Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Posts tagged “reading

Talk Amongst Yourselves

You know you’ve reached a weird point when you start Search Engining blog topics. I mean, what do I write about?

Part of my problem is overload. I’m writing four sketches a week, 10 jokes a week, two blog posts a week for work (why is that always easier?), and developing a sitcom pilot while keeping one eye open for work in the entertainment industry.nog

So, I guess I’ll update you on random things and you can talk amongst yourselves.

  • Love, love, love Los Angeles. Go…Theater Nerds? (I’m not sure what team I’m supposed to cheer for here.)
  • Still working two and a half jobs from home. Garbage disposal broke. Plumber came over to replace it. I awkwardly hovered over him and tried to talk about TV shows.
  • I flirted with him a bit, but he turned me down. It’s cool. Those inter-office romances never work anyway.
  • I’ve started referring to all my neighbors by their Native American names. Works On Car. Lets Dog Poop. Flirts With Kate. Has Loud Sex.
  • Egg nog is a meal in and of itself.
  • My Second City classes were lovely. They cost a lot of money. Those two things probably aren’t related, but whatever.
  • I haven’t finished reading a book in two months.
  • I’m reading Pride & Prejudice and I love it. Which makes me a stereotypical girl, but I’m dealing with that in my own way.
  • I lost a friend and made two.
  • I’ve been earning Adulthood badges like gangbusters.

Well, what have you been up to? I think you don’t realize how busy you are until you look at the date and think, “Hm. I should have my Christmas shopping done by now.”

Happy Hanukkah everybody!


Warning: I am not an expert

I titled this post so you would understand that this is opinion and what works for me. If, one day, I get published, then maybe I’ll retroactively change the title. Until then, if you’re looking for expert advice, I be not the one to which you should turn.

I mean, Gawd, look at that sentence. What does it even mean?

But, dear Internet user, perhaps writer, perhaps good friend of mine or family member, I want you to take this to heart with the force of my sincerity behind it.

Please be very careful about whose advice you are taking, especially when it comes to writing. Chuck Wendig posted on his blog, “The Internet is 55% porn and 45% writers.

The thing is: Not all of these writers are experts. You don’t need to listen to what they have to say. Even Chuck Wendig is full of shit sometimes. Only sometimes. He’s a good one to look at (plus, he has published books!).

I’m not often one to admit this, but writing is hard. There is no easy advice out there to help you write a book. There’s even less to help you get published. There isn’t a rule book, there isn’t a yellow brick road. The best you can hope for is reading about something that works for someone else and finding out that system works for you.

Here’s what works for me:

1) Write more better.

I got this one from A. Lee Martinez. It means write more and you will eventually get better. Or, writing more will eventually lead to better writing. I don’t know, but it means something.

There is a time to put aside a project that isn’t working and start something new. Don’t write one book and bank on that as the one that leads you to fame and fortune. Write more better.

2) Don’t expect fame and fortune.

Do you know how many authors are on the midlist? Do you even know what the midlist is? If you are a bestseller, congratulations! Honestly, good work! But, there are plenty of people who are published and still can’t quit their day job.

Be aware that your little book might not change the world. It might not get you published. It might not even get you an agent. But, if you follow the advice in point #1, maybe, eventually, you will land on something that resonates with enough people to get you published, agented, or off the midlist.

3) Finish it

You can’t keep it up forever. Slap an ending on that sucker, give it a round of revisions, and see where that leaves you. In the mean time, start thinking about something new.

4) Read

You can always improve. Read good books, read bad books, read magazines, read YA, read Stephen King. Read something and see if you like that style. Read something that you hate, but make sure you identify why you hate it. Keep looking for improvements.

5) Find critiques

Your head is an echo chamber. Sometimes, the voices of doubt, confidence, paranoia, suspicion, and anxiety bounce around so much, you lose objectivity. Give it to outside eyes.

I went to a public group that involved reading your piece out loud. There are plenty of ways to do this. Someone you trust to tell you the truth, another writer, anything. You need someone to look at your work to answer at least one question:

“Is it a book?”

