Archive | March 2012

Love and Rockets

Well, a friend just lent me the first three Love and Rockets by Jaime, Mario and Gilbert Hernandez. I found the first volume to be a bit early days, a sketchy representation of what the artists would ultimately do.

And then the books took off pretty much in the second volume.

While there are many attractive elements to Love and Rockets, two aspects of the collections drew my attention immediately. I was smitten with Gilbert's Palomar stories, a moody serio-comic about life in a tiny town. Characters range from caricature to real from panel to panel, and the emotions of the town are heartfelt and real. Think Winesburg, Ohio for the modern reader, and you have a feel for the literary quality of Palomar. Yet, aspects that are off kilter belong uniquely to this artist. I look forward to more of this.

Strangely mixed with the world of Palomar is the more kicky adventures from Jaime, perhaps the rocket part of the title of the comic. Locas centers on a talented young mechanic who is assistant to a handsome famous mechanic, and zany adventures in exotic locales ensue. Try to think of it as high action adventure, with car repair thrown in. There's a fair amount of unrequited love thrown around, and a more offbeat support cast than I can describe in a short blurb (Female wrestlers. An adventuress who wants to be a superhero. Despots.)

Good pop culture stuff. However, it wouldn't hold me as much as the life story in Palomar does...except that Locas has Rena Titanon, an incredible woman in her 40s who has lived large (wrestler, revolutionary, 40s bombshell) and who is coming to terms with her age. I can't look away.

***

I had always meant to read Love and Rockets, but it might be possible that I've given myself a gift by waiting until I'm at this point in my life. My reading now, in my 40s might be more nuanced, and less surface than having read them 20 years ago.

I'm going to recommend the series. There is an element of sexuality, but not sexism. And there's an element of Bohemianism as well. However, I guess Love and Rockets is like a complicated wine: what you taste at first isn't the taste that lingers as you look a little closer.

Revising: Getting Organized

I freely admit that one of the things that is happening to me as a writer is that my drafting process is evolving. I expect that I will never find a solution that works for each book, but I am learning some things about my own creative process that seem to be useful to know.

Recently, I have become a believer in the gloppy first draft, which means don't edit. RESIST! Hard for me, but I get more material this way.

And then I find that I spend the second draft writing what most people might think of as a first draft: I take my gloppy exploration and throw out the dead ends and keep the good bits, and sort of put tentpoles underneath.

And then...I wrote a synopsis. This was helpful, because it indicated to me I had directions and developed characters.

Now, I am rewriting for a third time. I plan to rewrite at the slowest rate of one chapter per week (for 17 weeks?), and really dig deep on details and integrate workshop suggestions. This will probably be the workiest of the drafts right here, where things are really reshaped and some of my earliest reader concerns are addressed and evaluated.

Next I schedule what I call backweaving. I release the story back to some other readers (interested writers, interested readers, my token child reader) and I see what new suggestions come back to me. I evaluate those suggestions and address them accordingly. I am also reading the draft aloud, and checking for continuity--making sure everything that needs to be added in early is. I have given myself a month or so for this, because if I've done my job right in 3, the story should be pretty solid here.

And then draft 5. Another aloud reading, a proofreading, maybe a couple more readers who are really getting the story.

And then peripherals, and ta-da! Off it goes into the world.

With a month off for Taos and the 25th anniversary trip, that means that Abigail Rath should be ready for agents in November. At a slow, steady pace. If I can get through it faster, so much the better, but my expectations are realistic. This would mean about a year for the book.

I may well work on some other gloppy draft during the 4th and 5th drafts, as writers are wont to do.

I've never been this organized before. However, I find that setting goals at a certain point can be just as motivating to me as setting aside time. And since no one is imposing goals on me, I need to do so to myself.

***

Catherine

Reproduction and the Right

I'd like to start with this video from my friend Kit the Brave:

Yeah, I know. These quotes are from out of touch extremists. Except, you know, one of them has a strong chance to be the Republican nominee for president. And...in case you feel safer with Mitt Romney, well, there's this...what Romney thinks depends on who he is pandering to.

***

I'd really like to be able to present these issues in a balanced, fair way, as I try to do with many of the things I talk about. But the problem is that those who oppose birth control are not thinking that through. Those who oppose abortion should SUPPORT birth control, right? Listen to what Romney said in Iowa in September. This isn't rocket science, right? More birth control=fewer abortions. That simple, yes?

