Tuesday, May 22, 2007
These sentences have all stuck in my mind for years.....I have no idea if they will interest other people or not.
"You've lost your mittens ALREADY?"
father to small child in mall parking lot. I think they'd just gotten out of their car.
"First, Dad sells the pony. Then, the turtle dies."
(spoken by childhood aquaintance)
"While potato chips are not exactly a health food, you might be surprised at how good for you they actually are."
(small print -- above nutritional content -- on potato chip packet)
"You shoulda seen the place I had in '29. All spring I was up to my ass in daisies."
Hollywood starlet as quoted by F.Scott Fitzgerald in his notebook
"Just open the refrigerator and take out something to eat! You don't have to stare at everything as though you're thinking of moving in!"
father to eight-year old son
How much do we as writers need to explain? I often err on the side of explaining too little -- but as I look at these sentences, they all (even the potato chip packet) reveal so much about the speaker that any comments would ruin them.
Maybe the last is an exception: I remember the son bent over the refrigerator, looking intensely...and him shouting back:
"There's nothing to eat in this stupid house!"
The mother was a health food fanatic, hardly ever home, and a year or so later divorced the father....all somehow there in that scene?
Posted by Libby Koponen at 4:36 PM 0 comments
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The First Child
Books really ARE a lot like babies.....as a first-born myself, I've never really liked it when mothers neglect their first child to take care of the new baby. In fact, when I see mothers doing it -- even strangers in the super-market -- I have to restrain myself from commenting unfavorably (note: I always do restrain myself).
But now I'm doing the same thing myself!As my new novel nears completion (or what I hope is completion), I find myself completely losing interest in Blow Out the Moon, thinking that there is no need to promote it or fuss over it, it can fend for itself. I don't even feel that interested in it anymore (let's hope this is never actually the case with real mothers).
Posted by Libby Koponen at 12:57 PM 1 comments
Friday, April 27, 2007
This is up by my desk, along with
"There is no substitute for hard work" (Thomas Edison)
and a more upbeat quote from Linda Sue Parks about how she always writes at least 500 words a day....no matter how "crumby I feel about writing." She also says "when I sit down to work I never know for sure which kind of day it's going to become....I do my two pages...and when I'm lucky, the act of writing itself turns a bad day into a good one."
Amen! But this is what really almost literally sends chills down my spine -- I founf it in a friend's great-grandmother's (or great-great grandmother's?) handwritten cookbook.
Lose this day loitering and
’twill be the same story,
Tomorrow, and the rest more
Thus indecision brings its own delays
And days are lost lamenting days.
Are you in earnest?
Seize this very minute.
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Only engage, and the mind grows heated,
Begin, and the work will be competed!
--Maria Elizabeth Dietrich’s autograph book, 1876
Posted by Libby Koponen at 7:41 AM 1 comments
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Words in rewrite: 30,557 (have actually written more than 400 words- I took out a lot of stuff, too)
Finally, the numbers are ALL going in the right direction!
ALL the places where my best friend didn't think the ms. was working were the places I didn't really like myself....the parts that were labored, or where I didn't know what to say and just chattered. Here's where writing and weight really are alike for me: when I feel uncomfortable -- anxious (and for a writer boy is having nothing to say an uncomfortable feeling!) -- or empty, I fill up the space: with chatter in writing, with food in life.
Neither works. In writing, the solution is to concentrate on what wants to happen in that scene -- what the characters would do, how they would feel, what they would say -- and if I don't know, either there doesn't need to be a scene about that at all or I need to wait to write it until I DO know.
So I'm starting the rewrites with the scenes that have just come, the ones where I really do know what happens, what has to happen. For me, there is a feeling of ease and inevitability about these scenes. ANother simple test is that I can see them perfectly in my mind -- they play there like a movie. The chatter scenes are just words.
The new thing on the other Ws (thank you, Ana Forest!) is that I am just eating ENOUGH. I'm not on any bizarre diet (farewell, miracle fat-burning diet and South Beach and Frenchwomen who don't get fat!); I'm just having small amounts of healthy food. And doing lots of yoga.
Posted by Libby Koponen at 8:25 AM 0 comments
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Reader reactions and rewriting
I got my first comments: I could tell by how she said hello (trying to be cheerful but ill at ease) that my best friend didn't like the manuscript, and she didn't. She liked the characters and the setting, but not the plot which I had been so proud of!
At first, I felt deflated and even angry:
"One thing I loved about Blow Out the Moon was that it was such an emotional --"
"But I don't WANT to write another emotional book! I want to write a fun, action-packed adventure."
And then she compared it (unfavorably) to action-packed fantasies:
"The kids go into their basement and open a door to a whole new world!"
"But I want this to be a REALISTIC adventure story!"
I will admit that I also thought that she writes for TV: but this is the very reason that she's an excellent reader for me! Her strong points are my weak points.
When I thought it over, though, she was right about four things--luckily, I realized this before the end of the conversation and could thank her; we brainstormed a little. By the end of the day, I had ideas for how to change ALL of them. I called her back, we discussed them -- she thinks they will work and I do, too.
She is used to structuring a story with other writers--that's how they start all their scripts. She's good at it and I'm lucky to have her as a friend; not just becuse she's a good reader! But that's another topic.
