Monday, August 31, 2009

the getaway

My writing partner in crime had a rough week, and in what was clearly one of those temporary-insanity-as-a-means-to-restoring-sanity moves, proclaimed that she no longer wanted to do the very thing she's devoted the last three years of her life to. On the verge of graduation, she proclaimed that she wanted to chuck it all. The thing that caused sleepless nights, panic attacks, mind-numbing hours of studying, and practice practice practice.

All while occasionally co-writing a novel when she found a spare minute, day, or week.

We've all had those moments. Hell, my mother HUNG A SIGN ON THE DOOR: Buy One, Get One Free, when my twin brother and I wore down her very last nerve. I've had teaching days when I swear I'm a fraud, and never want to set foot in a classroom ever again.

Writers occasionally want to throw their computers out the window (although, as my good friend Elspeth recently wrote, thank goodness for that Delete key). Doctors want to take up fly fishing. Heck, I'll bet the president is wishing he stayed home on that cold day in Illinois two years ago and played Guitar Hero instead.

So, as a sign of solidarity, I offered to run away from it all with my writing partner, my friend. Open the very cafe in which the bulk of our novel takes place, complete with cookies and reading nooks and regular customers to sit around and debate the really important stuff -- Culture Club vs. Duran Duran. Drake's Cakes vs. Little Debbie. Aaron Sorkin vs. David E. Kelley. And so on. Just say the word, I said, and I'm there. I'll even move back up north and live amongst all those Red Sox fans again.

And don't think for a minute that there wasn't some little part of me that wasn't kidding.

Of course, we came to our senses. This would be the only cafe that opened late and closed early -- I am so not a morning person. Besides, she's too damn good at what she does and she knows it. And there's all those aformentioned Red Sox fans...

We miss each other, and we miss working on our manuscript. Our momentarily proposed getaway was really testament to the world we've created through our collaboration. We're writing the book we want to read. We're creating a place in which we wouldn't mind living. We're listening to the voices of those we love dearly, and telling their truths.

This is just one of many reasons why I love writing. It's a magical camera that makes the world happen through my lens. And it all happens with words.

We can't wait to finish our manuscript and get it into the hands of readers. Perhaps it'll be shared by coffeeshop dwellers gathered around a table, discussing things over lattes and cookies, like trying to guess which one of us wrote which part, or who the protag should've ended up with, or who's going to play whom in the movie.

You know, the really important stuff.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

the blog list is back!

I'm not only celebrating that my blog list is back and I can catch up with some of my favorite bloggers and friends (and further my procrastination), but that I checked something off my To-Do list.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some blog-reading to do.

Enjoy, friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

a Lulu of a day

This morning I recorded a video blog interview at headquarters in Raleigh, NC, just down the road from the NC State campus. It was my first time visiting the restored building (complete with tractor on the roof), and I was graciously welcomed and given a tour. This opportunity came to me as the result of a post from Lulu on Twitter, and from there it all fell into place.

Aside from the friendly staff who greeted me and took the time to show me around, I was impressed by the magnitude of the operation. When an indy author works with a POD company such as Lulu, it's easy to miss the human face when the interaction is all electronic. How lucky I was to get an inside look!

The interview went well -- I read a little bit from FAKING IT, and put in a plug for ORDINARY WORLD as well. I was also told that mine is the first video blog interview -- woohoo!! I'm a trend-setter!!

The video will be posted to the blogsite on Sept 3rd. (Stay tuned for more reminders.) You'll also want to see the interview for a couple of special giveaways, one of which you'll notice right here on my blog in my storefront -- a free download of a sample from ORDINARY WORLD. (Spoiler alert!! Reading this will give away the ending to FAKING IT!)

(On a side note, the cover for the ebook sample is strictly temporary -- the actually OW book cover is still in the works, but I know it's gonna be great.)

There a a bunch of good reasons to seek an agent and a traditional publishing deal. And yet, being an indy author continues to reward me with readers, new friends, and tons of support. I am grateful for it all. Thank you again,, especially Carol, AJ, and Nick, for your hospitality this morning. Can't wait to see the finished product.

