Monday, November 29, 2010

Taking It To The Whole

Every once and a while I'll be sitting at a meal eating something delicious and I'll discover that I am full. My pants will feel a little tighter. My stomach will feel a little queasy. And I'll start to feel a bit gluttonous. But, here's the thing, if it's delicious enough, it won't matter. I will continue to eat until it is gone.

This is what I fondly call: Taking it to the whole*.

This means that I could be sitting at the table, eating a hamburger and french fries, groaning and whining that I'm so full I could die. And then I'll take another bite. Yeah. It makes no logical sense. Basically, I make the conscious decision that, it's so delicious, there is no way I'm going to leave a spare bite behind.

This also happens to me when I'm reading books. I'll be innocently reading, making my way through the words and I will get to a moment. And I will literally say to myself, That's it. I'm taking it to the whole. This means that, no matter how late it is, whether I'm on page 5 or 500, I have reached a moment where there is NO WAY I am going to put the book down until I've devoured it completely.

I'm thrilled to let you know that this has happened to me three times in recent weeks. Three times! It doesn't happen to me often (at least not as often as it happens to me when I'm eating) so I was really excited. It happened with Kate Racculia's This Must Be The Place. I reached one of those big reveals, which I sometimes call a Maury Povich moment: (You are NOT the father!) and there was simply no way I was going to put the book down until I found out how it unfolded. Then it happened during Mitali Perkins' Bamboo People. I was so invested in the characters that there was no way I was putting the book down until I knew they were all going to be okay. And Rachel Simon's memoir, Riding The Bus With My Sister, in which I just had to know where everyone ended up after a literal and figurative crazy ride.

I just get to this point and there is absolutely no return. Since I mostly read at night, that means that taking it to the whole leaves me sleep deprived.

Does this happen to you guys? With books or food? How often do you take it to the whole?

*I have no idea if this is a real expression or where I ever heard it. I could be using it incorrectly and I wouldn't know. It's occurred to me that the expression could very well be "taking it to the hole" like you are taking it to the grave. Either way, I would like to take delicious food and amazing books to the grave, so I still feel it's appropriate.

UPDATE: Even though I googled and binged it, not finding much on what this expression means, it has come to my attention (Thanks Tyler!) that this is, perhaps, a basketball expression, in which you are 'taking it to the hole' and putting it in the basket. Still works. Still think taking it to the 'whole' in these cases is fine. Any other definitions for this expression are welcome.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Books I Am Grateful For

Everyone is grateful this week. I know I am. And for the usual suspects. My family, my friends, my health, roof over the head, shoes on the feet, and food in the belly. I am lucky. I am blessed.

But let's move on to what I'm also grateful for. And that, my friends, are books. I'm glad people read 'em. I'm glad people write 'em. I'm glad people buy 'em. Whether online, in the store, or on the street. Seems like wherever there are people, there are books. Except where there are not. Because I know not everyone is lucky enough to have their very own books.

I couldn't imagine a life without books. I don't want to get all preachy or anything. You all know a place or a person in your community that needs a book, so maybe you'll find a way to get them one this holiday season.

But I am very grateful I grew up in a house where there were a lot of books. These are some of the books I am especially grateful for:

The Night Before Christmas. This is the first book I remember owning. According to my parents, even before I could read, I read this book. Because it had been read to me so many times, I had memorized every word and the point in time that my parents would turn each page. Apparently, I plopped the book in my lap and began to 'read' the book in its entirety, out loud, for my Uncle Anthony. At the tender age of 3. He thought I was a prodigy.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I can remember sitting in a circle at school while my teacher read me this book. I was so excited. I don't have a lot of vivid memories of people reading to me (even though I know they did) so I really treasure this one. The fact that this Caterpillar grew. That we got to hear the words and then the teacher would flip the book around and show us the picture practically blew my mind.

