Sunday, May 30, 2010

book review - spanking shakespeare by jake wizner

my two cent(ence)s: fast paced, easy read that doesn't shy away from discussing bodily functions with great detail. very fun and unique voice, but lacking a clear plot.

i know spanking shakespeare has been under my "currently reading" label for weeks, but not because the book is a chore to get through. in fact, it is a really easy read, and keeps you coming back for more.

this novel is the record of a high school senior. he comes from a crazy family, he REALLY wants a girlfriend, he's a gifted writer, though tends to write about inappropriate subjects, and he is extremely self-conscious.
i'd say the best part about this book is the voice.
you know when you hear agents talking about "voice" and how it needs to be strong and unique?
well, this book certainly fits that bill! 
shakespeare's take on the world is unique and comical, and honestly i was laughing out loud during some parts.

but although i loved the voice, i felt the plot was really lacking. it felt more "stream of consciousness" as opposed to a flushed out novel. the story just kind of happens, which if the author did this intentionally to mirror how things just "seem to happen" to teenagers, well: kudos. but honestly it felt more like he had this funny character and wanted to showcase his thoughts and humor.

personally i could have done without some of the more graphic descriptions of bodily functions, but i'm sure teenage boys were cracking up during these parts. the "oh wow, i finally got a girlfriend" resolution at the end seemed a bit too convenient, but on a whole the book was pretty fun.

this was the author's debut novel, and i'm looking forward to reading his sophomore effort, castration celebration, to see if he can keep the awesome voice and add a bit more plot.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

how can i sleep with your voice in my head

i'm still grieving and sad, but i'm forcing myself to get back to my writing. wrote about two sentences yesterday.
hey, it's a start.

awhile back i eavesdropped on a discussion about words and how they can hurt. a woman was complaining to her male friend about his usage of the "C" word. his defense was that he had used it to put down a male, NOT a female, so she shouldn't be that offended. Her response was that the "C" word is vulgar slang for female genitalia, so it was doubly offensive since he seemed to think that would be a fitting insult for a man.

later i told mr. write what i'd overheard.
"it's funny because if someone calls me a 'bitch' or the C-word, it just rolls off my back. being called 'fat' would bother me much more."
to which he laughed.

for me, the words that hurt most are the ones that comment on who i am as a person, or the ones that insult my character. those are the ones i find most offensive.
once i worked for a smoothie company and my manager was a very hard-working girl who pretty much came from nothing. she told me that she wanted to take some computer courses because she felt she needed to know how to work a computer better.
"that's great!" i told her.
"and maybe, if i finish the computer classes, i can take some other classes and get my AA," she replied hopefully.
"absolutely," i agreed, "knowledge is never wasted. plus, once you get your AA you might decide to go on and get your bachelor's."

she talked about signing up for computer classes for the next couple days, but after a visit from our district manager, she changed her mind.
"you know, i've decided against those classes." she told me after i'd asked if she signed up for the next semester. "our district manager is right. i don't NEED those classes here since we don't use computers. so it would just be cutting into my free time. i'm fine here without them."

let me tell you, i was SO pissed!
to me it seemed our district manager was perfectly happy with her little worker bee the way she was and didn't want her to gain any knowledge that could better herself, or learn any new skills she could use in another career.
to me that was the real insult.

even the most innocuous words strung together can hurt.
and i'm hoping the four words i said to the careless woman in the grocery store parking lot are being played on a loop in her head.
i'm hoping she's having trouble sleeping at night because she can't rid herself of my voice.
i'm hoping my four little words creep into her consciousness and knock the wind out of her while she's trying to get on with her day.

what four words could wield such power, you might ask?
you're. a. bad. mom.

these are very powerful words and i only used them because this woman truly deserved them as does any woman who leaves a sleeping baby alone in a car so she can do her shopping undisturbed.
i'm sure she thought her task would only take ten minutes.
i'm sure she thought her baby would be fine.
i'm sure she thought no one would notice.

but someone did notice and someone had to speak up.
i hope my words hurt her. i hope they hurt her so much that she'll never even consider doing that to her baby again. and i'm hoping it's an insult that rocked her to her core.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

i know that i'll need this for the rest of my life

i haven't gotten any work done on my novel this week, but i have a really, really good reason.

i'm nursing a broken heart.