In the meantime, I keep writing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

awestruck: what The Beatles and Aaron Sorkin have in common

Ah, my poor neglected blog! I was hoping to get a post in sooner, but as they say, "better late than pregnant"...

The other day I was in my car. I had forgotten to bring my audiobook with me, so I popped in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I hadn't listened to it in ages.

I grew up listening to the Beatles. They were extended members of my family. My brothers are musicians and one is a recording engineer because of the Beatles. I can sing their harmonies, play any of their songs on my guitar (provided it's in the key of G, E, D, or A -- in other words, the easy stuff), and more. I'm no stranger to Pepper.

But the other day, something struck me. I heard something that I'd never really paid attention to before -- the guitar overdubs in the Reprise had a distinctive sound as opposed to the bass and drums. Naturally, I called the Pepper guru (my brother Mike), and asked him about it. It turns out that my theory of how it was done was close to how it was actually done, and I was quite pleased with myself for having such a perceptive ear. I was equally pleased to be able to have a conversation with Mike and not sound like a complete idiot. I love to hear him talk about it. The passion in his voice is as inspiring as the album itself.

Mike and I continued to discuss other technical nuances, and once again I marveled at the final product of this album. The Beatles get credit for the great music -- that's where it all starts. But Geroge Martin, Geoff Emerick, and the assistant engineers get all the credit for going beyond the bounds of recording and asking "How can this be done?" instead of settling for "It can't be done" or "It's never been done before." I am simply astounded by the engineering, the sound of it all, not to mention the hows and whats and whys of it.

Meanwhile, I've been watching Season 1 of The West Wing since buying the DVD box for a fab price at a used bookstore (all I need are Seasons 2 and 4, and Sports Night!)

I watch episodes of The West Wing the way I listen to Sgt. Pepper: in awe.

So many episodes of TWW -- in Season 1 alone -- stand alone as short films, cinematic pieces of art. Just as Pepper starts with the music, TWW starts with the writing. I will never stop talking about Aaron Sorkin's talent, his orchestral-like compositions of dialogue, his penchant for telling a story and/or putting two characters into a room together who disagree on something. Sorkin considers himself a playright first and foremost, and so many episodes of TWW can be performed as such. When he left the show at the end of Season 4, the show kept being nominated for Emmys and was one of the better dramas on television. But that's all it was for me-- another drama on television. It had lost its heart and soul, as far as I was concerned. Imagine the Beatles without John Lennon.

But what makes TWW so great are all the other elements -- acting, directing, music, lighting, set design, props, etc. These are the equivalent to the reverbs, overdubs, mic settings, orchestral arrangements, track bouncing, etc., of Pepper. And, like all those who worked on Pepper, each one is at the top of his/her game. It's downright synergistic.

And don't get me started on rhetorical appeals. TWW is so fabulously rhetorical and so full of pathos that I must stop myself from taking Season 1 to class with me and doing a complete analysis for my students (I'm afraid I'd be the only one in the room having any fun.)

Recently on the Aaron Sorkin forum "Questions for me" on Facebook, Aaron Sorkin himself responded to a conversation between a couple of writers about listening to music while writing. Two of us, myself being one of them, commented that we couldn't listen to music while writing (what we had failed to clarify was that by "writing" we meant "typing").

His advice:
"Don't do it while you're writing--do it while you're thinking. Or not thinking. Listen to music in the car. You'll hear an old song you liked when you were in high school and suddenly the lyrics will mean something new to you."

He's right, of course, and so much of this kind of musical interaction serves as the inspiration for a scene or bit of dialogue or a character's motivation. Pepper doesn't necessarily inspire the ordinary. Pepper inspires synergy. It piques my curosity, and makes me want to break each song and listen to it piece by piece.

As does TWW. Such works of art inspire me to be at the top of my game while simultaneously taking my breath away. Better still, they bring me joy and keep me close to people I love.

