Sunday, August 31, 2008

100th post

It's my 100th post, readers! Thanks for sticking with me so far.

When I lived and taught in Massachusetts, the fall semester always began the day aftar Labor Day. Thus, I treated Labor Day like New Year's Day. I made resolutions and set intentions for the coming school year. I bid my summer goodbye and looked forward to the smells of school supplies and the hallways in UMass Dartmouth. I suppose that's why it's taken a little longer for me to get mentally back to school here -- it's just not time yet.

So we're here on the eve of Labor Day. Maybe I can make some resolutions and set some intentions now:

  • Be more present to students.

  • Be more present to my writing.

  • Find a better sense of balance (and post about it).

  • Keep this blog interesting, engaging, and interactive.

  • Promote my novel.

  • Finish my other novel. (That goes for my nonfiction book, too.)

  • Upkeep my website (I've been neglecting it).

  • Constantly be present to and celebrate the process, the craft, and the joy or writing.

  • Read more. The pleasure reading, I mean. That includes audiobooks. (I just love being read to!)

  • Keep learning about the business of publishing.

  • Promote myself.

  • Create and activate the workshops I have in mind (there's nothing stopping me but my own resistence).

  • Smile. Smile a lot. Smile on the inside.

  • Eat. Pray. Love. (Yes, I'm ripping off Elizabeth Gilbert's book title. But I'll plug it as I crib it, because I just finished reading it and really enjoyed it.)

  • Get out of my own way.

Anyone else have a new-academic-year's resolution? Please share!

And thanks again for reading. When I began this blog, I figured it was going to be just a more socially acceptable way for me to talk to myself (ha!). But you've all read and responded and gave me things to think about as well. This has become your blog as much as it is mine.

Here's to the next 100 posts!


Friday, August 29, 2008

the buds of a literacy narrative

I've kicked off my semester w/ two texts: Frederick Douglass' "Learning to Read and Write" (from the Narrative) and Sherman Alexie's "The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me." My intent (well, I have many intentions) is to get the students thinking about their own experiences w/ learning to read and write so that they, in turn, can write their own literacy narratives. We did some freewriting in class about it today.

I have written about this so many times, and yet it never ceases to bore me. I owe my start to Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and my sister. Sesame Street and The Electric Company were groundbreaking in their day, and I was blessed to be a part of that pioneering generation (I even own the vintage DVDs!). My sister filled in the spaces by playing "school" and "library" w/ my twin brother and me. She even had, what seemed at the time, to be a mammoth chalkboard. On that board she wrote the names of our sibs, pets, Dr. Seuss-inspired words, etc., and taught us what they were. It wasn't long before my twin brother and I were reading The Cat in the Hat on our own, before entering kindergarten. At the time, such a feat was uncommon. "Library" consisted of us selecting a book and reading it to ourselves-- it was her way of getting us to be quiet.

My aptitude and amusement for reading and writing was further fueled by my sibs and parents reading to me frequently. I still love being read to, to this day. It's one more reason why I enjoy audiobooks.

I wonder, had I not been born at that time, had I not been surrounded by a family for whom books were not an aversion (although I wouldn't say it was their passion--music filled that top honor), had I not been nurtured w/ narratives during my youth, would I be the writer and reader I am today?

The sad thing is how many of my students write or talk about that one-time childhood pleasure, or the very excitement of being able to sound out the words or put the letters together, and how school snuffed the fire right out of them. Me included. I went through a reading dormancy, beginning around age thirteen up to about age twenty-two. That's a long time. All I know is that when I finally awoke, I was hungry.

How is it that our school system makes reading, and learning, a distraction and a burden rather than a desire and a motivator? Why do they so successfully turn us off rather than turn us on. Oh, there are a few teachers who manage to spread their enthusiasm, but sadly they are in the minority. Besides, even their fires are snuffed out by the extinguishers of standardized testing and mandated reading lists of the same old stand-bys from when I was a student. Something seems very wrong about that to me.

Am I wrong? Am I ignorant to the public school system? I hope I am. I hope I am way off base. But so far, I haven't seen evidence to that. Not when 90% of my students report that they dislike reading and writing. 90%, folks. I'm not exaggerating.

The older I get, the more comforting a room full of books is to me. I don't want to lose that feelng.

