Tuesday, April 5, 2011

“Time to face the change. Ch-ch-ch-changes.”

Change doesn’t usually faze me. I embrace it, bring it on! After scratching through my address book close to thirty times, I’m accustomed to new places, people and things. My nomadic years started when I was six months old and my family moved where and when the Army wanted us to go. Unable to shake the wanderlust, I continued to move as an adult. Sometimes only across town but I had a need to pack and go, a desire for a change of scenery, a fresh start.

Maybe it’s motherhood, maybe (gulp) age. But, my resilience to change seems to be waning. I’m at one of my favorite Barnes & Noble’s at the moment. It’s convenient to my daughter’s school and it’s three levels, three levels of stacks and stacks of books. This reader/writer’s heaven.

The change when I first walked in took my breath away. A third of the first floor book stacks have been removed and tables displaying the Nook have taken their place. Now, on the whole, if people buy the Nook and continue to buy books, I’m fine with that. I have a Kindle and have bought more books in the last year than I ever have in a year. It’s the instant thing. I get a recommendation, see something I like mentioned on Twitter or elsewhere, and I buy it right then and there. In the past, I’d jot a note, probably lose the note and forget about the recommendation. That change is good!

But, there’s still something special about getting lost in a maze of books, pulling one off the shelf because it looks interesting. Dropping to the floor, sitting cross-legged and flipping through the pages. Feeling, smelling, seeing. So maybe that’s it. It’s a multi-sensory thing.

So there it is. E-books fulfill my need for instant gratification and printed books provide a multi-sensory experience. I want both! So, as long as this change doesn’t mean the end of printed books, I think I’ll be okay.

What are your thoughts on life as we know it in the world of books. The change is here to stay. How will you cope?

Happy April!


(BTW – I took a little poetic license with my title. I believe the correct version of Bowie’s lyric is “Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

3 Ways Editing is Like Spring Cleaning

My husband and I recently started some spring cleaning. I was actually a little excited about getting some things done. Especially considering it was last year’s spring cleaning! As we parsed items into keep, donate and toss piles, I thought about my writing. (I always think about writing.) I was trying to convince my husband that a Christmas wreath we never put up should go to a good home instead of collecting dust in our storage closet. A family member had given it to him twenty-years ago so it held memories. “The memories are in you, not the wreath. They’ll always be there,” I said. (It was easy for me to say that, I really don’t like the wreath!)

Our discussion made me think about the process of editing and the parallels between it and cleaning or organizing.

1. If it’s not working or useful, toss it. Most writer’s know you shouldn’t hesitate to “kill your darlings” if necessary. Whether a character, sentence, scene or even entire chapter, if it doesn’t benefit the story you need to be ruthless – toss it.

But, that doesn’t mean you’re back to square one or that your story or you as a writer aren’t better for writing it in the first place. We learn something from everything we write.

So, don’t be afraid to delete the scene where your character visited an old flame to get her tie-dyed shirt back. Just like you shouldn’t be afraid to get rid of that tie-dyed shirt tucked in the back of your sock drawer. You know you’re only keeping it because it used to make your chest look bigger.

2. Don’t be afraid to air your dirty laundry. Is the laundry pile making you cringe? Mocking you every time you walk by? Sometimes it’s easier to keep it hidden and not deal with it.

When editing your MS, look for places you can dig deeper and air your character’s dirty laundry. Everyone has secrets, something to hide. Everyone has a pimple, wart or flaw. It’s difficult with some of my favorite characters to let their faults show. My instinct is to protect them, hide their flaws from the world. But, characters only come to life when they are multi-dimensional. So bring out the dirty clothes, hang them out on the line a bit before you toss them in the wash. Fresh air does wonders!

3. Move things around if you need to. It’s amazing how much cleaner and fresher one of our rooms looked merely by moving things around. We didn’t get rid of a thing, just shuffled a bit until the layout was more appealing. Take a look at your WIP, are their places where just shifting things around will take your story to a new level? In one of my novels-in-progress, simply moving a scene deeper in the story enhanced the impact of the scene. I didn’t have to change a word.

How about you? Any tips on spring cleaning and/or editing? I’m all ears on both!

Happy writing, happy organizing, happy happy!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Love and Orangutan Twins

As Valentine’s Day approaches and red and pink hearts pop into view at every turn, I think about love and it’s many variations. Certainly when I say, “I love you” to my husband it’s very different than when I say, “I love double-stuffed oreos”. Wait, maybe another example, different than when I say “I love March Madness”. There that’s a more diverse comparison. (Sorry honey!)

When I heard about a blind orangutan giving birth to twins I couldn’t get to the article fast enough. Orangutans only give birth every eight years on average and twin births are rare. Not only was it love at first sight when I saw the pictures, but from my point of view this gorgeous girl loves motherhood. Look at the contentment in her eyes. Mom is blind. She can’t see the objects of her affection but she can touch them, hold them, she knows they’re there. Here’s the link to see this amazing new family.

This reminded me of a short that I wrote some time last year. About a love, a connection, two very different mothers felt.

When We Meet

When we meet, I notice your skin first, pale and butter smooth; so unlike my own, rough and walnut hued. Our eyes meet and we seem to lock in a child's 'who blinks first game' - your misty blue eyes focused on my amber ones. As we stare in silence, I begin to notice the details. Rings of flaxen hair wrap your face in sunlight. Eyes dipped in sorrow rest close above a delicate nose. You seem to be studying me as I do you.

Dark nudges away the light and I think about the time, aware that the gates will close at any moment and you will be asked to leave. Something is making it hard for you to turn away, as if there is something you need to share but can't. I want to ask you to return but I know you won't understand, so I try to communicate with my eyes, hoping you see my wish in them.

Before you turn to leave, my friend Barney comes to your side and I turn my ear to the conversation.

"You come here a lot, don't you?" Barney asks.

"Yes, I do." You wrap your arms around your chest in a hug. "I'm quite drawn to her."

"Our orangutans are pretty popular." Barney glances at me and then tilts his head toward you as if he has a secret to share. "But, she's a favorite of many."

Your thin lips tilt up in a weak smile. "I have so many questions."

"Please, that's what I'm here for." Barney points to the Zoo Volunteer patch on his shirt.

"She looks sad. Is she?"

"Gema is a bit sad. She's mourning the loss of a baby."

I watch as your face changes. Your lips quiver and tears start to spill from your lower lids.

Barney gently touches your arm, "I'm so sorry, miss. Was it something I said?"

"She and I have a lot in common," you say.

You rest your narrow fingers across your belly and I do the same.

Now when I see you again, I will look at you through new eyes. We are different, yet in many ways one and the same. Your heart beats to a rhythm much like my own. You eat, you sleep, you play, you bleed. You form relationships, you have arguments, you reconcile. You are tender to those you love and harsh towards those who anger you.

You love, you mourn . . . you love again.


So, my oft stream of consciousness rambling wandered down a few paths but hopefully all leading to the same message. Love can and does come in many different packages and here’s hoping you all get a heavy dose today and always.

Sealed with a kiss,


By the by, P.S. and all that stuff: I'm hoping the fact that I'm writing this two weeks in advance of Valentine's Day will distract readers from my inconsistent blogging. I'll do better, I will. It's a new year after all!