know" drama = good and melodrama = bad...but where do you draw the line? And what about the fact that certain characters are naturally melodramatic? (Anne Shirley) And some are so stoic (um...can't think of an example off the top of my head...) that even average drama seems like too much?
I guess the answer is that the line is a very fuzzy, twisty, spirally one. It's going to change for every book and character you write. Personally, I naturally lean toward melodrama in my writing. Remember Anne Shirley's writing club, and all those tragic deaths? The scary thing is, when I sit down to write, my brain still jumps to such situations before I stop and think. As I remember it, about half the critiques of my first manuscript were suggestions to tone down the drama, make things more believable, less purply-prosy, and so on. So on my second novel I did a 180. I banished the words "feel" and "love." And a lot of the earliest critiques amounted to, "I think this needs a little more emotion."
After trying to revise that second ms, I found my solution (at least for now). Because it's a lot harder to add emotion than to tone it down. I may be able to decide off the bat that the tragic death is not the best way to infuse the middle of my book with drama, but I also don't decide to make my characters heartless automatons. I let them love and emote and dream...and, yes, I have to cut 50% of that out during the revision process, but that's what revision's for.
Of course it's still a struggle--so I'd love to know any tips you have!
On another note, thank you all for your prayers for my family last week. My nephew made it home for Christmas and is more or less back to his happy, smiling self. We're so grateful for all the prayers and good wishes that pulled us through a difficult time. I hope your Christmases were lovely and that the rest of the Christmas season holds many joys and blessings!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blessed Christmas!

Everything seems to be conspiring to keep me away from the computer this week, so I will take this moment (when all the girls are either napping or playing quietly!) to wish you a truly blessed, happy and merry Christmas!
This year I've been given many reminders that Christmas is, among other things, about the tremendous power of God and the possibility--no, likelihood--of miracles. With that in mind, I'd be very grateful if you would hold my extended family in your prayers this year. In the past three days, as many family members have made trips to the hospital for various causes. Right now my three-month-old nephew is in the neonatal intensive care unit, over an hour away from his home, so my sister can't be with her other three children in these last few days before Christmas. Please, please pray that his doctors will be inspired to help him as he needs and that their family will be together again soon.
May you have many blessings and joys this Christmas season, and may your hearts be ever open to the tremendous love, power, and inspiration of the Child Jesus!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Secret Adventures of Gertrude and Happy Doll

 On Friday night, we visited my parents and Lucy and Zoe brought their dollies. In typical toddler form (and, okay, typical parent-of-toddler form), we forgot to bring them home with us. Since we live about 30 minutes away and did not discover our mistake until, 2 miles from home, we heard the wails of a two-year-old in the back seat, Gertrude and Happy had to spend the night at Grampa and Munga's house.
In the morning, though, much comfort was to be had from the emails Lucy and Zoe received from their dolls. I have it on good authority that a certain Mr. Pink Hippopotamus took these photos of them throughout the night and next morning:
Watching The Little Drummer Boy

Eating Lollipops
Playing drums...along with the movie, I guess.
Building things

Eating rice for breakfast

Climbing trees

Looking for worms in the compost (a favorite activity of my girls, who think worms are "cute")

Saying a prayer

The dolls and their little mamas were reunited that afternoon with much wonder and rejoicing on all parts!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Inspiring Art

L'Enfant du Regiment, by John Everett Millais
Yesterday after Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrated by going out for a family lunch and a walk through the Yale British Art Gallery. Museums are so good for the soul--and so good for inspiring creativity.
This painting by Millais is one of my very favorite works of art; when I see it in person, I literally can't help crying. The girl, whose father was killed in battle, has been adopted by his regiment. She finds a resting place during another battle (in person, you can see soldiers fighting in the background in the far left) on the tomb of a knight.
For those of you who've read The Hunger Games, you know how Suzanne Collins takes three long (albeit excellently-written) books and a lot of violence to get across the message: "War Sucks"? This painting makes you feel that in an instant. It also leaves you hopeful and inspired by the nobility and goodness of which men are capable.
What are your favorite works of art? Have any inspired you in your writing?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Collateral benefits of reading to your child :)

When children have been given a good dose of literature, the cute things they say are just different from other kids. I thought some of you literary-minded friends would enjoy some of these recent Lucy-isms:

When I turned on the twinkly Christmas lights for her: "Oh, Mother, you are too kind."