i had a really emotional night on sunday, and even though it's days later, i'm still reduced to tears when i think about it. i'm sure to many my reason will seem silly, juvenile even, but i can't help it. i have a hollow spot inside me, and i'm afraid it might never get filled.

you see, my favorite band of all time is breaking up for good. forever. never to tour or make music again and i'm gutted.
i first fell in love with them as a girl 25 years ago. i mean, look at them! who wouldn't?

clearly there's some damn good breeding in norway.

but my love didn't subside after their overplayed first hit disappeared from MTV. their second album i hold dear to my heart. it's their most passionate, in my opinion, and it really spoke to me. not just as a kid, but through junior high, high school, college and as an adult.
i bought all their albums through the years, including solo projects.

my love for them never waned, not even when they went on a seven year hiatus. and in 2000 they delivered an amazing album along with an amazing european tour. i even had tickets to see them play in brussels and paris, but at the last minute had to cancel my travel plans.

they have since released three more albums, and have toured all over europe. i always hoped i'd get to see them here in the states, and last sunday my wish was granted.
but at a cost.

i can tell you i had the best time at the concert. i danced and sang during the entire show, doing my part to honor the band that gave me so much. when they played songs off their second album, well i was very affected. it brought me right back to those nights i'd lay on my bedroom floor with my head touching my speaker so the music could flow directly through me. and when they closed out the show with their biggest hit, well.....
i stood there. and cried. i tried to savor every note, every last second of their performance.

photo by Catherine 

i had no idea i'd feel like a part of me was torn out when they walked off the stage. i always knew their music had a special place in my heart, and that i used their songs as a way to cope through many rough times in my life. but intellectually knowing something and emotionally feeling it are two separate things.

luckily mr. write is very understanding and allowing me to grieve. and really, that's what i'm doing.
it's one thing when your favorite band goes on a break. another when they announce they will no longer record or tour as a group.
the soundtrack to my life is made up of a-ha songs, and it hurts to know they will never contribute to it ever again.

it's all so heartbreaking. and final.

i know this is something i'll get over and it's not the end of the world, but for right now i'm willing to be consumed by my sadness. so, i've been spending my spare time watching uploaded clips of their final american concert (the one i attended) and trying to keep from having a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

it's all subjective

i was a senior in high school the first time i saw this piece by boccioni.
to me it was the representation of tenacity - the total unwillingness to be anchored down. it was the human spirit thrusting forth, no matter the obstacles.
my teacher, however, curtly informed me that i was wrong. that it was a representation of how traditional thought keeps us from moving forward and the artist's struggle with a society tied to the past.

in my opinion you are never "wrong" when it comes to your personal impression. no matter what the teachers, experts, or even the artists say, whatever message you take from an artwork is completely valid.
because it's all subjective, isn't it?

i think about boccioni's sculpture a lot because it's symbolism applies to my everyday life.
whether i'm running to get back into shape, or working on my novel, i often have to dig a little to find the endurance needed to complete that mile or chapter.

now, i could look at it the way my art history teacher did.

i could struggle with every word i type, hoping to string enough of them together to make a coherent sentence. i could check my word count every minute hoping to see progress, but realize i'm basically at a stand still.
when running i could focus on how heavy my legs are, as if i have lead weights around my ankles. how every step depletes my energy reserves and soon i'll be running on fumes.

but i don't view it her way, just as i didn't in high school.

sure, i might find myself struggling to finish a chapter, but every page that gets written is a page closer to completing my first draft. and if it takes me two days to write two hundred words, so be it. but those two hundred words are two hundred more than i had previously.
and every mile i put in, no matter how sluggish i may feel, is another mile of strength training. and every day i can measure the proof in my improved stamina and determination.

personally, i prefer my method of thinking to hers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

do i or don't i?

it can change everything, can't it?

one of the big arguments (or area of differing opinion) in YA is whether cursing is necessary when writing for a young adult audience.
there seems to be two main camps on this issue: those who believe bad words have no place, at any time, in YA fiction, and those who believe it adds realism to the story.

well, let me tell you my wip has A LOT of cursing.
not like in a quentin tarantino "i'm gonna strive to make every other word the F word" way, but in a normal teenage angst sort of way.
but not only are there bad words, there's smoking (from a certain faction of characters), references to sex, and some marijuana use.