So, yeah. I guess writing is hard for the simple fact that it’s not easy. You have to work at it. You have to want to improve. You have to do the thing that works for you and, if it doesn’t work, try something else. There aren’t rules, so much as guidelines.

If you try to take a shortcut, you might be disappointed with where the path leads.

Good luck. Be aware. Be careful. I care about you and want you to succeed.


A word and a promise

I am so, so, so busy. The move is 4 days away? No, that’s wrong. 5? I don’t know. My brain is fritzing and I need a few more boxes.

I promise a full post in the near future.

Until then, read a book and tell me all about it in the comments section.


The Babbling Paradigm

Recently, at a book signing, an author told at story about meeting Sue Grafton.

This author was at a major publishing event, one of those ALA’s or RT’s or RWA conferences where authors at different stages of their careers hobnob with the other members of their profession.

You all know who Sue Grafton is, right? The Alphabet Mysteries? A is for Alibi? Chances are you’ve seen these wildly popular mysteries around. She’s a very popular author.

While Jane Author was hanging out, someone said to her, “Don’t look now, but Sue Grafton is standing right behind you.”

Like all self-respecting human beings would do in that situation, Jane whipped around and yelled, “SUE!” For the next few minutes, during which she was shaking Sue Grafton’s hand, Jane blabbed her way through the encounter and didn’t actually remember what was said.

Which brings me to my point:

Who, if you had the chance to meet them, would you absolutely flip your shit over?

During lunch (with the author), she laughed about her Sue Grafton encounter and admitted that she would do it again. I answered, “We all have someone we would so that to. It’s just finding that person.”

I think this is an interesting question. Everyone has someone they would become a babbling idiot over. In the recent Nerdist podcast, host Chris Hardwick admits that he got a little flustered when talking to Tina Fey. If Tina Fey made time in her schedule to hang out with me for an hour and a half, I might lose it a little bit myself.

We’ve all seen that moment when the little girl meets the Disney princess at Disney World. Her eyes light up, she gasps, she runs across the park paying no heed to what’s going on around her. She wants to tell her everything. She babbles.

We never really grow out of that phase.

I have my stock answers: Robert Downey, Jr. and J.J. Abrams, but I don’t know if that’s particularly true. I suppose I would actually have to meet them in order to know whether or not that’s true.

You’re Iron Man. I-you-you’re Iron Man.

When does the mere idea of a meeting person become life-changing?

At the same event, a girl hung back and waited a little, quiet and unassuming. She stood in line, got her books signed, and walked around the store until the rest of the crowd cleared out a bit and the authors were left alone, signing stock and making plans for later.

When the time was right, she walked up to one of the authors and asked, “Are you ____?”

Author: “Yes.”

Girl: “Did you write _____?”

Author: “Yes, I did.”

Girl: “It’s one of my favorite books! I read it, like, a year ago and I want to read it again every time I finish another book!” She became a babbling idiot.

What does it take to be the person on the other side? How do we accept that praise? It’s not just admiration, it’s adoration. It’s breathtaking to behold. As a storyteller, I can only pray that I can reach someone on that level. You can write it off, play it down in front of your peers, ignore it in front of your friends, but that has to be an amazing moment.

You changed someone.

And, in the end, that’s all we can ever hope for.


Defending The Hunger Games

Just because we like something does not mean that we shouldn’t be critical of it. In general, I like the United States Government. I reap the benefits of centralized government. This does not mean I should just sit back and let them do what they want because I generally agree. I need to remain critical of how the country is managed.

As far as The Hunger Games is concerned, it isn’t the most perfect book ever written. The sequel and third books are on my list, but I’m not rushing off anywhere to obtain a copy. The over-hyped movie has made me frustrated with social media, as it fills both my Facebook and Twitter feeds with such gems as “OMG!! NEW HUNGER GAMES TRAILER!!1!1!!!” over and over. Stop telling me it’s the next Harry Potter. Stop telling me it’s the next Twilight.

Isn’t there anything else going on? Can we talk about something else? Oh, God, now they mentioned Rick Santorum…

Surprisingly, that’s not what this post is about.

