Posts Tagged ‘Ha!’
I attended the opening ceremony of The Adventure Park at Storrs last week, and as people traversed cable pathways in the trees overhead, I peered up through the rain to watch them and contemplate my own bravery. I’m not scared of heights, but I appreciate them.
Beyond just the concept of aerial pathways and ziplines through the forest, which is already pretty spectacular, three things about the new Adventure Park impressed and delighted me most. First, the technology of the safety clips that attach each climber’s harness to the cables makes it impossible for both clips to release at the same time. A climber is always attached to a safety line, and can never accidentally go into a free fall. That was incredibly cool to me.
Next, twenty-five people who love working with people, the outdoors, and physical challenges have new jobs. The Adventure Park is staffed by excited, happy, fit young people in bright orange sweatshirts, and their enthusiasm is contagious. I love to see businesses that give responsibility and expert experiences to young adults, especially in the so-called quiet corner of our state where we have had few such new openings.
Finally, I’m completely inspired by my friends, Lynn Stoddard and Chris Kueffner, who with their partners have opened the park. When Lynn first told me of their concept a year ago, it seemed to face insurmountable obstacles and unknowns. Yet she had this vision of doing something ecologically responsible with the land she and her husband owned, and finding a way to get people into the trees, and bringing a sense of fun to our community. I find her inspiring. She put a dream and hands-on bravery into action.
Did I make it up into the trees? This time, I did not, but I saw the world from a new perspective even from the ground. And I’m going back.
Oh, my gosh. Do you remember how much of life used to be devoted to combating silliness? I can still hear the multitude of grownups minding us to sit still, quit that giggling, mind yer manners, or cut that out, and in every case I nearly keeled over from laughing inside. School, church, the dinner table, grocery store aisles, and the back of the car were all prime for silliness and the squelching of it.
Then I had kids of my own, and silliness abounded again. I was not good at stifling it, needless to say. Even now, I just have to look at a kid and I want to start laughing. That’s why I knew I’d never be any good as an elementary school teacher. Whenever I went in as a volunteer parent or substitute aide, I just wanted to laugh with everybody or give them hugs, which was so not allowed for boundary reasons. I was better off teaching in the high school, where I expect I seemed sort of batty and quaint with my little toys all around the upper edges of the room. I loved that I could laugh really hard several times a day.
Now I don’t have any little kids around, except when I visit my long-distance nieces and nephews, who are experts in silliness. This is sort of a problem, but not really, because for some of us, silliness can transcend age. My older kids like to read joke books aloud and play games like foosball, Settlers of Catan, and Rummikub with the family. If we’re feeling like lazy, lie-down bums, we push the coffee table aside and play the games on the floor. Once we start laughing, it’s easy to roll, and then that’s funny, too. Lately, my kids have been randomly echoing a Doppler shift humming noise I happened to make during a game of Solarquest, and each time it cracks us up again.
They say people in offices are more creative when they laugh more. I think laughing helps me write better, too. It loosens up ideas and quirky connections so that my mind feels more playful. Then it works the other way, too, because when my writing’s going well, it brings me joy.
I can spend an hour at night laboring over the composition an email or a blog post only to wake up the next morning and find it’s weirdly uppity or just plain pointless. Because of this, I have a hard and fast rule about never sending any emails that might actually matter at night. What’s strange is that I can’t uncoil myself from the snare of writing the insidious late night drafts, even knowing I’m needlessly embroiled. It’s like I’m processing, letting my illogical, instinctual side out to poke around in soggy places, and doing that is more important than sensibly going to bed.
In a way, this harkens back to the old ex-boyfriend rules of college days, when I unplugged my dead-weight phone and went to eat snacks with the gals down the hall expressly so that I could not call him when my will power and word choice skills were poor. It’s both self-preservation and recognizing the weak, crazy side of me. I liked the keyed-up, impetuous me who was sort of self-destructing even as I was saving myself from my phone. The boy might not appreciate me, but I certainly did.
This split-life connects to shopping, too. Stores used to close so we could not go in and buy shoes at two in the morning, no matter how gorgeous they looked through the window on our way home from the late movie. Now, no one’s stopping us. Now, the online temptations never cease. Back away, computer. I dare not ask how many of us have taken the fatal step of saving our credit card numbers on our computers so they’re convenient whenever we want to buy. Put it in the cyber basket, fine. But never hit BUY after midnight.
