Monday, May 30, 2011

Have a little banjo with that drive (or, Why I Love Audiobooks)

I am not traveling anywhere today. Memorial Day in Eugene, the day before my thesis needs to be spot-on and uploaded to the ProQuest site, is exactly like any other Monday. Except that the gym is closed, and I don't have to go to my GTF job. So really it's more like any other weekend.

I used to lead a more interesting life, I promise. And after graduation, I will again.

In any case, driving is pretty much my favorite thing. I went to college thirteen hours from where I grew up, and that un-bending, un-rising, un-sinking stretch across ALL OF SOUTH DAKOTA was something that soothed rather than irritated me. It is also where I developed my love of audiobooks, with the fantastic Lenny Henry performance of Neil Gaiman's ANANSI BOYS. That book's all London and the Caribbean and godly dreamscapes, but for me, it's also Wall Drug and the Mitchell Corn Palace and that one awesome red barn with three windowed wedding-cake attics.

Audiobooks are good whenever, but there is something kind of phenomenal about listening to a whole performance in one unbroken go, watching the world roll back under your tires. Now I sometimes wish I had somewhere to drive just so I could listen to a good audiobook. I loved WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, but I bet it would have been even more amazing accompanying a trip through the Columbia River Gorge and the mountain passes of eastern Oregon and northern Utah.

That said, there's a lot going for that other road trip staple: awkward musical interludes.

So, for those of you who DID spend today traveling (or those of you who, like me, are not but wish you were) and filled your time with either a fantastic audiobook or a good conversation with friends and family and therefore missed out on craaaaaazy musical antics, please enjoy Chris Traeger rocking out to un-sexy banjo music in this Parks and Rec clip:

Because I am pretty sure we all would rather be in that car than any other.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kinetic Thursdays: Terence McKenna - Reclaim Your Mind

So I am trying to give myself a weekly thing to do (that isn't RTW, fulfilling as participating in that is), and am doing so in the form of kinetic typography videos that have some bearing on reading, writing, publishing, creative thought, or just things that flat out inspire.

Bookshelves of doom posted one (well, a more pictorial than verbal one) on Wednesday, a stick figure illustration of a Read it and Weep/Smart Bitches discussion of the romance genre elements of Twilight. I'm going to go in for something a little more philosophical today, with Terence McKenna's call to arms to CREATE rather than CONSUME.

Which is what we writers do on a daily basis: create create create.

On the other hand, we also (especially in YA, I think) aim to READ the world, and to contain it and portray it and embellish and embrace and display it in the stories we create. There is a fine line in this strain of judgment, as people who move from consumer to creator end up BECOMING, to a degree, the very kinds of cultural engineers that McKenna rallies against.

Because that is the other thing we writers do: we strive to shape the world, and get others to come along for the ride.

(Warning: some NSFW language within.)

I'm not claiming any one view is more valid than another, but I think it is a really fascinating debate to consider – where does creativity aim, if consumption is the enemy?


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Inspiration

RTW! Someday I will write posts outside of the blog carnival. Someday.

This week: Who in your life has most inspired your writing?  

Writing is equal parts words and story, and with no hesitation, I can say that the reason I write has to do with words. I mean, I love a story, am fascinated by clever plotting and complex characterization, but at the end of the day, I write (and have spent my life learning other languages) because I love words.

And I love words because of my family.

My parents started me on vocab lessons early on. I feel like I learned to talk at a surprisingly young age, but memories are warped little things, so who knows. I do know that I was an early reader, and a voracious one. But my voracity really stemmed from a desire to feel new words rattle around my brain and roll their way over my tongue, which is pretty much what I love most about writing now.

By the time I had started school, I had also begun what has become a lifelong tradition of sitting with my dad and racing to solve the newspaper's Jumble puzzle in our heads. By the time I was ten, I was a regular player of Upwords with him and his mother whenever we would visit (the only game ever played in that household). By the time I was twelve, I was forbidden the use of the dictionary. They never held back on me, and trouncing happened equally on all fronts.

Upwords battle ca. 2009. My (then) 92yo grandmother still wipes the floor with us.

My mother's family plays pretty much any game but Upwords, with an equal lack of going-easy on younger players, and we all tell stories throughout. Between the two of sides of the family, my brain has pretty much adopted words as the be all and end all of creative production.

To be honest, this has turned me into a difficult word-gamer to play against casually. Sort of ruined my college hopes with that background.

But it bolstered my writing. As did my parent's high expectations for my written schoolwork, and my mother's constant badgering not to be lazy, which is turn led to my love for a harsh critique, and a keen, dauntless eye in editing anything (my critique partners know well what I mean with that). Add to that my uncle's MFA, my mother's and my aunt's and my father's arts careers, and my brother's ability to spin anything into a story (okay, THAT is where the storytelling talent in our family fell – he once seriously convinced me five times with five different stories in one conversation that he had bought a new car. Which he hadn't.), I'm surprised I didn't get serious about my writing sooner.

So inspiration? Love Brian Jacques, love Vladimir Nabokov, love Michael Chabon and Kelly Link.