At work this weekend, I was sitting in the break room with two coworkers, let’s call them Jo and Abner. Abner asks if he should read The Hunger Games. Poor Abner. He has been swept away by the hype and believes he is missing out on some big secret that everyone else is in on. There is a chunk of cultural literacy missing from his brain. Additionally, Abner suffers from YAphobia (a form of genre-phobia) that means he won’t even open the cover of a book that is considered “Young Adult”. Abner isn’t alone. A great many people won’t venture out of their preferred genres.

(This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as you’re reading, does it really matter what? Just be aware that you are most likely missing out on fantastic storytelling.)

Instead of letting Jo, who is quite taken with The Hunger Games, take over, I decided to offer a less biased viewpoint.

Me: “Do you want to read it?” This is essential. If you don’t want to read it, then don’t. If you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, don’t read it.

Abner: “What?”

“Do you want to read The Hunger Games?”

“I guess. I mean, the preview makes it look pretty weird.”

I explain that the thing that made it enjoyable (for me) was more concept than story. A group rebelled against the government, they lost, now the government kills the rebels’ children. Wait, no, it’s actually worse than that. The government takes their children, and forces the kids to kill each other while the entire nation watches. Oh, and guess what? Whoever wins gets to eat.

Yeah, when you put it that way, it’s really cool. Does that interest you? Evil governments kidnapping children and making them kill each other on national television? Where do I sign up?

Abner decided he’d take a look at it.

As I left the break room, Jo caught up with me and said, “So, you really did like it?”

“I told you I did.”

“But, then you criticized it.”

I think this is a problem, this idea that we can’t examine things we enjoy through a critical lens without being accused of hypocrisy. Let me point out that Harry Potter was just a kid and was almost killed at least once a year at the most secure place in the wizarding world, Dobby was the Jar Jar Binks of the HP film franchise, and Hermione was clearly a Ravenclaw.

Twilight…nope. I’m not going there.

But, hey, if you have some time and need something to read, go ahead and take a look at The Hunger Games.

Also, I think the movie will be fantastic.


Resolute: We Are Strong

That’s right.

Two weeks in, I’m giving you a New Year’s Resolution Post featuring (gratuitous capitalization)!

Let’s dive right in.

  1. Start/Join a band
  2. Don’t talk about “The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named” or, more commonly, “You-Know-What”.
  3. Save up $10,000 to move to LA
  4. Punch anyone who says “You’re so young!”
  5. Be more Internet social
  6. Read 100 books.

Let’s go in depth!

1.  This one seems to always make it on my list. I have two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and a bass guitar. This just goes to show, having the equipment does not automatically get you into the band. Bummer. Drag. Total waste. Except I still play often, much to my parents discontent. I need to up my street cred. I need to brainstorm band names with a bunch of crazies. I need to get my writer friends to make this happen.

2.  Ah, The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named. Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint. It may or may not have something to do with vampires that sparkle. I know some of you are going to get offended that I have decided to remove You-Know-What from my day-to-day conversation. This tome is an emotional lightning rod. Whenever it is brought up, voices are raised, teams are chosen, everyone gets excited, and I’m left sitting there, wondering what the Hell just happened. I’ve also found that most of my Harry Potter references are dropping off, too. Am I moving on with my life? Probably not, but if you want to talk (argue) about Twilight, take it somewhere else. Life’s too short.

3. Oh, yeah. THIS one. I have three jobs now. One with a television network, one at Barnes & Noble, and now contract work writing for a social media company. I’m going to be a better blogger whether I like it or not because I’m getting PAID! The whole “moving to LA” thing is this nebulous lurking glob on the horizon.

I’m getting erased from people’s minds.

I’m freaking out a little bit.

I’m going to be a television writer.

4.  People: Stop saying “you’re so young”. This is a meaningless statement. Would you like me to say, “You’re so old?” No. The answer is no. Besides, the “you’re so young” is not complementary, because you are inferring immaturity and a lack of patience. I am not too young to pursue my dream. No one is ever too young or too old to do that.

5.  In the last year or two, I’ve tended to be more of a poster than an interactor. This changes! I will respond to people’s tweets, even if they have no idea who I am! I will put crap up on Google+, even though no one will see it! I will approach social media the way it was intended! The spirit of the conversation!

