Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer Fury and Starting to Write Again

The days are hot here in New York and I haven't been blogging as much as I would like. I lost my camera early in July and began to realize how many of my posts come from what I see and how that makes me feel.

I've taken, perhaps, the longest writing break I've taken in a while. From the moment I finished the revisions to RABBIT ISLAND back in the first days of June, to today, I've written vritually nothing. Some journals. Some thoughts in this internet space.  I fooled around with a short story and decided to send it off into the wild to see if someone out there will publish it somewhere out there but, beyond that, I have been free of characters and plot for a long while.

I don't quite know how I feel about that. I've been dreaming a new novel for many moons and it, finally, feels like the right time to find the words for it. To think that I haven't worked on a new project with new characters and new story threads since before my wedding, over a year ago, my breath and heart quicken, wondering, what will it feel like to start again? To lean over the page and let my hair fall over the swirling s's and crossed t's of my thoughts.

I don't know.

As I originally thought of what to post here I could only think of the heat, the crowds in the subways, the way we're trapped in between buildings in this ferocious July.  This has been the fury of the sun each day from my iPhone. #NoFilter. As they say.

I leave for Ireland soon. A much needed escape.

I hope your summers are full of happy surprises. Or lazy sameness. Both great in their own ways.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Write A Good Book

So by now, you may have heard of JK Rowling's latest book, The Cuckoo's Calling, which was published under a pseudonym and sold a mere 1500 copies before the true authorship was revealed yesterday (and sales, consequently, skyrocketed.)  More on that, here.

I think this says so much about the industry. That beautifully reviewed, starred books, can still suffer from poor sales. That celebrity names sell books. That the quality of a book has little to do with it's success.

I find it all so fascinating.

Advice for new writers is always the same.  Before you think of finding an agent or a publisher, write a good book. It must start there.  And it must. But I think there's an important lesson here. That it's not everything.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Brother's Day

My friend, filmmaker and writer, Jennifer Treuting and her production company, Squirrel Friends, just released this amazing, heart-warming, short documentary about a group of brothers who created their own holiday. It left a huge smile on my face.

I really wanted to share it because a lot of us are out there creating things for all kinds of media and audiences and Jen is one of the most inspiring people I know -- completely committed to making awesome content for kids (and adults). Every time I meet up with Jen and our friend Jessica, we talk about all the stories we've got brewing, how we're slogging through the process, and how we're trying to get our work out there.  I leave our get-togethers feeling happy with the simple fact that we're doing what we love.

We're makin' stuff.

This documentary, which premiered at The Nickel Independent Film Festival, is an example of how fine that 'stuff' is. Check it out.  (And click on through to the links to see more of Jen's work which is truly awesome.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Thoughts on In The Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

When I was a little girl, I spent a large amount of time reading about unimaginable tragedy. I wanted to read books about slavery, about hiding in upstairs attics during World War II (there are a surprising many more books about this than just Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl by the way), about the genocide in Bosnia, and anything that involved a concentration camp.

My mother and my teachers thought my obsession was morbid and despite my mother's efforts to lead me towards the vast Babysitter's Club section of the library (which I equally devoured) I was always drawn back to these kinds of stories, particularly anything that involved mass tragedy.      

Even in college at Cornell, I remember taking a Women's Studies class, one of the few classes, beyond credits of required sciences and math, I was able to exclusively seek out and choose for myself, Women In the Holocaust. I remember signing up with Hillel, The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, a year later to take a journey to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a trip that involved an overnight eight hour bus-ride in which I hardly slept, an early arrival walking in the imaginary discarded shoes of a real victim of this tragedy, and an immediate turn-around trip back to Ithaca.  

I remember that a lot of people were confused by my intense interest in this period of history, particularly the people on this trip, some who remembered me from that class.  You are not Jewish, they said. My only response was to shake my head, I'm not.  

Then why?

To understand.

It's been a life-long obsession for me, to understand, to answer, not the question of how, but the question of why.  Why, in the shadow of my own great fortune, this kind of intolerance exists, why it repeats itself, why it happens in other countries, why it happens in our own. A futile question, in many ways, despite this life-long search.

Yesterday, I read one of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. In the Shadow Of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. Yes, it's about genocide, but I can not simplify the book and say that's really what it's about. I don't feel I can do this book justice with my own words, so I give you Ratner's, who tells this extraordinary story based on her own experience in Cambodia as a child under the rule of the Khmer Rouge:

A story, I had learned, through my own constant knitting and re-knitting of remembered words, can lead us back to ourselves, to our lost innocence, and in the shadow it casts over our present world, we begin to understand why we only intuited in our naivete -- that while all else may vanish, love is our one eternity.

It is this line, love is our one eternity, and this book in its entirety, that, after all these years, helped me realize, despite concerned teachers and parents labeling my obsession with tragedy and struggle as a child as morbid and morose, and confused students in the back of a bus to the museum wondering why I traveled to understand, even a confused me, as I check out more and more books from the library about these kinds of topics, that,  in fact, it is not tragedy and death I am forever obsessed with. But survival. Human triumph. Eternal love.