Friday, January 16, 2009

Is It Just Me?

In the past few weeks, I've been very busy working to finish and edit, Lost and Found. During this time, I've realized a few things about myself, and most are not flattering. This post isn't about writing today, but I thought I would share, only in hope you would comment and tell me I'm not as unfit to take care of others or myself as I feel.

During the holidays, I had 11 days off from work. I tried to stay busy writing and relaxing. My husband and I had a chance to take a trip to Las Vegas to unwind. Man, do I love Vegas. I realize now, during those 11 days off, why I do not have children, nor am I fit to take care of my two cats or myself...kinda. Below are the things that opened my eyes to the fact:

  • Looking at my Christmas list (yes, I still make a list) and the gifts I received, they resembled Christmas for a 16 year old, not a 29 year old. It included 2 CDs, a video game (Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii. This game freaking rocks! Any AC fans out there?), three books (two of them YA books), an external 250 gig hard drive (for my iTunes library), a package of 2 new iSkins Slims (I love these...I have the Claro case for my iPod Classic and it works fab if you're in the market for something like this), a slipcase for my new Macbook and a Moleskine journal (if you haven't tried a Moleskine and you're as addicted to journals/notebooks as I am, it's a must).
  • I run home every night, despite my busy schedule, to play Animal Crossing so I can water my turnip. I mean, come on, it's worth 16,000 bells!
  • While in Vegas, I bought a few things: An Uglydoll, a Harry Potter beanie (toque to our Canadian friends) and a new pair of Converse that are white with small black polka dots and red ladybugs.
  • One of the hotel rooms we stayed in while in Vegas had two bathrooms. Yes, that's right...TWO BATHROOMS. My husband and I used both at the same time...just because we could. I had a huge urge to jump on the bed and do cartwheels in the center of the floor, giggling the whole time.
  • I had a candle burning on the coffee table the other day. One of the cats, always curious, went up to smell it and got too close. She proceeded to singe an eyebrow off and is now lopsided. I don't know if this makes me a really bad kitty parent, or makes her a really stupid cat. Sadly, she's the smart one out of our two "kids".
  • I don't think I took a shower/changed out of my pjs before noon the whole time I was off of work.
  • When I looked in my refrigerator on Christmas, I realized we still had a turkey leg stuck in the back from Thanksgiving. It was really sad looking...and gray.
So, please share and make me feel normal! Am I still a 16 year old living in a 29 year old's body?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Writing Spaces, Memories and Inspiration

A lot of writers can tell you off the top of their head the person or people who really got them started writing. Sometimes it's a relative, another writer, a friend, some sort of profound experience.

For me, like many wonderful things in my life, it all comes back to my Grandmother.

For the past few weeks, I've been moving into her former home. At first, I thought it was going to be a depressing thing--filling the shelves with my books and movies mixed with hers, cooking in the kitchen where I learned how to cook, watching movies in the space where I learned how to act, feeding her ancient cats who yowl at me and try to sleep on top of my head. 

But as every shelf got filled, the ache in my heart lessened just a little. And when I finally settled my stuff down and set my desk up in the room where she opened my eyes up to the beauty of words, the room where she gave me my first bit of writing advice at age 6 (always start a book with an attention grabbing first sentence. You have to suck the reader in immediately), I felt greatly comforted. 

It's weird, how places can inspire you and drive you and make you remember things that you have forgotten.

So now I write in a living room that was once a sort of class room for me. A room that shaped my life and my dreams. A room that truly does hold the best memories of my life and I find the space incredibly inspiring and motivating. With the books on the shelves, hers mixed with mine, and the familiar yowl of her cats, I can believe, for a moment, that's she's beside me. And she's probably laughing about the enormous plot hole that I can't figure out how to fill. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Character Actions: How Do Your Characters Score?

One of the most challenging aspects of writing is keeping it fresh – especially in terms of character actions during dialogue, etc. In a first draft, my stuff is filled with characters crossing their arms, raising eyebrows, rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. Nothing wrong with these actions, but if they are all you can produce – your readers will get bored and your characters will be flat, flat, flat.

This weekend I accompanied my basketball coach husband and his grade 9-10 team on a tournament outside of Calgary – a six hour bus trip there AND back. It was fun. The guys were big goofs and I took the opportunity to do what any YA fiction writer – without kids of her own - would do – I took notes.

During the weekend I watched how the kids interacted, how they made fun of each other, helped each other, and how they moved through the world. I now have pages of “teen” actions to choose from – some are unusual, some are funny and some are even a bit sad. And yes, I did see the crossed arms, rolling eyes, sure I did – and that’s why I’m not saying you should cut every single one, but put your observational skills to work and find some nifty body language. It’s out there.

On a scale of 1 (total clicheville) to 10 (original/quirky) how do your character's actions score?