6. This is another one of those things that always makes it on the list. Last year, I read 65. To be fair, I was quite busy with a new job at the beginning of the year, as well as being disgruntled with the world in general. I didn’t finish reading a book until March. This year, I have my Goodreads goal set and they will be coming for me if I don’t make it. I’ve already knocked two down. We’ll see what happens.


Open Book

I want to talk about reading.

Not as a writer.

As a reader.

Because I will never be able to quantify the vast amounts of information I have learned through the simple (amazingly complex) process of reading.

I was able to read before I started 1st grade. I’m not sure what caused this. Perhaps it was a push from my parents, or maybe just the desire of wanting to imitate what they were doing. My parents read constantly. There were always books in our home, and we were encouraged to read.

This is a photo of me on the day I was allowed to get a library card:

I could make up something about how this was before the age of computer games and the Internet, but that would be a lie. I learned how to type with Mario Teaches Typing. I played Reader Rabbit. I was a Math Blaster pro. These weren’t just in my home, they were at school.

My mother is a substitute teacher, and I asked her how her day was.

“Such and so can’t read.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“She sat at her desk and cried all day because she can’t read.”

“What does that-”

“I was teaching 3rd grade.”

My brain audibly ground to a halt as I tried to force this into some kind of perspective that related to me. This is truly cognitive dissonance. I know, on an intellectual level, that people don’t know how to read. I have not met these people. And, for the first time, I really started to think about how much knowledge, pleasure, joy, and heartbreak they don’t have access to.

I’m just trying to work this out in my head, and it ended up on my blog.

The movie is never as good as the book.

There are people out there who will never know Harry Potter, or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, or Harold and his Purple Crayon the same way I do.

I wish there was some way I could fix that.


My So-called (Immortal) Life

I love vampires.

I mean, really.

I love high-holy asskickery. I love moral qualms. I love vicious sociopathic killers. I love those looking for redemption. My only criteria seems to be they have the potential for immortal life and feed off some aspect of humanity, be it blood, emotion, or culture.

So, I present to you a thought experiment.

What if you were a vampire?

Haha! Awesome! So cool! I would run really fast and make out with hot guys (girls) and drink so much blood you wouldn’t even believe…hold the phone. That’s not where I was going with this.

What if you were a vampire 300, 400, or 500 years old?

I think you would be bored. Insanely, mind-numbingly bored. Let’s say you were turned at the ripe old age of 26. You have eternal youth on your side, but you’re not a pimply teenager anymore. Face it, stalking and biting humans is not what it was. Maybe once upon a time (maybe, mind you), people had a healthy sense of self-preservation coupled with the fear of constant suspicion that kept them in the house after dark, or safe in herds during the day. That could mean there used to be a thrill to the hunt, but that would fade. Humans aren’t so hard to separate from the back, and, as time passes, we are less and less suspicious of paranormal occurrences.

As a vampire, you rarely see another of your kind. You are completely and utterly alone. Any connection you try to make is gone within several decades, so you would stop making those connections. What would you hold on to? Say you play the piano. You have forever to perfect your art. Would you procrastinate?

Think about human ingenuity in the last 500 years. How would you react to a vastly changing world? Flight, social reform…look at the Internet. MySpace was a blink of the eye. World War II would be “that thing with Germany…you know, the second time”.

Don’t believe me? Let me refer you to one of the most stunning vampire films of all time.

Groundhog Day.

Yep, Bill Murray is a freaking vampire. As long as he is stuck in Groundhog Day, he is immortal. Truly immortal. He tries to kill himself dozens of times. Maybe he doesn’t fit the “feeding off humanity” criteria, but he is sort of a menace to it.

Obsessed with Film writer Simon Gallagher did the math and put the final tally at 33 years and 358 days. Whether you agree or not, this is one of the most interesting psychological looks at immortality.

Not to mention it’s funny.

Now, imagine Groundhog Day for 500 years. Now, that’s a vampire.


Aside

Book Breakdown (and a free something!)

I’m going to do it! I’m going to give something away on my blog! It’s a copy of Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore. Why? Because you should read it.

And, filing this in the “easier to ask forgiveness” category, it will be signed.