The Swiss Family Robinson. I didn't like this book. But I was really happy to receive it. At some point in elementary school, my teacher made the announcement that she was going to give each one of us in the class our very own book to keep. This meant that it wasn't one of the books everyone in our class had to read together and then discuss. The teacher claimed that each book was hand-picked and no two were alike. The few weeks after the announcement, there was a lot of anticipation about what books we might get. Lord knows why my teacher thought I would enjoy a story about a family of 3 boys shipwrecked on an island in the East Indies. But it was a gift for me. And despite the fact that I didn't particularly like it or that I don't even remember which teacher gave it to me, I think it's amazing that, 20 years later, I remember which book I got. It meant something that a book was chosen especially for me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interpretation vs. Reinvention

On Saturday, I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. I loved it and thought it was a really beautiful interpretation of the books. The colors in the film are gorgeous. All of the blue, grey, and white tones as they wander through perfect. The emotional beats when portraying the relationship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron are so well done. It is, of course, the darkest of all the books and I thought the film depicted that wonderfully especially with the scenes at the ministry, at Godric's Hollow, and with Bellatrix. The story of 'The Three Brothers' was absolutely amazing. For those of you haven't seen it yet, that part was, for me, a surprising treat.

In reading some reactions to the film so far, I've seen that a lot of people like this seventh film because it is 'the most accurate'. It does not stray far from the books and, because they've split the film in two parts, it is better able to take it's time and tackle more scenes from the book. These kinds of reactions made me think a lot about the expectations we have when we walk into a film adaptation of a popular book.

It sounds to me like a lot of people get really angry if a film strays too far from the original plot of a book. People tend to like a straight interpretation. They don't like a director changing the order that things happen or adding scenes that were not in a book or leaving out important parts of a book or, particularly, changing the ending. They walk in expecting 'the book' and if they don't get 'the book' they are disappointed.

I'm kind of torn about this.

I've loved every Harry Potter film because it's brought the books alive for me. Sometimes characters or environments didn't look the way I expected them to, but I've always accepted the choices they've made in the film and, in most cases, applauded them. It's the filmmaker's vision. Not mine. I haven't done a strict analysis of book to film (have any of you?) but I've never left any of the films in a huff thinking that they destroyed the books or completely misinterpreted them. Sometimes I wondered why they may have left something out or extended a scene that wasn't so long in the book, but, I've never thought that there were giant leaps made from one to the other.

There are also things that the film brought to me that the books did not. Even though Rowling's descriptions are very detailed, the majesty of Hogwarts, characters coming to life in portraits and pictures, moving stairwells, and quidditch arenas were brought to me in ways I couldn't have imagined, in much grander, more magical ways, and I'm grateful for that.

However, there are two film adaptations of books that I struggled with because, in my opinion, they went to far. "The Namesake" which is one of my favorite books of all time. And "My Sister's Keeper" which is a book I didn't love, but found an entertaining read. In "The Namesake" the film follows the mother's story, while the book follows her son's story. That is a major departure and one I didn't like, even though I still enjoyed the film on it's own. In the film version of "My Sister's Keeper" the ending was sold off to Hollywood and is vastly different from what happens in the book, to a point where I found it offensive that the filmmaker would go in such an opposite direction.

For the most part, I am open to film adaptations. I'm open to learning something new about a book, adding some scenes, changing dialogue, perhaps even going off into a new plot direction. Mostly, I can separate a book from a film and judge it on it's own. But a reinvention of the story rather than an interpretation doesn't always work for me.

How important is it for you to see a film that portrays a book accurately? What kinds of changes from book to film can you accept? What can you not accept?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Tillerman Moment

I've been thinking a bit about Harry Potter these days. With the penultimate movie coming out, I've been feeling a bit sad. After the final installment, I wonder if there will ever be any big moments for the series again. No more midnight premieres or book launch parties. No more sitting for uninterrupted marathon readings, avoiding news coverage, reviews, and idle chatter, in order to avoid spoilers of each new book. And the hardest thing to comprehend: nothing more to discover. Even though the books are complete, at least there is still the anticipation: "How will they film this scene? How will it look? How will it feel?" But once that's done, there will be no more to wonder about. The story has been told and, after July, the film will have interpreted the story and that will be all. There will be no more...more.

