Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A glimpse of me at 8

Reading L. M. Montgomery's childhood journals inspired me to take a look back at my own. It made me understand why Laud burned her earliest journals...mine are pretty embarrassing, and consist mostly of entries like: "Today was good. I woke up at 7:30. I had cheerios for breakfast. We went to church. I came home and played a game. We had spaghetti for dinner." Gosh, I'm so glad I have a record of that, or I would probably have totally forgotten. (Maud said she wrote mostly about the weather...compared to mine, those entries must have been fascinating....)

I did come across one entry, however, that I find somewhat hilarious. Here it is:

For those of you unfamiliar with sports' drills, "suicides" is a speed drill...just so you know.

And here is a picture of me from around the same time, when I was 8...and a redhead if the sun hit just right. :)

Yup, there's the girl that thought folding laundry constituted a "SUPER" day. (Well, I'm sure the bubblegum ice cream helped.)

I'm not sure, looking back, that I haven't regressed since then. After all, I now think laundry is a chore; the knowledge of all the food coloring in bubblegum ice cream generally makes me choose something all mature like strawberry cheesecake; and my haircut isn't nearly so cute. On the plus side, I can now spell "presents" and "jewelry," and my handwriting is much better...

Monday, February 25, 2013

L. M. Montgomery and her journals

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would be reading L. M. Montgomery’s journals to take part in Caroline Starr Rose’s Readalong. You can head over to her blog to see the discussion about Volume I, but I thought I’d dwell on a few of my thoughts here. (Randomness alert!)

So, random LMM fact #1: Maud Montgomery was a flirt. Yep. I didn’t notice this so much the first time I read it. There were all these boys who ended up proclaiming their love for her, to which she invariably responded (Anne-like), “We were just friends!” Last time I believed her, but this time I knew where the relationships were heading...and she definitely led the poor lads on. But I have a theory, actually. I’m no psychologist, but I can’t help thinking that the fact that Maud’s father left her when she was a little girl had something to do with her difficulty trusting men in a serious relationship.... I think she craved love and affection and went out of her way to find it, but was scared of trusting too deeply.

Random LMM fact #2: Maud’s stepmother is probably one of the scariest villains ever. Makes Cinderella seem like a wimp.

Random LMM fact #3: This really deserves a post to itself (and probably will get one after I’ve read the other volumes)... Lucy Maud Montgomery had an oppressively difficult life and suffered from severe depression. I can’t say how much more this makes me love her, for responding to those difficulties by creating profound and beautiful art. This quote, regarding a reviewer’s statement that Anne of Green Gables was a book that “radiates happiness and sunshine,” impressed me deeply:
“When I think of the conditions of worry and gloom and care under which it was written I wonder at this. Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life--I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.” (October 15, 1908)

If something comes easily to you, you can’t really take credit for Maud Montgomery, who fought for happiness in her life, does deserve a great deal of credit for the joy she was able to give others through her writing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I think you’ve all heard Jane Yolen’s good advice for getting books written. She calls it, as I recall, the BIC method--Butt In Chair. If you don’t get down to the work, it’s not gonna get done.

I’ve been a firm believer in this method. I try to write every day. In the past I set firm deadlines for when my drafts had to be finished. I pushed through even when they made no sense to me.

Une Vocation, by William Adolphe Bouguereau

Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve been rethinking it lately.

See... sometimes, I think, ideas need time and space to grow. If you always go with the first thing that comes to mind, you’ll end up getting stuck with a lot of half-baked thoughts. These past couple weeks I’ve allowed myself the freedom to let things use some of my free moments to think instead of to spend some more time out of the chair and out in the garden, or walking by the river, or staring up into the treetops.

Then when I got back to my revisions, I brought a depth to my themes and my characters that had been completely lacking before. My story had grown inside me while I’d been away from it, and the new ideas seemed to spring onto the page--completely unlike the way that I’d been dragging them along before.

I’m sure there needs to be a balance; even though I wasn’t working on my revision all those days, I still wrote every day. Sometimes snippets of short stories, journal entries, and plenty of ideas and questions about my book. Writing is a skill that needs to be practiced and exercised.

And I’m not sure exactly where I’ll find the balance. When I work on my next first draft, will this opportunity for delay work, or will it enable me to postpone the hard work indefinitely? Maybe I need to take a good chunk of time to think and imagine before I begin, and also break periodically to re-assess... Maybe the “perfect way to write a book” changes with each one.