By the author.

Not by me.

Sound good? Okay, I think the best way for you to do this is either:

A.) Impress me.

B.) Submit a comment and I’ll draw it out of a hat.

C.) Cast names on the floor and see which one my cat chooses.

Probably B. Let’s go with option B. My cat’s not a very nice person.

Book Breakdown

(let you get something for nothing)

Texas Gothic

Everybody has that normal one in the family. You know the one. She sort of holds everything together when your crazy aunt is off making potions and magic organic household products, shampoos, soaps, and hand sanitizers, and your genius sister is popping fuses every time she tries to test her latest invention.

She’s the responsible one. The one who answers the phone every time; the one with the normal future that doesn’t involve getting swept up in mystery; the one who does it because she loves you no matter how weird things get in the nuthouse.

That’s Amy Goodnight. She’s ranch-sitting for her aunt (and baby-sitting her brilliant but intellectually distracted sister). Until construction on a bridge unearths a body and a ghost won’t leave Amy alone. She struggles maintain her aura of normalcy in front of the neighbor cowboy, Ben *cat-growl* as well as the Anthropology crew that shows up to take care of the body.

Make that “bodies”. As the body count grows higher, Amy’s might be the next one to be buried if she can’t get the whole ghost thing under control.

First Ten:

Goats.

Climbing trees.

There are goats climbing trees.

Leave a comment. How excited are you to get this book?


Aside

Why I Read YA

It seems every few weeks, someone says something misguided or general about the Young Adult section at the local library/bookstore. While I usually miss the inciting incident, I enjoy pouring myself a bowl of Rice Krispies and sliding into my front row seat on TweetDeck to watch the publishing industry retaliate.

Have I ever mentioned I love social media?

#YAShowdown was the more amusing hashtag, while #YASaves was more of an emotional outpouring, trumpeting the lessons and triumphs, the sights we saw, the scents we smelled, the roads we traveled when traversing some of our favorite stories considered: “Young Adult”.

I’m not a teen. I’m not a parent. I’m not a high school librarian.

So, why do I read YA?

It’s good.

No, I mean, it’s really good.

It’s well-written. There’s a story. The characters are compelling. The styles are diverse. It wants to take risks in the good way.

Life isn’t candy-coated, sugar-sweet, let’s all go to the prom and be happy.

Life is hard. It sucks. We weren’t born with an instruction manual. People make mistakes. Reality is tough and it doesn’t wait for you to be an adult to start throwing curveballs.

Why wait in literature?

My mother read A Wrinkle in Time to my siblings and I at the dinner table when I was a youngling.

My favorite section in the library was that little corner with the crusty sign above that said “TEEN” with half the “N” scratched off. I go to the library now and see their WHOLE ROOM dedicated to young adult literature, and there’s a prickle in my eyes as I try to imagine what it would have been like to have that many books way back when.

I love it. I love the voice. I love the stories. I love the characters. 

I even love the covers.

So, that’s it. No great insights.

You either get YA or you don’t. Find something you like, nay, love, and tell everyone about it.

Because reading is awesome.


Aside

Soapbox Podium Thumping – eBooks

*shuffle shuffle shuffle* SQUEAK! *clears throat and steps onto soapbox*

I’m about to pontificate, so feel free to ignore my opinion.

I stumbled across something I’m not going to link to because I don’t want to support the cause, even indirectly, but I want to be clear.

eBooks should not be the be-all-end-all direction of the publishing industry.

I know what you’re thinking, “Kate, you have mentioned on your blog several times how much you love your nook, and your iPad. You are addicted to gadgets. How can you say such things?”

I love eBooks. I love my nook. These things are true.

But, unless it’s an actual, physical book at some point in its history, I have a hard time taking it seriously for the simple fact that an author can’t sign it.

Every time I see that scene in Beauty & the Beast, when he shows Belle the library, my heart races, my pupils dilate, and a little voice in my head sings, “I want to go to there”. If I’m ever rich enough to build my own house, that library, be it physically possible, will make the final blueprint. You better believe there will be a track ladder. 