My point?
I'm not sure. I suppose it is this: find your own Sgt. Pepper or West Wing. Find the creative masterpiece that knocks your socks off, and draw from it like water from a well. Let it quench your own thirst to create, and sustain you through the dry spells. Let it taste good and cool you off or warm you up and feel all gooey and happy inside and out. Swim in it. Bathe in it. Or just float.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

new year's eve

Now that the new academic year is about to kick off, you're probably going to see fewer posts from me (especially during those weeks when I'm reading four sets of papers at once); but, I will try my best to post on a regular basis, and pithy posts at that.

In the meantime, I've been invited to do a video blog interview for next week -- how cool is that! Of course, my main worry is whether to go with straight hair or curly hair... it's nice to know I've got my priorities in order. The interview will likely be posted around September 1st. Stay tuned for more details on that.

I've also been hard at work making final edits and formatting adjustments to Ordinary World. I'm very pleased with the way this novel has turned out. Even though it's a sequel, it can stand on its own. The characters have evolved in depth and complexity, and I think you'll like it as well. I am always astounded to look at a finished novel, and I marvel that I wrote all those words and manifested those ideas -- where did they come from?

I miss my writing partner in crime, however. Miss her terribly. Between her crazy rotation (she's finishing up her clinical requirements for her chiropractic degree, in the northeast, I remind you) and my divided attention between course prep, editing and formatting, and other people's manuscripts, our own poor manuscript has been patiently waiting for us to pay attention to her again. Last night we had our first Google Chat in what seems like ages, and spent most of it confessing how much we miss each other and the writing. "I miss talking to you and our friends," she said. Well stated.

Of course, now that summer vacation has come to an end, I look back on it and assess just how much of it I spent writing. Truth be told, I wrote a lot: blog posts, tweets, Facebook, personal writing, and so on. But I'd be curious to know the actual word count of my fiction drafts. I added some new scenes to Ordinary World, started to work on the dialogue exploration for the writing contest (need to find out if the deadline has passed for that one), sketched out ideas for a brand new novel (two, actually), and did some work on the current manuscript. But not enough--at least not to my satisfaction. Part of that is because my co-writer and I are finally at the point where we need to be in the same room to work together. But the other part is... well, I simply kept choosing other things to do.

I mean, let's be honest. Any project or task to which I assigned priority was by choice. So to say that I was "too busy", or "where did the time go" is just an excuse. I think this is testament to my poor time management, but it's also something that I invite all writers to use for self-reflection. If you are not writing (and no one says you have to be that uber-disciplined guy who gets up at 5 a.m. and writes 5,000 words before breakfast), but what choices are you making in your life that puts writing your book at the bottom of your list? And what's behind that choice? I'm willing to bet a day's salary that it's fear.


The start of a new academic year for me is like New Year's Day. I make resolutions. I vow to be the best I can be, be it teacher, writer, author, colleauge, friend, sister, etc. Perhaps this academic year I'll resolve to think consciously about my choices.

And finally, I leave you with this: a Facebook friend's status reported that recommended his own book to him. Now that's something to aspire to!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

t minus all sanity and counting...

I'm taking a giant step and setting a Launch Date (not lunch date) for Ordinary World: Columbus Day Weekend.

There. It's on the record now.

Excuse me while I go have a mild panic attack.

Columbus Day weekend makes sense because it's a significant date in the novel. It also coincides with the university's fall break -- I could get some promotion done that weekend.

More important, it's a way for me to get my butt in gear. My worst problem, after all, is organization (that includes tme management). I was quite productive this summer -- but think of all I could've gotten done had I organized my time!