How did you learn to read and write? Share a memory with me, please.
With thanks.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

the irony of being a fan

Ok, so here's how much of a fan geek I am. I heard on NPR this morning (and that right there outs me, doesn't it) that Aaron Sorkin is working on a new project involving social networking via the internet and thus got himself a Facebook page. And so, what did I spend the rest of my get-ready time this morning doing? I thought about ways to Friend Aaron Sorkin w/out presenting myself as a fan geek; only to actually log on to Facebook later, do a Friend search, and find out that while he does indeed have a page, he has dismantled the Add Friend link. Smart guy. Stupid me. (I guess this means I can keep my West Wing flair.)

But Aaron is definitely on my list of people I want to meet and have a conversation about writing before I (and they) die. Seriously. From one writer to another. Celebrity-ism and fandom aside. And the thing is, I believe that's entirely possible. Either I'm deluded or an optimist (and not a stalker). But I suppose when you try so hard not to be a fan is when you act as idiotic as one. So the thing to do, really, is to take him off the pedestal. He's a writer, pure and simple. He puts one comma in front of the other like anyone else.

Besides, maybe Aaron will look for *me* on Facebook and Friend me instead... (ok, now *that*'s delusional...)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I've been trying to figure out what to post these last couple of days. Even now, I've just erased a post I started looking at the rhetoric of the DNC speeches (the post bored me). But the truth is that I don't have much to say lately about the subject of writing, or at least there's nothing pressing me. Maybe it's because I'm trying too hard. Maybe it's because school is taking precedence (and already I have things to say about that, but I never wanted this to be a composition teacher's blog, so I've refrained from sharing), and already the other things are falling onto the back burners. Maybe I just plain have nothing to say right now.

I haven't been writing very much lately. Or have I? I'm writing in my personal diary. I'm composing in my head. I'm reading my students' writing, and thinking a lot about what they have to say so far, and how I'd like to respond. I'm thinking about my writing projects that I haven't touched in a week, either because I'm blocked or because I'm busy or because the info is "marinating."

Marinating is good though, isn't it? Doesn't it make food taste so much better, especially the longer it marinates?

So stick w/ me, folks. I'm sure my posts'll get quite tasty when I'm ready to get cookin'.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

on the burners

So, I don't wanna jinx anything, but I've got a possible publisher for my nonfiction book -- a start-up, independent "company" who shares similar values and goals as me. While they're getting their business off the ground, I should get crackin' and actually finish the book.

Then, of course, there's my novel. Still have to get the bio-photo in place (I dropped the ball on that one and let school prep, etc. take the front seat. as usual), have to get a test copy and make sure it's professional looking, and I haven't even begun to think about promotion.

Plus, there's the current novel. Still lots to do. My writing partner has another break, but she also has more boards or something to study for. Plus, I've got school now.

Then, it turns out that A and I came up w/ a kick-ass idea for a webcast show that I'm not ready to disclose details on. We're still in the talking-brainstorming phase. No idea about the hows or wheres or whens yet. But it's exciting.

Did I mention I've got school now?

I suck at time management. Always have. I guess now's a good time to practice yet again. Don't get me wrong -- all these things are wonderful and exciting and this is what I mean by a full-time writing career. It's just that two full-time jobs are hectic, and getting paid for only one of them is a little frustrating, and, well, I'm glad I'm not a mom. But, also on my to-do list is to change my thinking and my attitude about the very things I've just moaned about in this paragraph. This is can-do. These things will make money. The scales are tipping.

Did I mention I'm glad I'm not a mom?

Now's as good a time as ever to get cookin' (where's my planner book?)...

Post-post (ha! get it?): Good grief, I just scrolled down and realized I pretty much wrote the same post last week (see rollin')!
Hmmmm... can you tell what's been on my mind?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

go wolfpack!

Lordy, am I tired.

Oh yeah. It's back-to-school time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

JT and book-tv

If you can, check out John Taylor's latest blog entry on the link in my bloglist. Maybe it's just my personal connection to him that makes his blog entries so compelling to me, but the boy can write! Not only that, but he's very giving of himself in terms of what he reveals in his prose. The more I read his blogs, the less he sounds like a pop star and the more he sounds like a musician (although, make no mistake, he's got quite a grand life, that one).

In about an hour I am going to meet my friend and colleague at Bruegger's Bagels (oh, how I miss Long Island bagels!) and we are going to do some "get rich quick" brainstorming on how we can combine our talents with technology, and not in the academic field. With the success of Stacey's How to Publish a Book website, we got to talking about how we can augment that site. It was actually something he said that really got my wheels spinning, "Look at how the Food Network started out and where that is today." Can we do the same w/ books or writing? Can we make it more entertaining? That's what A and I are going to find out.

Ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I've not posted lately because I'm trying to get my head back into a new semester. But I've got a lot on the horizon. It looks like I may have an independent publisher for my nonfiction book (which means I've got to get crackin' and finish it!), and my novel is still waiting for me to finish tweaking the bio photo and get that released. There's also the current novel, which keeps evolving scene by scene (and we keep adding these little scenes here and there, although in some cases we don't know where they fit!). Add to that my teen writers group, write-2-publish, Spirit Scribes, my new women's writers group -- what's this? Have I actually become an official contributing member of society here in NC? I've been here two years, after all. Two years since Aug 15th, in fact.

I'm not the new kid anymore.

Which means the ball is officially rolling now. Pretty cool.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

a rhetorical value of Facebook for Generation X

A good friend of mine and I were talking about Facebook recently, and how it's not only become a connection/networking tool for our generation (the Xers, if you will), but also as a means of re-connection. What's more, she observed with that re-connection comes reconciliation, in some cases. Now that we're all grown up, the petty things that separated us in the first place seem to disappear. In some cases, these reconciliations happen in actual writing, notes on a Wall or in a Message that say, "So what the hell was that all about twenty years ago?" or actual "I am so sorry I was so stupid back then." In others, I think the water under the bridge is just that, and it remains unspoken.

It took me years to even get a Facebook page -- as a teacher, the last thing I wanted was for current students to be Friending me, checking out my page, and god forbid I posted something that pissed someone off. My other fear was the banality of it. I didn't want to Friend anyone that I didn't already have some genuine investment in. I didn't want my relationships to be reduced to snippets of pictures and winks and nods and one hello and nothing more. But when my aforementioned friend showed me her page (and how many of our colleagues are also on it), I changed my tune, although I put every privacy setting in place that I could.

I'm glad I did, though. It's one more way to keep up w/ my Massachusetts friends (and a couple of former MA students), not to mention some of my family -- cousins, nieces, and nephews. Additionally, a half-dozen people from high school Friended me (one of whom was actually a really good friend of my twin brother's -- I actually Friended him -- and another whom I'd had a short-lived crush on back then); they all sought me out. And of them, two were girls with whom I'd been best friends and had a massive falling out before senior year. One of them I'd been best friends w/ since junior high. And when I'd lost their friendship, I was devastated, despite the fact that I'd contributed to the demise.

I have thought about writing to both of them and officially apologizing, telling them straight out: The truth is that I was so messed up back then that I couldn't have a healthy relationship w/ anyone. Forgive me. But I haven't, because I'm afraid they might think I've been dwelling on it all these years; or, even scarier, that nothing's changed. I hope that it's water under the bridge for all of us. That we just know that we've all grown up and we've all become more than who we were back then. That the forgiveness was exchanged silently, spiritually, in our sleep.

Writing in the electronic age has crossed so many rhetorical boundaries that it's hard to keep up. I heard someone on NPR remark that because of blogs, podcasting, ebooks, etc., email, Facebook, etc., more writing than ever is being exchanged, published, read, written, etc. But what is its substance? I don't have an answer for it. And when I started my other blog, my private blog, over a year ago, I constantly questioned its rhetorical value, it's audience and purpose (was it for me, an audience of one? or was it for someone else? did anyone really care about my love life?) Even now, at this moment, I question the rhetorical value of this blog. But as long as it has an audience (even an audience of one?) and a purpose, it has to count for something.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the life and death of a peacemaker (or, what living large is really all about)

I met Mary-Elizabeth Butler thirteen years ago, when I had entered UMass Dartmouth as a "returning student" (I was 25) and was looking for other undergrads my age. I was also looking for a way to get involved and fully immerse myself in the university experience I had missed out on during the first half of my twenties. MEB, as we called her, was Director of Student Activities at the time. She took the time to meet w/ me, to help plan activities and jumpstart the Adult Re-Entry group (which, sadly, never did sustain itself), and somewhere along the way we became friends -- she was only a few years older than me, after all. So imagine my utter shock when just a few laters I learned that she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

From day one of her diagnosis, MEB took her illness in stride. She entered the situation fully present, completely accepting, and ready to respond to it. She read books. She sought out alternative and mainstream treatments simultaneously. She changed her diet (and she was always rather petite). She eliminated stress from her life (which, unfortunately, included a very messy exit from UMD, complete w/ labor grievances and scorched bridges). She took up yoga.