I admit this split-life thing connects to temptation and the denial of it, but it’s not just that simple. You can’t just say our defenses are down at night. It’s more like we’re two co-dependent sensible and wild people occupying the same body. In the morning, we’re all bring on the bluebirds and let’s sing with the chubby cartoon mice! Past nightfall, we’re moody, vengeful, ice-cream-downing trolls with hairy legs.
But we’re the same person.
Don’t get me wrong. I like being a full-emotioned girl. It comes in handy for writing fiction. But sometimes? It’s a little exhausting. Sometimes, I should just go to bed.
A. Yes. You should. I know the first draft is awful, and even as you’re writing it, you can see you’ll have to cut most of it, but go forward anyway. Get to the end.
Q. But why, why? It’s so bad! It doesn’t even make sense.
A. That’s just what first drafts are. They’re painful and ugly. They wander down dead ends and come out smelling like old fish.
Q. I thought I liked my main character, but now, she’s just, I don’t know, hopelessly cliché.
A. I know. And her dialogue is unbelievable and stilted, isn’t it?
Q. Yes! Or the characters talk in circles and get nowhere. And then I try to add conflict, and it’s just like guns and knives dropping everywhere. Who cares?
A. Believe me. I know.
Q. And it’s so shallow! This book has no depth whatsoever. It has no point.
A. Have you added magic yet? A flying pony?
Q. Oh, my god. How did you know? It’s terrible. Just terrible!
A. Yeah. That’s your first draft. It’s going to be horrible. The worst thing you’ve ever seen.
Q. Why am I doing this? I could be looking for a real job. I could be folding laundry. Nobody’s ever going to want to read this.
A. That’s not true. Your mother will want to read it.
Q. (Moans, grumbles, shreds hair)
A. Look. Quit complaining. Nobody’s making you write this book.
Q. But I want to!
A. Then just do it. It’s going to be bad. Really, really horribly stinking bad. Nobody fully understands why, but that’s just how first drafts are. You force yourself to get a draft down, whether its 120 or 250 or 450 pages. You get the thing down, and then you go back to the beginning and read it to see what’s there.
Q. 450 pages! You can’t be serious. I have 64!
A. Do you want to be a writer or not?
Q. I do. I guess.
A. Do you?
Q. (snivels) Okay, I do.
A. Then you have to write. You have to finish the first draft. You have to get it down on the page. Nobody can do it for you. You have to do the job.
Q. But what if it’s never good enough? What if I put in all this work and it’s never, ever good enough to get published?
A. Would that break your heart?
Q. I think it would.
A. Then let me tell you a secret. You’re a good writer. You’re a really good writer. There’s something about your characters or your voice or your descriptions or your understanding of humanity that shows up in your work that nobody else can do. You are the only one who can write the way you do. The only one. And you are brilliant.
Q. How do you know?
A. Because I can tell. Because you care this much. You have to have faith in yourself. Plenty of writers who have already published books still have to bushwhack their ways through their first drafts, too. It’s just what it takes.
Q. Do you promise this isn’t just a huge waste of time?
A. Ha! No, I don’t. I don’t promise anything. But I’ll tell you this. You can do it. You can go start the next scene.
Q. Just the next scene?
A. That doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Just go start the next scene and see where it takes you.
Q. I could probably do that.
A. I thought so. Don’t you have fun when you’re actually writing?
Q. Yes. I mean, I used to, until I started worrying.
A. Quit worrying. Let yourself have fun again. You’re just telling a story.
Q. I’m just telling a story. I like that.
A. Yep. That’s all. Just keep writing. You can do it.
By now, the Stages of Thanksgiving should not be a surprise. After all, we’ve been through the holiday before. But lest you feel alone in your befuddlement, your sense of what-just-hit-me?, let me let me elucidate a little cycle that’s just played out in our home and share a spark of hope.
The Race stage includes anything you did to show up where you belonged, whole and alive: plane travel, roadtrip, and pull-out couch included. You made it! Yay!
My family has started a Thanksgiving tradition of joining in the Manchester Road Race, which involves 4.7 miles of running and walking with 15,000+ people while 30,000+ spectators cheer us on from the sidelines. I’d be hard pressed to tell you the difference between the racers and the spectators. We come in all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities, and what’s great is that the event is a celebration of the regular, unsung person. Sure there’s a winner. But 15,000 of us trot ourselves out there, and the overriding sentiment is pure, joyful thankfulness. We have health, we’re together, we’re American. We win just because we show up. We’re alive.