What do you think?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Three Rs (only one of which is actually an R, but whatever)

A dash of random for you today....

You know how sometimes you can't get into any book for weeks (or it seems that long), then suddenly everything you pick up is amazing? Yeah. It's been like that. As usual, I'm in the middle of lots of things...

Like Ruta Sepetys' first book, really amazing but massively difficult to read,
because the main character's life is so painful.

Technically I'm listening to the audiobook, masterfully narrated by Josephine Bailey.

This is for Caroline Starr Rose's Read-along, and just because I love it.

I'm also reading a lovely MG fantasy for a critique partner, and an advance copy of a fascinating scholarly work on the Hunger Games, titled The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen, by Valerie Estelle Frankel.

Ooh, I had a great writing week. With only two days that I managed to get any large chunks written (blame blizzards and illnesses), but they were two really good days.

I debated vehemently with myself over whether to attend the New England SCBWI conference this year. I really really really wanted to go, to connect with many writer friends, to hear Sharon Creech give the keynote (love Sharon Creech), and just to be re-invigorated about writing. This year, since it's just over an hour away, we could skip the hotel fees, and because our baby is actually a toddler, we could leave the girls with my mom. But...they didn't make up the term "starving artist" for nothing. It's what I would be if I spent that money on a conference instead of groceries. Sigh.
However... my family is awesome. My mom and dad and sister agreed to pick up the girls this Friday morning and watch them at their house so Mark and I could have our own private full-day writing conference. I've got the Youtube videos of various writers' speeches lined up (even Sharon Creech ;), fresh notebooks and pens at the ready so we can tackle some writing exercises (from Ursula LeGuin's Steering the Craft), and my new chapter printed out for a one-on-one critique with the cutest writing partner ever.

Really? You thought I would talk about arithmetic? You'll have to be satisfied with the mention of balancing fees and expenses above, because that's the most complicated math I've been doing. Oh, well, there's teaching Lucy to tell time and count money. She's coming along...but can someone tell me why they made the dime smaller than the nickel, not to mention the penny? That just seems cruel and unusual and highly illogical to my way of thinking.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In which a darling is killed

In order to KEEP WRITING WRITING WRITING EVERY DAY FOR GOODNESS' SAKE (Sorry...I just read Eloise to the girls and it doesn't wear off for a few hours...), I kinda accidentally took my revision in the entirely wrong direction. The good news is that most of the changes weren't needed. The bad news is that I had to "throw away" a month of work.
But I thought before it's relegated to a "DELETED STUFF" file in Google Drive, I'd share with you one of my darlings that was very hard to part with. Here's the now-old new beginning of CIRQUE:

The candlelight spilled out of the brass chandeliers like wine from a barrel. It flowed over the audience, into the ring, about the performers. Rivulets of light rushed past the horses' hooves as they danced, and a dewy drop of it sparkled in the eyes of the twelve-year-old girl who hid herself in the wings and watched.
Juliette Durand had felt the darkness pressing against her for so long; now that she tasted the light she was drunk with it.

Sigh. Good bye, my darling. Our time together was lovely while it lasted. Anyway, it's not's me.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A gift for you

Here you go, then:

“We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write."
-Neil Gaiman

You're welcome.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Poetry Friday: L. M. Montgomery


LAST night I looked across the hills
  And through an arch of darkling pine
Low-swung against a limpid west
  I saw a young moon shine.
And as I gazed there blew a wind,
  Loosed where the sylvan shadows stir,
Bringing delight to soul and sense
  The breath of dying fir.
This morn I saw a dancing host
  Of poppies in a garden way,
And straight my heart was mirth-possessed
  And I was glad as they.
I heard a song across the sea
  As sweet and faint as echoes are,
And glimpsed a poignant happiness
  No care of earth might mar.
Dear God, our life is beautiful
  In every splendid gift it brings,
But most I thank Thee humbly for
  The joy of little things.

Today marks the beginning of the L. M. Montgomery Journal read along with Caroline Starr Rose. I'm so excited to be re-reading these glimpses into the life of one of my favorite writers and favorite women, and I hope you'll consider joining in. Because I might be talking about them a lot these next few months. :)