But she never stopped living. Not for a moment. Always the adventurous world traveler, she continued to see the world and connect w/ its youth, and she kept her pulse on the student services field, helping to draft grants and shape programs. She stayed positive. She stayed focused. And she stayed connected to everything that mattered to her. The ocean. Her friends and family. Her body. Her Self.

MEB came w/ me to Long Island a couple of times, once to the Winter Solstice festival at St. John the Divine in NYC, and once to see Brian Wilson at Jones Beach theatre w/ two of my brothers and their significant others. I remember having a moment at that show where everything was in alignment, nothing else mattered, and love was everywhere. It seems corny when I read those words on the page, but I guess you just had to be there. But she felt it too at that moment. We were both just so grateful.

In 2001, when I needed a new place to live, I happened to mention it to MEB, who proudly offered me her apartment since she was moving to Newport, RI. We both knew it was meant to be and laughed at the synchronicity. I lived in that apartment until I moved to NC two years ago, and couldn't have asked for a better living situation. MEB, who lived by intuition, had followed hers to Salve Regina, where she eventually took over as Director of Career Services. Newport agreed with her. Like me, she loved to be near the ocean, drew strength from it. I went to visit her a couple of times. We hiked, went to a cafe (she drank her green tea, of course), caught up, and recounted all the blessings in our lives.

I don't remember when she told me she had bone cancer, but I was saddened yet again. And yet, I never saw MEB not smiling, even when she had lost her eyebrows and eyelashes from the chemo. It also didn't stop her from going to Rome. I always returned from a visit w/ MEB inspired and in awe. I had asked my mom to pray for her, and called her after one of our visits.
"I've never seen anything like it," I said. "She's a peacemaker."
My mom, no stranger to the term, asked, "What do you mean?"
"She's not fighting it. She's not resisting or denying it, mind you. But she responds rather than reacts. She responds to the cancer's violent oppression of her body the way Gandhi or Martin Luther King responded to the violent oppression of the people. She takes direct action, but she does so nonviolently. She responds with love."

I lost touch w/ MEB after I left for NC. I'd had a bad feeling when an email I'd sent bounced back. Her cellphone number didn't work either. But I never followed up. I wasn't as good at being present as she was. I took for granted that if anyone could survive and defy the odds, it was her. I took for granted that we'd speak again at some point. We'd let time slip by before. Reading about the John Edwards mess and feeling for Elizabeth Edwards, I suddenly couldn't get MEB out of my head. I'm ashamed to say that I googled her, and that's how I found out that she had passed away on April 17, 2007.

I think a part of me knew all along. But my heart sank as I read the words. And I filled with guilt for finding out the way I did. I'm even having moments where I don't believe it. My friend is no longer on this earth.

But I don't think MEB would be too concerned about that. She was quite forgiving of such things. And the way I see it now, she is now both my friend *and* spirit guide, and I can talk to her any time I want.

If you want to know more about what kind of person MEB was, please click here. I think she'll inspire you, too.

Namaste, MEB. If there's anyone who lived large, it was you. May you continue to inspire me, and my readers. I love you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

some random writing thoughts

A conversation started on the teen writers group forum about protag POVs. Usually, I just observe the converation, but this time I decided to jump in. Interestingly enough, several of the female writers discussed how they prefer writing using male protags, while I confessed that I have a rather hard time w. any protag who's not an extension of me on some level. Their reasoning behind their POV choices was equally interesting.

I seem to be getting back to my nonfiction roots, even though I'm still not writing it (not creatively, that is). I've been missing teaching creative nonfiction. I'm thinking very seriously about starting some workshops to do just that. There doesn't seem to be any good reason or excuse holding me back.

This morning I also read a draft of a short story that my twin brother wrote and sent me. I'm getting very good at responding to his stuff, and giving him the same level of insightful feedback that he so often gives me, despite the fact that our writing styles and genres are so different. In this story he was exploring student-teacher relationships, so I guess I was a good person to show it to. And speaking of, I really wish that I could give my students the same kind of attention and depth of feedback that I gave to this particular piece. This is the last week that I have time on my hands, and there was no stack of drafts underneath his waiting for my feedback. With 60 students, I just don't have the time or the energy. And they have so much more that needs attending to, given the level of complexity that they're being challenged w/ for the first time. I've got to find a way to give it to them and not lose my sanity or collapse from exhaustion all at the same time.