when i look at it on paper it looks like my book is very gritty and dark.
and yes, parts of it are, but as a whole it is not intended that way.
as i've been writing the book i've felt the cursing, drug use and sex references were necessary because it's what the characters are doing. yes, i was the one who created them, but i think most writers find their characters flesh themselves out. they are the ones who tell you how they should be depicted. so when my character reached for a cigarette, i wrote that in. when i write his diatribe filled with swear words, it's because he actually said those things.

and honestly, i felt "hey, these are the kinds of things kids are doing nowadays anyway. it's YA fiction, not middle grade." BUT i have to say i'm starting to have some concerns. and my concerns didn't appear because someone made a good argument for no cussing in a blog, or that i happened to read an awesome YA novel that was PG. nope, my concerns are named max and connor.

i have known max and connor most their lives. they just turned fifteen this year and are great kids. they are both extremely athletic, and get good grades in school.
when i was thinking of rounding up beta readers later in the year to give me feedback on my manuscript, i though max and connor would be ideal since they are part of my target audience, and they could tell me if my male main character was real enough.

but then i got nervous. what if max and connor saw the language, sex and drug use and thought since i wrote about these things, i must condone them? what if reading about the situations made them curious to try them? all of a sudden i was doubting whether what i'd included in my book was absolutely necessary.
and then i wondered why i never had any cause for concern when i though of anonymous fifteen year-olds reading my work. why did it not cross my mind that they might think i was condoning the behaviour i was depicting. or that they might be influenced by what i had written.

well, after some reflection i've decided to keep writing in the manner i started.
i'm not saying it's set in stone, but since i'm halfway through the first draft i think it would be a mistake to go back and tweak things. so i will forge ahead, finish the manuscript and then give it to my beta readers.
if the consensus is i have too many gratuitous bad words, etc., then i will look at possibly changing parts of the novel.

but of course, that is waaaaaay in the future.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

a crime of fashion

besides working as a barista, i was also an assistant to a fashion photographer.
it was an extremely fun, high-pressure, and intense learning environment. i met some wonderful mentors, artists, and just plain great people at this job, but i also met my fair share of kooks.
there was one woman, a former model from brazil, who was very pleasant, until she found out i was a writer and became very clingy.

mi's mistake #1 - upon our first meeting i offered to read her manuscript and tell her what i thought.

mi's mistake #2 - instead of corresponding through email, i gave her my phone number. which she used. often.

mi's mistake #3 - within first three pages i could tell the manuscript was a train wreck, but instead of telling her it was not for me, i forced myself to read all 768 pages.

i think we've heard the old adage so many times: write what you know, but sometimes what you know isn't worth putting to paper, feel me?

this ex-model's manuscript was about the fashion industry.
ok, at first glance that's fine, right?
the book started out with a former model receiving a phone call from her ex-agent, in fact - the opening paragraphs weren't that bad. but this ex-model character (the first character the reader is introduced to) did not reappear until after page 300.
her ex-agent was only mentioned a couple times later in the book, and the subject of their phone conversation was never revisited.

the book was supposed to be about a high-powered fashion family and their exploits. apparently the reader was supposed to glean from the descriptions that the writer was referencing all the great designers, like lagerfeld, galliano, and donetella versace.
well, all that flew over my head, but maybe someone else could have sifted through the endless pages and description to come to that conclusion.
the most memorable character in her novel was one of the adult children in the high powered fashion family.
i take that back - he wasn't that memorable but his parrots were.
the author took great pains to tell the reader about this character's twelve parrots. she spent over a page on each parrot, giving physical descriptions and personality traits, as well as the best events and designer outfits suited for each parrot.

BUT this wasn't even the worst part of the novel.
the worst part, in my opinion, was that her manuscript was full of misspelled words, incorrect subject/verb agreements, and had no contractions. at all.
everything was "i am, can not, there is". let me tell you, 700+ pages of no contractions will make your brain hurt.

so, when it came to giving her my opinion i tried to be honest.
i told her that it needed to be edited. heavily.
it needed a fluent english speaker to proof read it (she asked if i could edit/proofread. i think you can deduce my answer).
it needed to have a different opening because it was very misleading to the reader.

she listened to me, told me that i just didn't "get" her book because i didn't know much about the fashion industry, and that she really needed some money so she was just going to self-publish it as is so she could sell copies to her friends.

it was at that point i wished her good luck and left our coffee meeting.
and decided i'd never again offer to read the manuscript of someone i'd just met.