And yet...

Just last week, I had a strange recollection of a series I read when I was in middle school: The Tillerman Series, by Cynthia Voigt. It begins with the four siblings of the Tillerman family, led by 13 year old Dicey, who have been abandoned by their mother and embark on a journey to find their Grandmother. The writing was raw, honest, and real. And it made me want to be a writer who wrote these kinds of stories. Stories about people, the things they do, the places they go and the people they meet. Really simple, honest story-telling.

What's strange is that I have not thought about this series in over 15 years. But, suddenly, the urge to reread it is oddly insistent. I've scrambled to find the books on evil Amazon, ebay, and beyond. I can't wait to rediscover what I loved about characters whose names I barely remember and reassemble the pieces of a blurry and broken plot.

It has already been over 9 years since I opened the first pages of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. I have not yet reread the series, as if I have been saving it for what I'm now going to call the Tillerman Moment. The moment I'll want to discover something I thought I already knew.

Have you had a Tillerman moment? An urge to rediscover something you once loved?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Save the Words!

Thank you to my dear friend Krista for introducing me to the site Save The Words, where you can adopt words that have fallen out of use from the English language.

I just adopted the word: aquabib

n. water-drinker.

Let's use it in a sentence:

Sally Tutu was such an aquabib that she woke up one day to find her eyes swimming in her head.

Feel free to adopt a word and use it in a sentence in the comments!

Monday, November 15, 2010

As It Turns Out: Somebody Likes This Blog

Thank you to the lovely, talented Lisa Galek for honoring me with my first ever blogging award: The Honest Scrap Blogger Award. Apparently, I'm honest. Which is quite ironic given the fact that I'm a fiction writer. Mwahahahaha! I write lies! All lies!

I have to share ten things about myself and share this award with other honest bloggers. So here goes...

1. For quite a long time I have had the story of a 16 year old girl in my head but had never written for a young adult audience. So, I was pretty scared to write it. This week, I officially decided to take the plunge. I hope all of you YA writers will welcome me with open arms and loving hearts and help me not be so scared.

2. I wrote a novel when I was 11 years old called "Ten Is Enough." In the coming weeks I plan to subject all of you to a few excerpts. Get excited!

3. I love to cook and I love to eat. I am obssessed with the farm to table craze and I belong to a CSA which forces me to figure out how to cook with things like 12 pounds of Kale.

4. I have lived in New York state for 27.5 of 30 years. 2 years were spent in Boston. .5 in the UK.

5. Of the 27.5 years in New York, 1.5 of them were spent in Astoria, Queens. 17 of them were spent in a town called Hicksville which is on the semi-north shore of Long Island. (Yes, it's called Hicksville.) 3.5 of them were spent in Ithaca. 4 of them were spent on the island of Manhattan. 1.5 of them were spent in Brooklyn.

6. I currently live in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood technically called the Columbia Waterfront District. Some people call it Red Hook. Others call it Carroll Gardens. I call it no-man's land because it is a 10 minute walk from the subway. I live with my boyfriend, Tyler.

7. I am an only child but I like to think I play well with others. Unless you want to borrow my bike, in which case, I'll cry.

8. I work at a toy company as a writer and producer. In other words, if you push a button on a toy, I wrote, recorded, edited, and produced all the music and speech you hear. Every time I tell people what I do, they ask me if working at a toy company is like the movie Big. I am here to tell you, it is nothing like the movie Big.

9. I loooooove dresses and skirts. From May to September, I do not wear pants. In the winter, I wear the same clothes but I put turtlenecks and wool tights underneath them.