I have decided this week to sleep as late as I possibly can, since next week I live and die by the alarm clock again. That's not to say that I've not been setting an alarm all summer long -- I've just been pressing snooze a lot more. I usually wake up at a decent time. Getting out of bed is a different story. And today, I've decided, will be my last lazy day of the summer vacation. I'd like to spend the day in retreat -- journaling sounds really good, in fact.

Monday, August 11, 2008

On living large

A couple of mornings ago, as I walked on the treadmill, a thought came to me: I want to live large. Unfortunately, the very next thought was What the hell does that mean?

Next, I found myself trying to imagine what it might like to be famous -- you know, to be recognized when you walk down the street, hear people whispering behind your back and pointing at you, have strangers come up to you and tell you how much they love you and love your work and they feel like they've known you their whole lives, yada yada yada...

I found myself trying to picture what "best-selling author" looks or feels like. I tried to imagine what it's like to have such name recognition -- heck, I'm just the purple panda here, but as a best-selling author? Hmmmm.

I'm not sure if or how this all chalks up to living large. I'm still not sure what I meant by that statement, and I'm not convinced that I'm not already doing so. And while I'd like people to buy my books and to like what I write, I don't want celebrity-brand recognition. I don't want to be gawked at, stopped on the street, followed, stalked, etc. I really don't want to be famous. I just want to make a living doing what I love and am good at.

I suppose living large is more of a state of mind than a set of circumstances.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Sorry to be a broken record on this topic, but I have to give thumbs up once again to the fantastic writers in the QRB teen writers group. They continually impress me, and I find myself leaving QRB in a good mood after each meeting. They make me want to be a better writer.

Last night each writer brought something to read. We had talked about creative nonfiction a couple of months ago, and one found she had a flair for it, after staunchly declaring that she didn't like the genre. Thus, she read her memoir about the day her little brother broke his arm. What I loved is how following the piece we talked not about the writing, but about our own accident-prone brothers, our broken bones stories, etc. I noted this, offering that, to quote the beloved, late Donald Murray yet again, "As we read someone else's story, we write our own."

Another had jotted an introductory paragraph -- that's it -- and wondered if it was intriguing enough to make the reader want more. It was! This time, what impressed me is how much planning she'd already put into the story w/out having it on the page yet -- in one day! It takes me weeks, months, years!! And the story was unique -- a Douglas Adams-kind of whimsical (then again, what do I know?).

And finally, our last writer came in w/ her notebook jammed w/ story after story after story, post-its and scraps of paper w/ scribbled notes, cross-outs and marginal notes and pages falling out, all this chaos making sense to her. I love it. Brings back memories. And yet, as I told them yet again (I was their broken record too), I was never so ambitious at their age. One of them is submitting her story for publication (I'm not even that ambitious now!). They look ahead. And my god, the amount of reading they do, and the kind of books they read -- also something I never did at that age (and it's the one thing I didn't achieve this summer -- for some reason, I've read very little). I was a creature of habit during my teens (still am, actually). I read the same books over and over. And I wrote very, very bad stories. Then again, I wrote them for me and showed no one. They write plays. They write novellas. They write themed short stories. They speak multiple languages. They build worlds.

All before the age of twenty.

Don't tell me America's youth is slacking. It's not all Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto and Louis Vitton and the IPhone. There's hope. There's definitely hope for the written word.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


This morning I'm extending a warm hello to all the wonderful women I met last night at the pot luck. Each one welcomed me with open arms and made me feel instantly like a part of their group. (And the food was yummy, too!) We wound up not doing the open mic idea, since there were just enough of us that each could take a turn reading what we'd brought. Besides, I think it would've been a split vote -- each one was terrific, and each one was different.

I did wind up reading an excerpt from the new novel, a piece that my writing partner and I had passed back and forth for revision a number of times, so it was in pretty good shape. They loved it-- gave us (I have to say "us" because even though she wasn't physically there, my writing partner deserves that kudos) a round of applause and lots of praise. Felt really good, of course. I even got some advice regarding cover art for Faking It!

The energy in the room felt like more than just a writer's group, though. It felt like a women's group to me, and I appreciated that. I don't know if that was ever their intention, but from an outsider (and I'm using that term loosely, because I certainly didn't feel like nor was treated as one) looking in, that's what I saw. Maybe it was the rapport that they had w/ each other. Maybe it was the support and encouragement that each offered. Certainly the common goal was to grow as writers; but when that happens, we grow as well. They're growing together. That's very special.