I suggested an author to a friend. Said author has a new book coming out soon, which I also drew to the attention of aforementioned friend. This author is someone who I know and have spent time with. Friend freaked out.

Squees, all caps on Facebook, I was thrilled, thinking, “Awesome. She’ll enjoy a good read, as all people of the world should.” Then I got this note.

“What’s your address? Will she sign stuff?”

Um. Well. Yeah, I guess. I mean, why else would you become an author if you couldn’t sign a body part…er…flyleaf or two?

Now, imagine you meet J.K. Rowling (in a parallel universe where Harry Potter is available on eBook). Would you have her sign your nook? I mean, come on. That’s not really the same. You could add a digital flyleaf in an iPad app, but it’s not the same.

As I am clearly the conflicted character in this novel, I’m going to tell you right now: if there were seven books that I could have with me at all times, the Harry Potter series would make that list in a heartbeat (maybe not all of it, but still).

eBooks rock portability, and, coupled with an eInk screen, things look pretty good. But there are some things that you need to see in hard copy.

There are some pages you need to thumb through.

There are some things that you need to get signed, if only to show off to your friends who don’t happen to eat pancakes with awesome authors.

If you’ve ever been to a book signing or plan on going to one, hold that book in your hand and think about this: without that person sitting at the table at the front of that line, this thing – this gigantic, momentous bundle of cardboard, paper, and ink squeezed by your hot, little hands that took you to a place you’d never been – would not exist without them.

You are holding a piece of someone’s soul and it’s not trapped in a little computer box.

It’s contained in this thing that you can give to your mother when she’s lonely. Or, you can read to your son when he’s sick. Or, you can rediscover when you’re swinging from your track ladder on a rainy Sunday evening.


Aside

Book Breakdown: Leviathan

I made a promise, my followers, and I shall keep it.

A review of Leviathan.

I’ll use this space above the official header to talk about something that’s not the book.

Reading. I am passionate about reading (I know, right?). But, I’ve stopped referring to it as reading, because the actual translation of text to image (or sound, or taste, or smell) is only part of the process.

No, I don’t read. I commune. Say it with me. Let that ooooo roll off your tongue.

An author can only go so far. As the Consumer of Prose, the reader has a responsibility “to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy, etc.; interchange thoughts or feelings.”

If you aren’t willing to converse with the author, stop reading and wait for an attitude adjustment. Lord knows I’ve gone into books with a bad attitude. Doesn’t work out so well.

Book Breakdown

(like talking with someone who’s not in the room)

Leviathan

I liked this. I had no idea what to expect going in, but I liked the cover, I liked the map. I liked the fact that it had illustrations. This was something that I could slip on like a Snuggie and curl up in a chair with.

We bounce between two viewpoints. The first is Alek, an Austrian on the run from a war. The second is Deryn, a Brit crossing the channel to charge into the fray. Though this is billed as a YA, the characters did seem a bit immature at times. As the book progresses, the characters mature, sort of like real children of a war, so the early immaturity is understandable.

Now, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but…this is the first book that I wanted to immediately begin reading the sequel. No digestion time, no waiting, just jump into the next installment. Don’t misconstrue. Leviathan is a complete and satisfying story arc, but there are still loose ends, and I was invested.

However, I practiced self-control (and already blew my book budget for this month).

First Ten:

Like I said, I don’t read back covers anymore. I was really, really surprised.

You see, Leviathan is an alternative history and, being somewhat versed in what happened in our timeline, my mind kept jumping tracks (in the good way), something like this:

“Oh, I see…wait a minute. Wha…? Hold on a sec, that’s not how…oh.”

The technology is the major difference. Walkers and fabricated beasties. Clanker and Darwinist. Different enough, eh?

Another hook in the first ten (hey, this is my blog, I do what I want), is the sense of anxiety. We get about two pages of normal world, then, BAM, we’re running for our lives, and I’m huffing and puffing like Randy Parker stuffed inside his snowsuit (A Christmas Story reference in May; for shame).

Westerfield is a strong writer. The characters are good. There’s a gun in the room from chapter three that keeps drawing our attention until, well, never mind. I won’t let that slip.

It’s a quick read. Enjoy the illustrations, too. Those are nice.


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