***

For the record, I don't have children. I forgot to put it on a to-do list. It never happened. When I finished my PhD in 2001, Bryon and I had the talk. We had pretty much waited too long. He didn't want children because he works with kids all day. Yes, I know that your own children are different, but hey, look no further than a nurturing job to take care of many of your nurturing needs.

Also for the record, I am very pro-kid. I like kids, and I'm not one of those childless people who has any trouble with taking care of the tykes. If we'd become pregnant, unless there was any medical issue that prohibited a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, we would have done the parenting thing.

But you know, I don't feel a child is my way to live vicariously in the world. I feel that there's a bit of a food/space/water shortage. And my immortality is not assured by a child. The memory of you tends to disappear in five generations, they say. So I'm happy with the alternative as well.

If I had had a child, I am in a good position to take care of one. But what if I had four children? It could be quite a stretch to take care of another if I had four. Or, what if I became pregnant now at 46? That's an age to have pregnancy complications, and we older perimenopausal women are the second highest group to have accidental pregnancy. Birth control keeps me from having these problems, or keeps me from having to weigh the very private and moral issue of abortion.

I could be abstinent. But...I don't have to. Birth control. Yay.

***

Again, I don't understand the conflation of birth control with abortion issues, or birth control seen as an evil of its own. Men and women engage in family planning. Ninety-eight percent of women use birth control, and the majority aren't using it to be unfaithful. Statistics bear out over and over that men on the whole tend to be more unfaithful then women. We never here about how slutty guys are when they have sex. Ah, cultural double standards, how we perpetuate you!

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Pleaser Versus Poser

And here we are. I'm rocking my spring straw hat. No, you may not see. I'm at the computer without a camera.

***

Um...after I leave work in about 45 minutes, I'll be holing up to work on the 3rd revision of Abigail Rath, with serious workshop surgery on the beginning. When I run out of battery life, I'll be reading information on Hammer Studios, also for the book. I will be steeped in horror movie life.

***

On Wednesday I finished the second draft of Abby's book. And let me tell you, I really do miss the days when I would have done that, and I would feel any kind of done. Naivete is something to be cherished, inexperienced writers. Later, you can savor it when you look at the mountain of work you still have to do.

On Wednesday, I combed through the workshop notes and made a cheat sheet of concerns I thought I should address. Now, recent reading about workshops suggests that there are a couple of workshop pitfalls that you can fall into.

You can become a pleaser, thinking that if any change is suggested by a workshop, you must integrate it into your work. That way, mediocrity lies.

You can be a poser, listening to all the things your fellow writers say, but truly knowing your vision is superior, and pretend to take notes. That way, probably, badness lies. Also, if you aren't getting anything from your group, might be time to find a group that pushes you a bit more, or gets your writing a bit better.

How do you know what to use and what not? Here are some tips that I find work for me.

1. If someone asks a question, and you find you haven't answered that question somewhere in your text, write that down. If you know you're going to answer that question, make a note to yourself where in the text that occurs. If you aren't, think about that later to see if it fits in the story.

2. If someone doesn't like a character, a character's actions, or the results from an action, write that down. Is there a point to that? Does changing that take the story in a direction you want?

3. If more than one person expresses a concern about mood or setting, look at that concern carefully. Triangulation is usually helpful.

4. If someone doesn't get the story you're trying to tell, listen to their critique and thank them for it. Later, examine the story and see if the story would benefit from their advice or angle. It's okay if it can't.

5. Remember, it's your story. You can reject advice. It's your story. But always be polite at the critique. Reject in private.

6. Think about minor character's motivations when people ask about them. If you're like me, you've thought a lot about your mains. People who read your story will often enjoy a minor character more, and they think about and flesh out that character more, so they will often have suggestions for you that are good.

7. Pay attention to comments about words and rhythms. And while we're at it, did you read your draft out loud?

8. Get organized regarding your revision process. Nebulous can be good for early drafts, but integrating opinion sometimes calls for a system.

Well, time for me to get out of here and practice what I preach. You guys have a great weekend.

Cath

Parasite Writer Links Somewhere Else

It's been a day of small crisis after small crisis after small crisis. The universe has blessed me that the crises haven't been mine, but it's been a weird day (most peculiar example? Almost getting hit by a car because I had to slam on my brakes in the middle of a highway to keep from hitting an old man trying to salvage his ladder from the right lane of traffic. The ladder was in sorry shape.)