I've been living here for two years as of next week (where did it go?), and I'm finally finding that sense of community that I think we as humans instinctively seek out. And it's not to say that I was lonely or isolated for the last two years -- I knew it would take time, and I was patient. I planted seeds. But they're sprouting now, and I'm delighted.
But I'm also a little scared. I seem to be drifting farther away from academia. Five years ago, I was so gung ho to build a career around that; now, it's becoming a job, and I don't want that -- I don't want it to be just a job, that is. Don't get me wrong, I still love visiting college campuses the way some visit amusement parks. A campus is a comforting place for me. I don't ever want to leave it altogether. But I've got to keep working toward finding the right balance of teaching non-creative writing and being a writer, which is shifting.

And, as far as writing goes, I left last night feeling juiced not only about our novel yet again, but also to stay "aggressive" w/ my creative writing career. I talked a little bit about self-publishing, and when asked what I was going to do about marketing and promotion, I wasn't really satisfied w/ my answer. That's something I need to work on and think about for the next few weeks. Ideas, anyone?

In the meantime, it's back to course prep, and all the good energy from last night carry me through today. With gratitude.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

the best of all worlds

I've been invited to a new writers group tonight (thanks, Mit!) that includes pot luck and an open mic "game" that mirrors the one at QRB a couple of months ago. I'm so looking forward to it for several reasons, including:
  • a chance to meet new people
  • an excuse to make cake
  • a chance to share and hear some good writing
  • an excuse to eat cake

I'm waffling on what to bring to read (ooh, maybe I should make waffles for tonight!). At first I wanted to bring an excerpt from the new novel--one of the more developed and revised scenes. Yes, I know, after all my ranting and kavetching about sharing drafts too soon and being superstitious about discussing novels in progress, and that's what I wanna bring. But I feel really confident about these particular pages (as opposed to the damned 50, in which I had absolutely zero confidence), and I got permission from my PIC to read them (in fact, she's curious about the response they'll get). Also, even though I've never met this group (save Mit), I innately trust them.

There's also Faking It, which, if I could just decide on cover art, will be released at the end of this month. I could do a kind of preview reading. Hmmmmmmm... I think my head's more into the new stuff as of right now. I'll probably bring both.

Good food, good company, good writing. That's what I call a perfect night out.
Oh, and don't get me wrong -- I'm out to win this open mic, too! ;) In good, clean fun, of course.

Monday, August 4, 2008

yay freewriting

The freewrites did the trick.

For one thing, it's always a relief to do some low stakes writing every now and then, and the task is aptly named, for it is indeed freeing. For another thing, it was fun to write in character and answer questions as if she was on a talk show or in a magazine or something. I didn't worry about wrong answers, nor did I give the answers much thought as I was writing them. In fact, if any answer required me to stop and think about it, I didn't answer it.

And yet, sooner or later we got to those tougher questions and answers. After the fact, when the writing was done and we switched to being readers.

I started w/ questions that had been one of the key points of criticism from my writers group -- my protag is a professor-turned-cafe owner, and they couldn't see the connection, the previous experience, or the relevency. So those were the questions I started with: Why did you become a professor? Why did you leave? Do you miss it? How does one differ from the other? Etc. I liked how she answered, and it made me feel better about keeping this character aspect in, as well as gave me ideas to show its significance.

The second, of course, had to do w/ love interest. I posed the question, If you were the last woman on earth, and these four guys (I'll not name them here -- you know me and my superstitions about revealing too much of a novel in progress) were the last men on earth, who would you end up with? I love that her immediate reaction was, "What the hell kind of question is that? And which one of them put you up to it?" I also loved when, while being a little evasive, she asked, "Do we at least have cable tv?"

But that freewrite in particular elicited the most discussion between my writing partner and me (in fact, she she too a break from studying for exams just to talk about it), because I think it revealed the missing links to why these relationships weren't working on the page. It not only clarified what she wanted, but what we wanted. And, yet again, it helped us to re-see the possibilities for conflict, comedy, and resolution. It's all about the revision.

Isn't writing so much fun? :)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

the exclusive

Here's a little trick I'm trying out this weekend. I'm going to interview my protagonist. That's right. Actual Q&A. Find out what makes her tick. I already have a pretty good idea, mind you, but there are a few things I'm not clear on, and I'm curious to hear what she has to say.

Now I know this is far from an original idea, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say, if she's going to surprise me, and to the exercise itself. If you're trying to dig deeper, or simply get to know your characters and what moves them, or if you just have writer's block, then try it, and let me know how it goes.