"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Series: From a Writer's Notebook

I have always been an observer of things. I suppose it's a quality found in most writers, but I think it is one of our most important tools. It is where we get our ideas. It where we learn what truth is, so that we can better inject truth into our writing. Of course we can't keep all the things we observe in our heads all the time, so we write them down. I was given my first Moleskine notebook for Christmas, and it has been a valuable tool for capturing the little gems of inspiration that the universe throws at me. Often, when I don't have my notebook with me for whatever reason, I feel a little helpless and I find myself searching for any scraps of paper and writing utensils I can find, just in case I need to write something down. In this way, my writer's brain is always tuned in to the things around me, even when my regular self may be trying to stay awake in math class.

I am fascinated by the things that make my writer's brain tick. That's why I am introducing a new series of posts to my blog. In these posts I will share some of the things I found interesting enough to write down in my notebook, and examine why these things in particular caught my attention. Some other things these posts might cover are:

  • How to be more observant
  • Less traditional ways of filling up your notebooks
  • When to write a lot and when to simply jot down a few words
  • What to do if someone notices you writing down what they're saying
  • Etc!
Anyway, I hope you will enjoy the new series, and as always, feel free to share pieces from your own writer's notebook in the comments! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Keeping up with Your Favorite Authors

Hello again, everyone!!!!! I am going to do my best to try and contain my excitement and write a calm, thoughtful post...But the truth is I'm REALLY EXCITED!!!! This post is going to be kind of short because it's late, and I need some time to dream about the amazing things that I have just discovered. Okay, let me start from the beginning:

So, after yesterday's post, in which I mulled over a lot of different things, one of them being The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, I decided to check out Shannon Hale's website for the first time in a very long time. This evening I added her blog to my blog roll and started reading it, absentmindedly hoping to catch up on some news. Did I ever! Just within the past 15 minutes I learned that:

1. Shannon Hale is coming to my home town! I can't believe it! After years of carefully watching her blog for news of tour dates and destinations (and a very long hiatus in which I didn't visit her blog at all), I find out that she is FINALLY coming here, and that I will get to see her in person, and possibly even meet her! How cool is that?

2. A special edition of the 4th book in the Bayern series (Forest Born) has been re-printed with  original cover art by the original artist!! After complaining about the new covers in my last post, I thought this, along with #1 had just about made my night. And then I found out that...

3. Her book, Austenland, is being made into a movie!! I can't believe it! This is amazing!

Besides the fact that I am in a state of elation at the moment, I'm also amazed that I stumbled upon all these things at the same time. I mean, what are the chances? I just happened to click her events page and discover that she is coming to my home town (!!). I would not have seen the new cover or learned of the movie had I not scrolled through at least a page of old blog posts. What I'm trying to say is that if you like an author and their work, keep up with them! Authors appreciate your support, and you love meeting them and getting signed copies of their books. What if I had waited a month to look at Ms. Hale's blog, and missed her tour date! I would have been devastated! Now, I know not everyone is as big a fan of Shannon Hale as I am, but I'm sure there are other authors out there with an active online presence that would love it if you followed them- because you never know who might be coming to town.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thought Sandwich

I don't know how you bloggers do it. How can you write about just one thing per post, when it seems like all your thoughts have formed a mob in your brain and are yelling at you and waving crudely made signs that say things like, "Don't Forget your Dog!" and "Respect the Math Homework!" Both of which would be totally boring things to write about, and unfortunately they're both vying for my attention right now. So, at the risk of writing a very disjointed and all-over-the-place post, here are some of the (other) things that are on my mind at the moment:

This Book:

I am almost finished with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. And I'm conflicted about it. Seriously conflicted. Without giving too much away, let me just say that it is a little too "real" for me. It is one of those books that truly captures what life was like during a certain time period, but such raw, un-sugar coated subject matter has left me feeling a little bitter towards the world (and humanity, and men). 
But then, I think about what I like about this book. I like the friendship between the main character and her laotong, a sworn sister for life. I like the rich descriptions of just about everything, the clothing, the food, the setting. And I really enjoyed learning about Chinese culture at the time; it has been a fascinating look into an idea set completely foreign to my own, written in an unbiased way that lets the reader decide their own feelings about it. The truth is, despite the things I don't like about it, I haven't been able to put it down. I should be finished with it shortly, so be expecting a full review soon.