That's been my day. Who says we don't know how to live in Iowa.

So, let me link you to someone who was wiser and more articulate today than I was/would be.

And then, I have two posts I hope to get up soon: my reaction as a woman (why yes, I am a woman) regarding recent male legislation concerning my body and my choices, and a much less political post about time management and setting up goals for my next revisions of Abigail Rath.

Also, I have lined up my next writer and process interview! Yay! Stay tuned.

***

This weekend I will be going to Kansas City with Bryon to get Edward James Olmos' autograph. Tomorrow I have big date with word processor and chapter one. Have a great weekend.

Catherine

The Writing Process and Caroline Stevermer

Working on a new series of interviews here at the Tamago. I will be writing to various authors occasionally and asking them to share aspects about their writing process with us. Caroline Stevermer was the first author to graciously accept my author to be interviewed. It's my hope that these interviews will engender some discussion about the writing process itself.

For those of you not familiar with the works of Caroline Stevermer, you're in for a treat. Caroline's writing inspires young readers to be strong, independent women. A personal favorite set of books are the Sorcery and Celia books, which she wrote with Pat Wrede. These books are fantasies set in the Regency of England. She is truly a master of YA and Middle Grade.

Here we go!

***

Tamago: Do you have a regular drafting process, or does your drafting process vary from book to book? (If it varies, please keep one project in mind as you answer these questions.)

Caroline: I do an extremely rough draft (which seems to take forever) and then rewrite at least twice, more often three or four times. This is not a method I would recommend to anyone.

One thing I know for sure: I figure out a work routine and sooner or later, it stops working and I have to adjust or invent another.

At the moment, I write first thing in the morning (even before checking email -- a real test of character for me), but when I was working full-time, at least during the baseball season, I would put the radio on softly during the pre-game show and write through the game. It didn't matter if it was a blow-out or a nail biter. Whether they sent in a relief pitcher or not, I had to work the full nine innings. (West Coast night games just wore me out.)

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Seven Tired Introverts Walk Into a Bar

Wow! When it rains, it pours. Lots of ideas for writing here, folks, and not so much time to do it. Here I go, putting on my pants one day at a time.

So, this morning, there was this, which is a write up from a friend of mine who attended the same workshop I did last weekend, and he talks about the conundrum of introversion. And then, there's this.

Terribly ironic that several people who are introverted made the decision to get together and talk to one another about, you know, something, and pretty much spent all of their time together, but I digress. But the salient point here is that a bunch of introverts got together, stayed together a lot, and then the introverted bits started affecting how things occurred. Sensitivities were activated. Feelings were hurt.

I don't mean to imply introversion was the root of the problem. Many of us were tired, and you know, I'm not the most socially ept of people myself.

And I got to thinking, well, yeah. This happens. And well, yeah, it doesn't work out that people always deal with things with a measured, mature response, especially people who have a background of difficulty with such things. People can't always do that. And yeah, then there's the insecurity of how do you deal with this, and how do you repair what's occurred and so on and so forth. And there's interpersonal complexity for both participants. There's also how much each party is vested in the other, and so on.

How do you make the decisions to mend fences? To be honest? To realize the difficulty is with you? To identify when the difficulty is not with you? And when to let things alone?

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Considerations from a Workshop

And we're back in 3...2..1...

***

Hello! I'm back at work, and, coincidentally, back at sanity. Turns out on the last day of the writer's retreat I took two of my depression pills. Which you would think would turn you really mellow. You would think that, wouldn't you? 🙂

But hey, I'm okay now, and I understand from the host of the retreat that I didn't come off as a nut ball. My poor roommate, but since we made the discovery before I left, I hope my reputation as an insouciant but hyper whiner is invalidated!

***

You may or may not be aware that this month is Catherine on the road month. My one free weekend at home has turned into a trip to Kansas City to see Edward James Olmos at a Comic Con there. Then, from the 28th through April 1st, I'll be in Philadelphia at a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference. And the next weekend, we have guests. So, looking toward April 14 to do the whole catch a breath thing.

And of course, the relevant question is this: When will I get to see The Hunger Games, since my date night for Friday isn't happening?

***

I'd like to share a few things I've learned from this weekend's writing workshop. For those of you thinking about hosting your own.