So there you have it. Stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way, for some unknown reason I lost my entire blog list when I switched over to the new URL. I haven't had a chance to restore it (plus it's taking me a few days to recall over 30 blogs -- I had no idea I'd accrued so many!), but I will, so hang in there. I miss my blog list, and my daily checking in with the blogs on said blog list! I say it again: Hang in there. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

why I write

A woman on the Aaron Sorkin and the Facebook Movie discussion forum "Questions for Me?" asked Mr. Sorkin the question "Why do you write?" and invited other regular forum participants, myself included, to respond as well. Of course, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I wrote the following answer, although when I awoke this morning, I thought of a bunch of other reasons as well. Here's the reprint:

I write as a way of learning more about myself and the world around me. I write as witness, or in response to others' witness. I write because I have something to say, something to feel, something to sort through. I write because I want others to think about things in ways they've not previously thought. I write because I can't *not* do it.

I write fiction because I have a story to tell, as well as a truth. The idea for the story always comes to me in the form of a what-if, and it never comes when I'm looking for it. As for truth, I'm usually not conscious of that until the character(s) reveals it to me. And sometimes that can be well into the revision process. And before it's revealed, it's manipulated, denied, explored, hidden, questioned, argued, etc.

(A side note. I used to never get when lit professors talked about "hidden meanings" until I started writing fiction. And keep in mind that I was not a lit major in college, and my graduate work was in rhetoric. I don't think of my fiction as literary -- I think of it as rhetorical. I use symbolism. But sometimes that symbolism is lost on me until I read the final draft and say, "hey, neat." Or a reader finds something that had never even occurred to me.)

And yet, I also write fiction because it gives me a chance to re-arrange certain truths. After a disappointing outcome of a relationship, I wrote a novel (actualy, pieces of it -- I haven't finished it and may never do so, although my friend thinks it should be an HBO sitcom), and gave the protag the relationship I had wanted w/ this guy. I found it immensely satisfying to change the outcome. In a fictional world, the Twin Towers can stand tall again, or the Dodgers can remain in Brooklyn, or Jed Bartlett is president of the United States. I enjoy the Land of Make Believe. It was my favorite part of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. In rhetoric, the goal is to persuade. (I also loved when Stephen Colbert coined "truthiness." I've proposed academic conference papers on the subject, and have yet to be accepted.)

I also had lots of imaginary friends as a kid. How's that for truth.

That being said, however, I don't really get into fantasy or science fiction genres. Maybe it's too much belief for me to suspend.

Not to say that it's always easy; but in the end, writing is home to me.

I promise you that Aaron's answer was far less wordy and far more interesting.

And so, I pass the question on to you: Why do you write?

Monday, August 10, 2009

you look maaarvallous!

Welcome to the new look of "I'll Have What She's Having": The Official Blog of Elisa Lorello. The conversation remains the same. Just a new look and a new URL. Please note that the new URL is, and be sure to update your blog lists, Bookmarks, and Favorites.

Coming soon: Ordinary World (the sequel to Faking It), more guest bloggers and authors, and a possible spin-off blog (more on that if it actually happens -- I tend to voice a lot of ideas and then actulaize very few).

In the meantime, is there any topic you'd like me to write about associated with writing, publishing, books, or something else? If so, please drop me a line and let me know.

On a personal note, I was saddened to hear about John Hughes' passing. Generation X grew up with his movies and cast of characters, and my fellow Gen-Xers and I had a great time on Facebook recalling some of our favorite lines. So many. Thank you, John. I don't think I ever made the connection before, but I think you're one of the reasons why I do what I do.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

walk the talk

I noticed that I've not exactly been walking the talk. So many times I've said, "You've got to treat your writing as if you're getting paid for it." "You've got to put on a business hat when you either query agents or self-publish." "You've got to be a marketer, a promoter, a salesperson, etc."

Those things can all get overwhelming for the writer. After all, the reason why we're writers is because we suck at left-brained activities! And some of the things I'm describing above are left-brained.

Most creative writers don't like to think of writing as a business, and they sure as hell don't like to think of their novels as "product". (They'll call them "children" before they call them "product"!) We make art. We tell stories. We tell a truth. And yet, the moment we put our books into the marketplace, the market takes over. If our intention is to sell books, then we've got to think like a salesperson. When we query an agent, we're trying to sell our book and ourselves. Why treat the marketplace any different?