300 Word Essays:
I sent my Iowa Young Writer's Studio application out last Saturday. They asked for a ten page writing sample and a two page statement of purpose. After making the mistake of applying to only one summer writing program last year and being rejected, I have decided to apply to several this time around, and right now I'm working on the applications for both the Sewanee and Kenyon summer workshops. They both are asking for 300 word essays detailing myself and why I want to attend their program. Just 300 words! I know I should get used to the concept of telling a lot about myself in a small amount of space, seeing as I'm going to be applying to college next fall, but 300 words seems ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder if 300 words were a thing and not a number, what would it be? Can it contain love? Or even love poems? Can it span a year, or a day, or just an afternoon? If it were an event would it be a wedding, or a birthday party, or the drive to school? And if it's not even the equivalent of the drive to school, how is it supposed to convey my love of words, or my dedication, or my personality? I don't know, maybe it will be easier than I think. Maybe the judges will see my 300 words and think, "Ah, I understand you." Or maybe not. Despite my lack of confidence in them, I suppose the only thing to do is to make those 300 words the best that I possibly can.

The SAT:
This is a big, scary topic. A few weeks ago I took my first real SAT test. We were hoarded into a room, deprived of our electronic devices, and made to sit for 5 hours (or what seemed like 5 hours) in front of a test that would decide our fate. Sort of. At least, I try not to think of the SAT as a life altering, all powerful being. Maybe if I did, I would study harder for it and ultimately get a better score- but after hearing about the competition that goes on between some students over their grades (on everything, not just the SAT) I'm kind of glad I'm not a cut throat gal, willing to push myself over the edge just to get a better score than that genius over there. Still, with all of the other stuff going on my life (mainly trying to keep myself from sinking into the interminable sea of homework that is washing up on the shore of my desk), I haven't had enough time as even I would like to devote to practicing for the SAT. I guess what brought all this on was that I just got an e-mail about SAT scores being in, and I haven't had the nerve to look at them yet. So...Wish me luck!

The Feel of a Book:
This last thing I'm going to talk about is a little quirky. Or you could call it picky, or you could call me a dreamer and leave it at that. Some girls plan their weddings years in advance. They have the flowers and the dress and the color scheme and the cake and the music and maybe even the presents all planned out (not to mention a pretty good idea of what they'd like to see in a groom). And, I can wholeheartedly say that I am not one of those girls. But, if I could plan out one aspect of my life as thoroughly as the people that plan their weddings like that, it would be the feel of my book. If I ever do get a novel written and published, I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to feel like when someone holds it, or turns a page. And, like the girls who want their wedding to be exactly like Angelina Jolie's*, I have a certain book in mind that I would totally love my book to feel like. (For those of you who know me, this will not come as a big surprise.)
The book is:

That's right, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. This is my favorite book of all time. I read it in elementary school and I love everything about it. Other books have come close, and may have even surpassed it temporarily, but I have yet to find one that makes me feel the same way whenever I pick it up. The writing is magical, the story is un-put-down-able, and the characters feel real enough to be my best friends (How I've wished that were possible!). And though I could talk about the merits of this wonderful book for hours, that is another blog post for another day. Today, we're talking about feel. I love the way this book feels. At 383 pages, it is just the right size for your hands- not too skinny, not too fat.  It's squatness makes it feel slightly shorter in width than most other books, even though it's not (I checked). It's pages are a wonderfully rich cream color and they have a nice thickness (I've never liked books with with flimsy pages). Not only that, but who couldn't love the stunning cover**, the simple, but intriguing end pages, the map (!!), and the font, which compliments the story perfectly. Now, I know Mrs. Hale probably didn't have very much say over her cover or the font or anything like that, but I must say, she really lucked out. And I'm sure, as much as I dream about the feel of my own, yet to be conceived book, the feeling of holding my book in my hands will surpass any of these silly fantasies.

But, just for fun, here's some more pictures:

* Just for the record, I know nothing about Angelina Jolie's wedding. I'm sure it was very nice.
** Unfortunately (in my opinion), this beautiful cover was replaced by a typical teen fantasy cover that I do not like at all. This dislike, however, is not directed in any way at the writing in this beautiful, beautiful book. You should read it, no matter which cover it has.
Note: Also, if I sound contradictory about some of things in this post, it's because when I write I tend to work everything out in my head at the same time, which makes it very hard to create consistent points.
NOTE: I feel I should give credit for the title of this post to a friend of mine, who thought it up during a random brainstorm session. I used it simply because it sounds cool and because I think it captures the feel of this post. Any more thoughts to add to the sandwich?