10. I really love to blog and read your blogs. This whole 'I write, you read' then 'you write, I read' thing makes me really happy.

I would like to extend this award to the following bloggers:

Sharon Mayhew at
Random Thoughts, who was my first blogging friend. She is as sweet as cake and writes about cake. I plan to to buy all of her children's books when they are published and give them to my kids.

Lori H. Walker, who always has so many thoughtful, interesting things to say about writing and teaching on her blog.

Karen at
The Oliva Reader who reads and reviews the kinds of books I like to read on her blog. We are encouraging one another in our month of writing and I'm very excited.

Kerri Arista because her songs and her words are beautiful and honest and I'm excited she is writing a book.

Christine at
Inwardly Digesting because I've just discovered her blog and I like it very much.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Small Streets, Tiny Windows

As I was looking through photographs from a trip to Provence last November, I found a rather interesting trend. In all of the towns we explored, Montaureux, Aix-En-Provence, Nice, Cannes, Avignon, Marseilles, I had taken numerous pictures of tiny, narrow streets. The sun creeping up one side and shadows, on the other, crawling down to the cobblestone path.

There is something I feel when I see a small street, a little room, slivers of windows, tables pressed together in charming village restaurants. It is intimate, comforting, dark, close. I always think to myself who goes there? They are always the kind of secrets I want to know...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Writer = Reader. Right?

After reading Lauren Miller's piece in Salon and an intelligent response at My Friend Amy's Book Blog, I began to think a lot about reading as writers. To sum up the issue, Lauren Miller wanted writers to think twice about participating in NaNoWriMo because she believes that putting quantity before quality is irresponsible. She also scolded writers, believing that we should really take the time to read more, not write more. My Friend Amy responded by applauding and encouraging writers who participated in the challenge this month and she brought up an interesting argument: Literacy is a much larger problem and writers are not the target.


While I've never participated in NaNoWriMo, I am inspired by a month dedicated to novel writing. Maybe everyone does have a novel in them. And what's the harm in that? Maybe you don't need to go to the Iowa Writer's Workshop and sit in a dark room for ten years playing the role of tortured writer before birthing a novel.

Do I think that writers who participate need to realize that sitting down to write 50,000 words does not a novel make? Of course! Those who participate should take the time to revise and edit and hone their craft beyond the November frenzy. (Sorry for the public service announcement.)

Not only does it seem irresponsible to discourage a new generation of writers, but accusing an entire community of writers for not reading is offensive.  Because, as far as I can tell, writers are not only reading books, but devouring them whole, plugging them on their blogs, giving away dozens of copies, interviewing authors, participating in campaigns not to ban them, joining online challenges to read more of them, buying more bookshelves to house them, forcing unsuspecting family members to read them, and spending their entire paycheck to buy them. They have to-be-read piles in their homes that are toppling over and to-read lists that are virtually impossible to maintain given the life-span of an average human being.

There are a lot of reasons I love to write. But the biggest one is that I love to read. If I didn't, I'm not sure why I would want to enter the publishing industry, where salaries are embarrassingly low and new writers aren't exactly pulling in the kind of seven-figure advance they dream of. In my opinion, an aspiring writer wouldn't spend the days writing hundreds of thousands of words, spending ridiculous amounts of money on writing conferences, workshops, and fed-ex submissions, crying over hundreds of e-mail and snail mail rejections from magazines, editors, and agents, unless they had an absolute psychotic love of the written word. Because writing, in general, (never mind 50,000 words in 30 days) is INSANE, my friends. And there's no reason you would do it unless you love books, on certain days, more than your first-born.

But maybe I'm flat-out wrong. Maybe you've all never cracked the spine of a book in your life.

Tell me, writers, do you read?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Dystopian Novel Anthem

Do you write Dystopian Fiction?

I was listening to some Muse and happily discovered what I'm calling "The Dystopian Novel Anthem".