So right after this somewhat deflating call I went to a three-hour intensive yoga workshop with Ana Forest. I almost started to cry during the workshop! It was designed to get you in touch with all the feelings that you would just as soon forget about -- I wasn't the only one to feel them: even one of my yoga teachers who was there as a student said later that he had felt "defeated." I considered (literally) walking out.
But, I didn't: although there was some bleak low energy moments in the middle, I did what she said - I stayed with it - and found a kind of calm steadiness inside myself that I never knew I had.
And it is in that spirit that I'm going to rewrite my book -- NOT all of it needs rewriting, if I just add the scenes I thought of yesterday and tweak a few other places, it will be ready to send out again....the editing can wait until the next round! My other readers can tell me what to take out: my task now is to get IN all the things I need to bring my heroine through her painful moments (which I skipped over and neglected to tell the reader about just as I try to avoid painful feelings in real life!). OK, Camm has to go through them, too; but she also will get to that calm steady place at the end --and (like me at the end of the yoga class) will be stronger for the hard choices she made.
The difference is that her journey will be externalized and articulated; one of the powerful things about Ana Forrest's work is that -- at least for me-- you don't even get into why you feel the way you do. There are just the feelings in your body and your body releasing them.
Some of Ana's words (when everyone -- a room full of at least 100 people) was roaring like lions:
"You may wince" (I was surprised that I did, I really didn't like hearing those sounds) "if you grew up with a lot of yelling...don't worry, no one in here is going to hit you" was one.
"Just make your own sound back, don't cringe," was another.
Another was that just when you get to the place where you want to quit, you should GET INTO IT and use the pose to help you through it. In my book, all the places that I didn't like myself -- that felt fake or forced or just not quite right -- are like those hard yoga poses. I need to try harder with them and tell them in my own voice, my own way. I have to wait for them to just come, too, I can't force them -- the great thing about yesterday is that all the ideas did just come rushing into my mind. They'd probably been there all along, I was just so intent on my idea of "action packed" that I didn't listen. It IS going to be an adventure story, and a joyous one; but the characters' emotions have to be there. I'm an emotional person, my stories can't just leave out that aspect of life.
I wish I could write today, but it will be just as well to let it all sit; I listed what I need to do last night, I won't forget; today is for client work. I'm as lucky in my clients as I am in my friends.
Posted by Libby Koponen at 6:00 AM 0 comments
Friday, April 13, 2007
Words in rewrite: 30,161
Yes, everything is fatter, including me....but the revised draft did go off to 2 trusted readers. It's not finished; I knew when I sent it off that the last two chapters were really really rough -- but just as I was falling asleep last night I thought of what the title means.
The title had lodged itself in my brain and wouldn't go away -- even though I tried to make it, and even told people kind of hoping they would hate it. I thought that might make it easier to discard it; but *I* liked the sound of it and people I told did, too.
But what did it mean? I knew it had something to do with navigating change, her feelings about change, but what? I swore that I would never again have a title that needed explaining (whenever I do school visits, the kids always ask "Why is it called BLOW OUT THE MOON?" and once I explain they say that makes sense; when I say I wish I'd had a simpler title they then say "No, no! I love that")...So THIS time, the meaning will be in the book -- or maybe not. Maybe just a few more hints. But at least now I know how that title is connected to the story!
I've learned a lot from writing this novel: that I can write quickly (six to nine months is quick for me), that I can write something with a plot....and that if I work on something, can't come up with the answer, and then just wait, it will come.
Posted by Libby Koponen at 7:09 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
When I first started working at computer start-ups I was usually the only woman at meetings or dinners.
"Are you enjoying all the football talk?" an older scientist once said with a smile.
Then, at one company, I worked with a group of women: engineers, QA, marketing, for some bizarre reason everyone on that team was female....and we never missed a deadline -- or "slipped a delivery date" as it was called (this was not the norm at that company). We got SO MUCH DONE! I've never told anyone this, but when we were meeting, I was never able to escape the feeling that we were just pretending to be grown-up and working. It always felt like a game or teaparty was about to start at any minute....maybe this is just because most of the guys really prided themselves on being macho (engineers are insecure about this was my theory) and THEIR meetings were a time for posturing.
Once at a meeting someone the other guys always mocked for being wimpy was having trouble opening a can of Coke. The meeting sort of stopped while everyone watched him struggle with it.
Finally Bruce, the boss, sighed,
"Show him how to do it, Ran."
And RAN (whose father had been a professional baseball player) took the Coke with a manly gesture and popped off the top.
This DID have a point about the BRGs (Alvina, I, and Anna are on the Mystic Bridge above; Alvina and I are wearing the scarves Grace made for us, Linda took the picture, Meghan was there only in spirit) but I'm running out of space and perhaps you are running out of patience so I'll wrap it up -- we BRGs work well together and get a lot done, too, because we're friends....there IS competition in a way -- we spur each other on, but we don't brag and we don't posture the way some men do.....and with us it not only feels like play, the tea parties often do break out! Grace is having one in Boston on May 19 and I'm glad, honored, proud to be her friend and to be invited. Everyone in Kids Lit Land is invited, too -- see the Blue Rose Girls blog for details: I'm looking forward to meeting those bloggers and readers I've met online in person.
Posted by Libby Koponen at 10:25 AM 0 comments
Are all deleted! I took down this whole blog in a foolish fit: these I saved, and perhaps they are enough.