We eat, do we not? Our particular turkey was smoked for eight hours over cherry wood in a red smoker from Home Depot, and it was super good. Accompanying mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, green beans, and Brussels sprouts were followed by apple crisp and pumpkin pie. It’s a kind of patriotic duty to over-eat, with second and third helpings for everyone, and still have leftovers to cram in the fridge.
Oh, my God. I just ate five plates of turkey and an entire pie myself. My belly is huge. And I’m so sore from running that I can’t get off the couch.
Others are out there shopping, but I will never be able to walk again because my sore legs are now even worse. Plus, I’m so full of food I’ve gained five pounds. I have destroyed my body. I have commenced a new life where I can no longer exercise and my fridge is full of delicious leftovers. This is doom. Oh, look: the houseguests have produced a box of chocolates. I must accept my new life as a slug and take a nap.
By Day 4, our leftovers are gone, and we’re deciding between pizza and wings for take-out because nobody can stand the idea of more cooking or dishes. Oh, the irony when pizza and wings look like light fare. On the upside, I’m no longer popping ibuprofen for leg pain.
6. Heave Ho
How can I possibly have dishes to do after take-out? Monday looms, and I’m allowed one last moan as I heave myself up. I can do this. I do not need some crazy diet. I need to eat healthy foods and move a little more. That old moderation. Somehow, I shall rediscover the thankfulness I felt in Stage 1. After all, the holiday season is just beginning.
Big crushes of people packed the Javits Center this weekend for NY Comic Con 2012. What did 100,000 people feel like? A lot of fun. Especially since many of the people were dressed in savage, colorful, and sometimes flesh-baring costumes. Our favorite? A little boy came as Bumblebee in a homemade, cardboard, yellow outfit and when he knelt down and curled up, he transformed into a car. Ingenious.
I am deeply indebted to Katie, S.T., Rufka, Lainey, Chelsea, and Mindy, the volunteers who joined me on the Unbound Stage to act out the first chapter of Promised. It was a dangerous and action-packed scene involving many invisible weapons, precarious heights and heart-rending drama, but my bold volunteers were unfazed. With zero preparation, they rose to the challenge to produce an awesome, super funny scene. I only wish it had gone on longer. I only wish we were still there.
Other highlights included meeting Cecil Castellucci in person after years of email correspondence, seeing fellow MacKids writer Tommy Greenwald with his trademark dry humor on a MG Lit panel, browsing through Artist Alley, meeting up with my agent Kirby Kim to chat, signing books at the table next to Veronica Taylor (the voice of Ash. I actually heard her say “I choose you!”), and hanging out with my fabulous family.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
I’m starting around on a blog tour next Monday, September 24th! Ten very funny, thoughtful, creative bloggers have been pitching me interview questions and topics about favorite reads, music to write by, what’s changed for me over the Birthmarked trilogy, women’s rights, bravery, inspiration, and whether I’d rather live in Sylum or the Enclave. They’ve given me the perfect excuse to pause and think about how far Gaia’s story has come, and where it goes from here. It’s been interesting and super fun to talk with people who bring such energy and curiosity to the conversation. Drop in for a few visits and take a peek. There’ll be something new on each blog stop.
Thanks, Rachael, Katie, Nancy, Jaime, Kate + Kristen, Mariah, Marla, Usagi, Emily, Bailey for all your efforts, and special thanks to Ksenia Winnicki of MacBooks for setting up the blog tour and keeping us organized!
Monday 9/24 The Book Muncher
Tuesday 9/25 Mundie Moms
Wednesday 9/26 Tales of the Ravenous Reader
Friday 9/28 Two Chicks on Books
Saturday 9/29 The Book Monster
Monday 10/1 A Reader’s Adventure
Tuesday 10/2 Starting the Next Chapter
Wednesday 10/3 Birth of a New Witch
Thursday 10/4 The Ninja Librarian
Friday 10/5 IB Book Blogging
Nasty Title Problem
Got Nothin’ Still
There’s a Poem in This
But Not a Title
Which is What I Need
The Novel I Wrote
The Sequel Synopsis, Too
But No Title
Got Me a Nice List Now
Of Dead Ends
And the Already Used
I’d Like to Go With
But No Fish Swim
In My Novel
The Thesaurus Is My Friend
Music Lyrics Have Been
Stolen and Abandoned
Poems and Quotes
I’ve Tried This and That and Zombies