1. Eleven is a lot of people. You wouldn't think so, but if you have a 3 day workshop, eleven is a lot of people. We did okay, but you know, last year, seven was about right in terms of work load and time off load. So, maybe you should think about 8. Or 10.

2. Having a cat or other fuzzy animal on hand for writers who are homesick for their own animals is excellent. Make sure you don't have allergic writers first. If you do, consider soft stuffed toys.

3. Schedule regular meal breaks. Stick to them. I know this goes against your Bohemian nature. Just do this anyway. The rewards will be better concentration all around. Or, if you want to work through lunch, arrange to have it catered in. Pizza. It's a happening food.

4. You would think 2 weeks in advance of the workshop would be timely enough for submissions, but if everyone waits until that last moment, and if you have a 10K max, and if you have 10 people, you can see where this math is going. Consider...asking people to get done on staggered deadlines? Or maybe 3 weeks in advance. In theory, writers should always have something on hand, right?

5. Getting a bunch of introverts together probably means you should have one free night during your workshop, so people can hide if they need to. Or a free afternoon. Or Free Willie. For some reason, the free morning always gets subsumed in sleep.

6. Up to individual workshop participants, but maybe next time I do this, I might record my critique. I have notes, and this time I'm using them right away, but that doesn't always happen, and you know, in 3 months, I won't know what the hell I'm talking about.

7. Have someone keep track of all the non sequitur quotes. There were lots of people who did this at our workshop, to good advantage. And for blackmail later.

8. Alcohol is a depressant. Caffeine is a stimulant. Writers who mix these might explode. Just sayin'.

***

See you guys later this week.

Catherine

In Full Retreat

Day 2 of Retreat.

Had a great time with Yolanda. We had some great conversation, and we went to this super ritzy spa and had amazing manis and pedis. I now have gold nails and soft skin. We ate at Seasons 52 and a great sushi place. So, pretty babied there. Yo and I also went to see The Descendants, and I was very impressed with George Clooney's performance. Also very impressed that George Clooney protested at the Sudanese Embassy. It's been a good weekend for my opinion of George Clooney.

***

So, the retreat. First of all, really trying to get back on the health track today. I haven't been off the rails, but more alcohol than usual is hard on this poor girl's plumbing and perceptions.

What I think is interesting, among the many interesting things in regard to hanging out with writers, is that with some of these writers I'm beginning to get the sense of the writer these guys might become, the unique voices and characteristics. And that's cool.

But I'm learning a lot. Like right now, Sean Craven just said something I found profound "Don't think in terms of revising problematic scenes. Think in terms of re-imagining scenes." Which is something I need to learn myself.

All righty. Back to paying attention to what's going on around me.

Catherine

Retreat! or 10 Creative Ways to Destroy a Vampire

Well, the day has finally arrived. I'm off to Dallas for spring break. As always, I feel sad because I'm abandoning Bryon for 4 days. I often console myself with the fact that he would be BORED OUT OF HIS MIND. I won't be. Yolanda and I will have fun today and tomorrow. I'll be doing my best to cheer her up, because her dog Amber is gone as of yesterday. It's rough losing a pet.

Thursday night I meet up with the members of the retreat, and Friday we roll up our sleeves and get down to business. This time I'm trying something a little different with my critiques. I've written initial impressions and I'll open my files when we're talking about the stories and transcribe what comes out of my brain as I'm talking. I think this will be a more accurate reflection of what I think than my pre-notes often are, and I know from my teaching that some of my best stuff comes when I'm thinking aloud.

***

Before I board my plane, I am working on trying to find a low threat level vampire attack. Imagine you are a junior high girl, your friends and teachers are all being mind controlled by a vampire, and you're trying to get them to snap out of it. Of course, this will escalate, and I have the second and third vampire attack/reveals figured out, but I need one more, and it needs to be dangerous a little, but mostly it needs to be revealing.

Here's what I've already explored used in the story--

reflections in mirrors and film
daylight (sunscreen)
liquid crystal sheets (body heat)
counting rice
crossing water
fire
holy water
holy wafers

and for the big stakes later we use a staking and I think a decapitation.

So, yeah, I'm looking for something that doesn't duplicate that.

Surprisingly, the Internet has a large amount of material on how to kill a vampire. Abby would be so pleased. This one might give me something to work with, but I'm also happy to hear your creative suggestions. I just wish Wolcroft Academy had a window. Maybe I can do something with field hockey sticks.

All right. Gotta get crackin'.

Catherine