Assume this will run in the credits of the upcoming Hunger Games movie ;-) Eat the berries Katniss! Eat the berries!

Lyrics by Matthew Bellamy

Paranoia is in bloom
The PR transmissions will resume
They'll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down
And hope that we will never see the truth around
So come on

Another promise, another seed
Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed
And all the green belts wrapped around our minds
And endless red tape to keep the truth confined
So come on

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious
So come on

Interchanging mind control
Come let the revolution takes its toll
If you could flick the switch and open your third eye
You'd see that we should never be afraid to die
So come on

Rise up and take the power back
It's time the fat cats had a heart attack
They know that their time's coming to an end
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend
So come on

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious
So come on

Hey, hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey, hey

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious
So come on

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday Books for Writers! Breaking Away

I am not following the rules of Tuesday Books for Writers! this week. Not that there are really that many hard and fast rules to this, but the label does suggest that I will be discussing a book. I'm not. I'm discussing a movie.

Because Tyler and I are obsessed cyclists, we rented Breaking Away, a film from 1979 about a young man from a working class family in Indiana who is obsessed with Italian cycling. It was a fantastic coming of age story. A story that would probably translate to Upper YA in the publishing world. Dave Stoller is not-quite college bound and believes he's destined for cycling greatness in Italy. But his friends believe they are more likely destined to stay in their small town working dead-end jobs, living in the shadow of the prepsters at the local University. And Dave's parents also question their son's inane ambition. By the end of the film, everything is turned on its head and none of the characters end up where they thought they would be.

The characterization in this film was near perfect. Within the first ten minutes I knew exactly who the main characters were and got an immediate hint of their struggle. That is quite a feat in ten minutes! It reminded me how important those early moments are in any story. That we must share what type of person each character is through specific dialogue and behaviors. It also reminded me something an old screenwriting professor told me. That the first five minutes of a character's time on screen shapes what viewers will believe about them for the next two hours. It's no different in a book.

Not only were the characters well developed, but their character arcs were also fantastic. Even secondary characters had major arcs throughout the story. The people they became made sense given their intentions from the beginning of the story, even when their goals changed as they faced obstacles and setbacks. The script was really a great example of the hero's journey and seems like it would be a pretty good format to follow in your own writing if you really dissected it.

So if you writing a coming of age story or if you're just interested in learning more about character development, I highly recommend watching this film. It's also quite funny, so you're in for a treat. And if you've seen it please let me know what you thought!

Monday, November 1, 2010


I wanted to wish everyone the best of luck with NaNoWriMo this year. It has me excited that so many people plan to write their butts off this November.

I toyed around with the idea of participating, but realized that this kind of challenge wouldn't work for me this month. I'm a little lost with my writing lately. I'm losing interest in project after project, abandoning pages and words left and right. So I wouldn't even know where to begin if I did it. And the truth is, I write really slow. Painfully slow. I know the goal of NaNo is to write and not self-edit, but the goal is also to get 50,000 words and I don't feel comfortable forcing myself to get to a word goal when I'm just not ready.

So, instead I'm participating in Melissa's Novel Writing Month, which can also be adapted to Me and My Novel Writing Month.

It goes a little something like this. By December 1st, I plan to accomplish the following goals:

1. Nail down which project I am going to focus on.

2. Come up with a solid concept for that project.

3. Come up with a writing schedule for that project.

4. Begin that project and gooooooo.

5. Submit my short story, "The Symphony" to 1 literary magazine a week for the rest of my life until it gets published.

6. Recap on Dec. 1st on this here blog so that I am held accountable for these goals.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? What are you working on?

Is anyone not quite ready for NaNoWriMo, but ready to focus their writing goals?

If so, I hope you'll join me this month and rock out to Me and My Novel Writing Month. Which basically means, set some personal writing goals that work with who you are and where you are with your writing.

GOOD LUCK to all NaNoWriMo and MeNoWriMo participants! :-)