The single greatest mistake I've made so far as a published author is being disorganized. I'm embarrassed to say that I've not kept adequate records, not kept track of money, not treated this like a business. I've playfully blamed my frazzled state of affairs on my Italian heritage, but really, that little cutism can only go so far. There's no good excuse. But there is hope. I'm well-intentioned, of course. It's my passion that's taken me this far, my drive to follow my desire, and to stand up to those who say "you can't do that". I've just got to stop being so impulsive about it.

There's nothing wrong with an author whose intent is to make money from the sale of his/her books. I grow increasingly dismayed at those who say "if you're in it to make money, then you're in it for the wrong reason," or "you're never going to get rich from it." Why not? Don't get me wrong -- I'm not talking about making product here. I think we've all seen in the music business, for example, those performers with a formula and an image and a record that they had nothing to do with except come in and sing the lead vocal track (to which the savvy engineer modified with auto-tune to make her sound good). And then there are artists, composers, and musicians like John Mayer, for instance. They make music, not product. But John Mayer sells a helluva lot of records. Why? 'Cause he's freakin' good. And I'm willing to bet that even if he never caught the break, he would've found a way to make a living making music. Why? 'Cause he's a musician.

My point is, if writing is what you love, if books are what you love, and you want people to buy your books, then why not put in the same hours of study that you would any other career to make it happen? Learn craft. First and foremost, you've got to learn craft. And you've got to tell a good story. But learn the business as well. Learn selling. Learn finance. Learn the market.

I hear it already: I'm an artist! So am I. If you think some of this doesn't frighten me a little, think again. But I'm also "a closet capitalist," as my brother calls me. Remember the post in which I asked what you would do if you had a million dollars, and what's stopping you? Well, here's mine: Be a full-time, published author. Why wait for the million bucks to do it? Why not make a living at it now? And the only thing that's really stopping me from this greatness is that aforementioned fear.

So, first step: get organized. And keep working on the story.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

heads up: another makeover

Readers, be aware: "I'll Have What She's Having" is getting ready to undergo a URL change and yet another makeover.

If you've been with me since the beginning, you know that my blog was originally called Kairos Calling and had a different purpose as well as appearance. When I made the first transformation, I kept the original URL because a) I didn't want people to lose me, and b) I didn't know I could change it.

If all goes according to plan, the new URL will be my name by August 10. Do what you gotta do -- write the date in your calendars, create a new Bookmark, etc. Because it's that important.

Anyway, back to writing...

Monday, August 3, 2009

mind stimuli

I've noticed that lately I've not been spending as much time on Facebook or Twitter. Some of this is because of all the course preparations I've been immersed in (which has been a surprisingly positive experience). It's also that point in the summer where sluggishness is inevitable.

I've also noticed that, as a result, my book sales have slipped a bit. I also noticed that my dry spell in terms of writing (I'm talking creative writing)and imagination has also crossed over to Facebook and Twitter in that I can't think of a single witty status update, or any status update (why that matters is reserved for another post).

So, I've been thinking about ways to stimulate my creative energies by thinking about those things that stimulate my mind. I've been playing certain kinds of music (studies show that Baroque music positively correlates with study skills and creativity), limiting my tv and internet time, reading certain books in smaller increments, visualizing positive outcomes, and imagining conversations with my mentors and inspirations. (Notice I left off chocolate and pop tarts. I've been focusing on less addictive stimluli. Fill in the vice of your choice.)

And lo and behold, it's working!

Most of the writing I did this weekend was private journaling. I wrote until my hand hurt, and the result was not only an epiphany late last night, but little bursts of ideas along the way -- idea for a bit of dialogue, for a new course, for a painting, etc. Nice. (How I'm going to channel that back into specific projects or book promotions remains to be seen. But it'll come.)

So my advice for you who find yourselves sluggish and dragging, be it physically or creatively, is to think about what stimulates your mind, and turn your attention to those things rather than to all the writing you're not doing and think you should be.

And please, share some with us. What stimulates your mind?