When her two-year-old sister found her lost pencil: "Oh, Zoe, you are so clever. I think we should give a party in your honor every-each day." (She uses "oh" as much as a middle-schooler uses "like.")

After some deep thought and playing with her fairy doll, "You know, Mama, I think fairies are real but we just haven't seen them yet. You don't know everything God made. I think one day he decided to make fairies for he had got tired of making people." (Yes, she really does use "for" as in "because" like that.)

I thought she had a fairly good point on that last one. Who are we to say what God has created? A thousand years ago, what a great many things people had never dreamed of that we take for granted today.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Will the real Mr. Hyde please step forward?

On this date in 1894, Robert Louis Stevenson died at his home in Samoa. It's a rare person who hasn't been touched in some way or another by the work of this man...from his contribution to and development of children's literature with such classics as Treasure Island and Kidnapped, to his eerie, immortal short story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I think it's fair to say he's made an indelible mark on the world of books.
Recently, I came across another “strange case” related to his life. It involves a letter he wrote in 1890, full of passion and his customary eloquence, defending a man who, though of a different faith, Stevenson saw as a saint. The man was Father Damien de Veuster. You may be familiar with him: he devoted his life to caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai, giving up a normal life and even his health (he eventually died of leprosy) to love and serve others. But, because the world hates saints and loves a sensation, shortly after Fr. Damien's death, a man named Mr. Hyde answered the call of a sensationalist news reporter to provide the juicy details of the priest's life. Except he made them up. He was so dizzy with the spotlight, the thrill of being in the public eye, that he came up with any number of elaborate, false stories about Father Damien.
Now on the outskirts of this tale was Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, who had himself visited Molokai, stayed with and befriended Mr. Hyde, and—though not a Catholic himself—had been deeply touched by the work done by Father Damien and the selfless religious sisters on the island.
He must have seen it as fitting, when he read Mr. Hyde's letter, that he had already decided “Hyde” just had the perfect ring to it for a terrifying, disgusting monster, transformed from what a human being should be into the worst, basest shadow of a man. Certainly the real-life Hyde did nothing to change his mind.
Stevenson wrote a letter to the editor of the Sydney Presbyterian, which had printed Hyde's scandalous tale. The Sydney paper refused to print it, but soon newspapers throughout the world ran with it. Stevenson defended Father Damien, his faith, his goodness, and his work. He exposed Hyde for the jealous monster that he was, someone so annoyed by his failure and Damien's success that it brought out the worst in his own nature. He predicted that Father Damien would someday be considered for Sainthood in the Catholic Church, and he saw it as important—again, though he didn't even share the same faith!--that truth be fearlessly sought and acknowledged.
You can read his letter here—it's rather long, quite scathing, but it will remind you of the power a writer holds in his hands. Hyde chose to use that power for evil, Stevenson for good. On this anniversary of his death, I hope you will join me in saying a prayer for him, in thanking God for his passion and honesty, and in begging for a small measure of the courage he had in abundance.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Because everyone needs some cute baby moments in their life

Genevieve turned five months old on Thanksgiving. She is already rolling all over the place and swatting at my keyboard when I try to hold her and write. (Remember when I wrote about how much I loved writing when babies are newborn? Gone are the days...)
But I forgive her. Okay, actually I love her to pieces. Because, well, how can you resist those big brown eyes?

You'll be pleased to know I am still getting plenty of writing done every day.  
(Just don't tell my daughters that some people actually fold laundry. They're still under the illusion that their Mama is pretty great. ;)