Monthly Archives: August 2011

What do being pregnant and being a writer have in common?

I made the mistake of doing a Google image search for the word CRAVINGS. Apparently there’s a big demand in the stock photo market for super contrived and/or inappropriately sensual food photos.

 

Now that I see this question written down, I’m tempted to answer it with a punch-line.  What do being pregnant and being a writer have in common?  Either way, you’re fucked.  Ba, dum-bum.

But seriously, folks.  It hit me today that the cravings I have for certain books and movies when I’m writing (deep into my writing) and the cravings I had for certain foods when I was pregnant—and let me clarify I AM NOT CURRENTLY pregnant—are quite similar.  Same with the revulsions.  There are specific books and films that I suddenly need to read or see that relate to my writing and will hopefully inform my writing, yet are not too similar to what I’m writing, just as there are other books and movies that could taint my work, and thus, must be avoided like the plague.

Both the cravings and revulsions are exasperatingly transitory.  When I need them, I need them RIGHT NOW.  But when I don’t, I shun these books and movies like Superman does kryptonite.  It’s like the time I was pregnant and I spent all day long fanaticizing about a very specific chicken parm sandwich from a very specific Italian restaurant, then, just as the waitress placed it before me, the thought of taking a bite made me want to hurl.

It is not coincidence that the word craving and the word crazy share the first three letters.

After all, how can you NOT go crazy knowing there’s a mystery growing inside of you that you don’t entirely control?  And yet, I enjoy being at the beck and call of my own weird cravings and revulsions, trusting my gut to steer me toward what I need (and away from what I don’t) as I continue to wrestle with the One Big Question That’s Not Yet Ready to Reveal Its Face.

Which is why I believe that the ephemeral state of mind that gives birth to ideas feels so much like it does being preggers.

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Teaser Tuesday – Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

It’s another Teaser Tuesday, folks.  Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

And here is my teaser, from “Between Here and Forever” by Elizabeth Scott

I lean forward and look at Tess.

She’s still.

Silent.

The machines that keep Tess alive beep at me.  I’ve been here so often that sometimes I think they’re her way of replying.

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Not the first writer in the family

I took this photo at Ellis Island this past Monday.  It was just one of many posters about the Yiddish theater scene on New York’s Lower East Side during the early 1900’s, and if I didn’t have a whiny 7-year-old boy tugging on my hand, I might have stayed there all day.

“Yonkle the Cowboy Jew.”  Do titles get any better than this?  No one in my family had anything to do with Yonkle, but I learned through my grandmother that her father (my great grandfather) was an actor and a writer in the Yiddish theater whose accomplishments included translating Shakespeare’s plays into Yiddish.  What I would have given to see one of those plays.  Even just thinking about Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech in a thick Jewish accent is pretty darn entertaining.

Also, I like knowing that my interest in words and theater is something that’s been a part of my family for generations.  It makes me  feel connected to my ancestors  and gives a new perspective to why I do what I do, like my work is part of a bigger family history that I am also taking part in.

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School of Rock: A very special edition of Thank-you Thursday

I was in third grade when Mr. Willis came to our school to be our new music teacher.  I don’t remember a music teacher before Mr. Willis, possibly because it’s more difficult to remember back that far, but probably because Mr. Willis’s force of personality eradicated all previous music teacher memories.

As an eight-year-old, all adults were indistinguishably heaped into one all-encompassing category of Old People.  In reality, I’m guessing Mr. Willis was fresh out of grad school, no more than 23 or 24.  (I am now in my 40’s and sadly, I still don’t know Mr. Willis’s first name.)

“He looks like one of the Beatles,” was the word around Westland’s Elementary School playground that day.  We had spotted him immediately—the rare male teacher in a world of women, and certainly the only one with a guitar case and long shaggy hair.

We sat in rapt silence that first class as Mr. Willis unsheathed his guitar, a shimmering teal blue Fender Stratocaster.  Acoustic would have been enough for us, but an electric?  Even before he’d plugged in his amp Mr. Willis had exceeded our wildest dreams of what was possible inside the utilitarian concrete walls of our little third-grade classroom.

Without uttering a word, Mr. Willis dragged a desk chair over to him, propped a sneakered foot atop, then launched into a loud and gritty cover of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

I still know all the words by heart, as that would be one of the many cool rock songs we would learn in music class that year.  Along with Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” and the Monkees “Daydream Believer.”

The older I get, the more I start to relish the “blow your mind” experiences in life, the tiny moments where your world suddenly and immediately expands and you are remade as whole new you, like the first time you stay up all night to watch the sunrise or eat Pad Thai or listen to The White Album.

So, thank you, Mr. Willis, for rocking my world.

Are you happy ? Are you satisfied ?

