Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Learning, practicing, and friends from faraway

When I picked up Natalie Goldberg's book on writing memoir, Friends From Faraway, I wasn't intending to write a memoir, not seriously anyway. Neither did I realize the title was a saying of Confucius. The poem, from which this line is taken, loosely translates to:

We learn, and practice what we learn.
What joy.
Friends arrive from faraway.
What happiness.

[It is a lot more elegant in the original;)]

Coincidental or not, this is the book I am reading as I return to my childhood home, reminisicing with family and old friends, reconnecting to the language of my youth.

Every trip I've taken since leaving home twenty five years ago has taught me something about my family and myself. This trip is no different. And as with other trips, the process is filled with nostalgia, moments of epiphany, and occasionally, sorrow.

The thoughts and emotions from this trip will work themselves out in the next months and years. Maybe I will be writing a memoir after all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Independent Bookseller of the Year Nominee: Reader's Cove

My nomination for the Independent Bookseller of the Year has been posted at The Shrinking Violets Promotions. Please go check it out and link to the post or comment to be entered into a chance to win a prize.

And don't forget to support indie booksellers!

It's all good

The family-reunion genre may not have the classic story arc; the characters may seem to act in ways that defy story logic; the conflicts don't often resolve in satisfying ways. But it is characterized by moments of grace and sacrifices, compassion and stubborn optimism.

From Natalie Goldberg's Friends From Far Away:
It's a simple idea really; eac a lot of peaches, you'll become a peach. Read good books, ones that are well-written where the author cares, thinks, is willing to feel the aching texture of the world and of this own rough mind and you are at least a third of the way into the practice.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More on novels and reunions

Like in a good novel, flashbacks and back-story should be kept to a minimum during family reunions, and only if they can be seamlessly woven into the narrative.

More from Friends from Far Away:
In real life get out of the way when a person with a gun is running down the street, In your writing life step in front of his path, let him shoot you in the heart.

What you fear, if you turn toward it, will give your writing teeth.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

a certain type of novel

Family reunions are like novels written from multiple POVs, each narrator unreliable and sympathetic.

A quote from a new book I am reading: Natalie Goldberg's Old Friend From Far Away, about writing and remembering:

Let your mind first believe you are dedicated, that you sincerely want the truth, are willing to take what comes through. Keep moving the pen. Keep practicing.

Till the next time, when I will return with more observations about how family reunions relate to writing, and quotes from Goldberg.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The next month

...will be filled with events that will turn my routine upside down and inside out. Family reunions, big birthday, lots and lots of people and very little alone time.

My breathing has sped up just thinking about it. I won't have time to write, but I will be gathering information and conducting interviews for two of my WIPs.

One of the things I may have to neglect will be this blog. I hope the few of you who do check in from time to time, will continue to do so.

Happy Spring, everyone. Except if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, then happy Fall. Or if you're in the tropics, then Happy Hot and Humid Days.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Thanks to the blog community, I've been made aware that this month is Independent Booksellers Month and this week is Children's Books Week.

Shrinking Violets Promotions is celebrating May by running a contest for Independent Booksellers, those passionate and brave folks who stubbornly create a book haven in their communities. Head on over to check out the booksellers that have been highlighted so far. I am doing a report on my local bookstore and it should be posted soon. If you link to the posts or comments, you can be entered into drawings for fun prizes.

Taralazar alerted me to Children's Books Week, an event that has been around since 1919. She has some ideas on how you can join in the celebrations.

Have fun!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Poetry Friday

I haven't done too much to celebrate National Poetry Month and now it is May. Spring is such a strange time. Things grow, brown turns green, the world becomes optimistic. Yet every year at spring time, for the last twenty some years, I've felt squeezed by all that tends to take place in Spring: recitals, allergy containment, weeding, planting, summer plans. Who has time for poetry?

But just browsing through the archives of the Writers Almanac has re-centered me again. Who has time for no poetry?

Here's one by Barbara Crooker where she includes the interstate, Hubble scientists, Li Po, and endings of childhood vacations:

Poem on a line by Anne Sexton
"We're all writing God's Poetry"

How can we get up

in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.

The rest here at the Writer's Almanac.

Anastasia Suen is hosting Poetry Friday this week at Picture Book of the Day.

On a different note: you may have heard about the online auction to help Bridget Zinn, a YA writer, fight her stage four colon cancer. I've offered an original Chinese calligraphy. Head on over, and see if there are autographed books or paintings or manuscript critiques that you'd want to bid on.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I have always been drawn to beauty and gravitated toward art, music and words.

This character here, "mei", means beauty. I wrote this using traditional Chinese brush and ink. It is up for auction to help raise funds for a fellow kidlit writer, Bridget Zinn.

From the auction website:

This is Bridget. Three things happened to Bridget in February:
1. She got an agent for her young adult novel.
2. She got married.
3. She found out she had Stage Four colon cancer.

Some of her friends have banded together to organize an online auction. Authors have donated signed copies of their books or manuscript critiques. Artists and artisans have donated paintings, cards, and one-of-a-kind creations. Friends have donated vacations. Do go check out the auction site. Maybe you'll find something you need, and in the process, help someone out.

UPDATE on Thursday afternoon: I notice this item is not up at the website yet, but there are many other lovely items so keep checking back.

UPDATE on Friday morning: it's up! Here it is.

This is why I write

I read a passage in Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book last night, and even though the book is chock full of passages to be savored, this one stopped me and made me re-read it many times.

The ghouls are talking here, trying to convince Bod to become one of them, telling him just why being a ghoul is the best thing ever:

"Can you it feels to be more important than kings and queens, than presidents or prime ministers or heroes, to be sure of it, in the same way that people are more important Brussels sprouts?"

Truth: simply and humorously expressed. That's why I want to write.

Here is another passage, from E. B. White's Charlotte's Web:

You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.

That touches me every time I read it.

Words. So powerful.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yes/No Right/Wrong Good/Bad

Clean air: good.
Pollution: bad.

May I have a lollipop. No.
May I have some edamame: yes

[edamame by Yomi]

[lollipop by Flora]

Kick someone in the head: wrong.
Share what you have: right.

But wait.

Are changes good or bad?
Orange juice?
Being blunt?
Kick someone in the head while sparring?

[sidekick by C@mera M@n]

Most things in life are not easily classified. This week I found examples in the writing world. The topic at hand: Twitter Speak. Short sentences, often without articles or pronouns.

Nathan Bransford finds it unprofessional in query letters.
Kathleen Duey wrote a Twitter Novel.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Movie quotes as motivators

Trying to find motivation to keep writing? Movie quotes work great:

If I write, my voice will come.

I'm not being ignored, am I? (My story threatening me.)

You talkin' to me? (My characters being sassy.)

This station is now the ultimate power in the universe. (my computer when I actually sit at the keyboard to write.)

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my plot / flow / tension / forward motion. Prepare to die. (Speaking to unnecessary dialogue / descriptions / characters.)

I suppose I should stop procrastinating now and return to the ultimate power in the universe.