How long can you stand the heat

Out of the doorway the bullets rip

To the sound of the beat

–Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust”

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Teaser Tuesday – HOW TO ROCK BRACES AND GLASSES

It’s Teaser Tuesday again!  TT is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

Here’s the rules, kids:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

And here is my teaser, from HOW TO ROCK BRACES AND GLASSES by Meg Haston.  Be warned, it’s a bitchy one! ;)

“You might want to rethink a date with blue hair,” I offered a tight smile.  “The streak would highlight that vein in your forehead.  Oh, P.S.?  Bangs would look so good on you.”

 

 

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The Holy Trinity of Awesomeness – Chabon, Nichols, and Albee

Yesterday, I attended the MacDowell Colony’s Medal Day where I had the immense pleasure of hearing Michael Chabon, Mike Nichols, and Edward Albee speak.

Seeing just one of these masters would have made my day, but all three?  If I had to choose between food and water and being able to just sit under a tent and absorb the wit and intellect of these three men, it would be no contest.  And I LOVE food.

There is something so galvanizing about being in the presence of artistic genius—and not just because it’s thrilling to be so physically close to people I’ve only admired from afar.  Seeing my idols in person is a living, breathing reminder of why I do what I do in the first place and what I aspire to become.  It renews my enthusiasm for my own work and it sets my sails straight.

Because of their greatness, I will be better.  Maybe not in this blog post, but hopefully sometime today, ideally between the hours of 9:00 and 1:00.

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Work Song

I woke up this morning, excited to post my favorite poem by our new poet laureate Philip Levine, then it turned out, the poem I loved is by Mark Levine.  Sorry, Philip.

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Flying Monkeys

One rainy Saturday afternoon, when my son was four, we sat down to watch THE WIZARD OF OZ together.  Having seen this movie roughly a zillion times in my own childhood, I was excited to share this cinematic classic with him.

Back then, my son wasn’t yet the expert moviegoer he is today, and he had the slightly annoying (yet also adorable) habit of wanting me to tell him what was going to happen in a scene before the scene played out.  So, I spent the entire film narrating it, like a living, breathing Spoiler Alert.

“Now, the little men are about to dance and sing a song about lollipops.”  I would say, predicting the film’s plot down to its smallest nuance.  And “Watch!  The Tin Man’s going to squeak.”

Then we got to the scene with the Flying Monkeys.  “This is the scary part,” I warned my son, pulling him closer.  “We might have to fast forward.”

“But I want to know what’s going to happen next, Mommy,” he demanded.

“Um,” I squinted at the screen. “I think…”

And that’s when I realized that I didn’t know what was going to happen next.  In the dozen times I’d seen THE WIZARD OF OZ as a child, even thought of myself as an expert on the subject, I’d never actually seen the scary parts.

Which brings me to wonder:  what are some of my other flying monkeys?  What are yours?

 

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Teaser Tuesday

Today, I’m trying out Teaser Tuesday!  Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

And here is my teaser, from THE SUMMER I LEARNED TO FLY by Dana Reinhardt: 

“If what I was attempting by sleeping on Emmett’s notes was to bring him closer to me, it failed.  I went to work in the morning and took the trash out five times.  No paper cranes.  That evening I left a truffled sheep’s milk and a Dutch Edam with caraway seeds.  Both were gone the next day, but no sign of, or from, Emmett Crane.”

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What’s the Big Idea?

I have lots of ideas.  Folders worth of ideas. Filing cabinets worth of ideas.  Ideas for books, movies, TV shows, web series.  I even have ideas on how to run a presidential campaign (are you listening Obama 2012?).

I think of new ideas so often that my seven-year-old son has started to pick up my habit.  “Oooh, Mom!” he’ll gasp from the backseat of the car.  “I just thought of the best idea!”

Of course, not every idea I come up with proves itself to be a worthy one.  And sometimes, even a good idea will simply fail to capture my interest over time.

But among the many good ideas that I have, few of them are Big Ideas.  In that they will never be huge franchises and sorely lack potential for becoming action figures.

In the days when it’s all about the tent-pole, I am the person who like small ideas.  And I’m not talking about some low-fi indie film kind of small (though I like those too) I’m talking about high-concept Hollywood ideas that simply don’t have sequel potential.  And in today’s film market (and sadly in publishing, too) that’s really not enough.

I know I’m in the minority here, but usually, I just want to see a movie.  As in one.  I am also happy to read a book, about one subject, and then, if I like it, read ANOTHER book by the same author, about something totally different.

And yet, the world is looking for the writer who can produce A SERIES.  Because as everyone who saw the first CHIPMUNKS movie knows, none of us were able to sleep at night until we knew they’d be a SQUEAKQUEL.

That being said, in all likelihood, I’ll probably haul my son to a theater to see CHIPWRECKED (the third in the chipmunk series) because The Franchise has successfully done its job.  But if I have to endure hearing the latest Top 40 songs sung in chipmunk voice for 90 minutes, the least I can hope for is that on the car ride home, my son and I will come up with some great new ideas about the premise for CHIPMUNKS #4.

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