But I adore my family.

Thanks, guys.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kinetic Thursdays: A beginning

So kinetic typography is a thing I am kind of obsessed with. As such, I've decided to make them a regular focus on Thursdays. I'll be starting with videos others have made, hopefully that have something to do with writing and language and reading, but the plan is to eventually move into making my own kinetic typography videos, based on YA/MG lit, the publishing industry, querying, agent advice, author/blogger/writer interviews, etc.

We'll see if I can pull it off.

In the meantime, let's start with this one: Stephen Fry, on pedants and language. Apt for me at this moment in my life, when grading and judging students' written language skills is one of my top priorities, right there alongside inventing language for my own purposes in my personal writing projects. Pedantry is good thing to rally against, all things considering, and this is a lovely example of kinetic typography at the same time.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Good Day to Die

Or, Things That Happened in the Last Twenty-four Hours.


1) ...gave a poorly planned "guest lecture" in my adviser's Prison/Siberian Lit class, that mostly consisted of my sitting in a desk and pretending to be an expert on Shukshin's Siberian "oddball" character.

2) ...unintentionally finished the first two seasons of the BBC's ROBIN HOOD, which meant embracing pure cheese, cringing through the sheriff's screeching awfulness, getting pumped up by the title music, and COMPLETELY FALLING FOR Marian and Robin's love story.*

3) ...successfully defended my master's thesis, which resulted in me *actually* proving my ability to be an expert on Shuksin's oddballs and so much more.

Yes, The Thesis. It's done. Well, save for some revisions, and general nitpicky formatting.

So. There's that.

Obviously, to celebrate, I danced my way through this COMPLETELY UN-SIBERIAN song:

And now, back to writing the mystery WIP...

*Marian and Robin will get their own post later in the week, once I've had some time to corral my thoughts. And to decide whether or not to watch the Marian-less third season...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Audio-bibliophile (RTW + Scott Pilgrim FTW)

Oh, hey there, people. I just printed off my thesis draft for my committee. Yes, it is a day late. Yes, it is only the *first* draft. Yes, that makes me nervous. 

Also, how do you people deal with screwy Scrivener formatting after it's compiled and exported? My brain was too mushy to deal with the knobs and buttons inside Scrivener, so I ended up hand deleting all the dumb 3in tab indent arrows. Yes, dumb. I said it.

I'll sleep soon. But after RTW! 

This week: If you could choose a celebrity narrator for your WIP, who would you choose?

If I didn't love have a love affair with audiobooks, I might have skipped this week's topic. But, I just came off a really nice experience with the The True Meaning of Smekday narration (Bahni Turpin is my hero, for reals), and am continuing to feel inspired by this brand new contemporary WIP, so here I am. But quickly. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

So, if I were going to choose an audiobook narrator for my WIP, I'd probably try to cheat my way out of thinking too hard, and ask this lovely lady:

Mary is my cousin's best friend (which, PS, hot damn you're real pharmacist, Erin! Congratulations!), and I am just so pleased that the girl who was so excited to play Juliet in a second grade play grew up to live her dream. We aren't close or anything, but when I do see her every couple years, she is a sweetheart. AND, she has the perfect voice for Bennie, my Secret WIP heroine. Not just her Ramona Flowers voice, but her real voice, I mean. 

So yeah, I'd ask Mary Elizabeth Winstead to do it. And if she weren't available, I'd ask my mom.

My mom is awesome.

I like this exercise, so maybe I will come up with dream narrators for my other projects sometime in the next week, to help me ease back into the blog schedule. In the meantime, check out this lovely interview of Mary with Jimmy Kimmel, in which she tells a completely plausible story about my grandma falling asleep at a cruise ship slot machine: I'm serious. 

My grandma is also totally awesome.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Accidental poetry

I pulled this quotation from an article I am using for my thesis, and it was extracted in a narrow newspaper article format in such a way that it looks like poetry. And it's about literature! So, in honor of the Poetry Month I didn't celebrate, here you go:

(Mongrel Canons)

When the Canon is 
valued for its western-ness, its purity, we 
wall out other great traditions. This, despite the fact that Achebe or Gabriel García 
Márquez or Toni Morrison or Wole Soyinka or Bei Dao have all folded seamlessly 
into their zealous absorption of European 
and American classics (whether Cervantes, 
Faulkner or whomever) legends from the 
ancestors, oral traditions from indigenous 
predecessors, creation myths, local and 
vernacular literatures, and folk beliefs. In 
short, blind spots appear that are resolved 
only by a global examination of creativity.

Our newest family member, Remi, who is a mongrel if there ever was one. And no, the camera didn't do anything to her eyes. They really are that spooky.

Quantum mechanical magic

Yes, I'm avoiding a particularly tricky bit of thesising doing this. Yes, it's totally irresponsible. But I found this little animated video of an astrophysics lunch discussion on PHDcomics, and I wanted to share:

Dark Matters from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

So first, I love astrophysics and space and dark matter, and that is totally a direction I would take in life if I had to do my education over again. And if I didn't care about words as much as I do.

But! This is also interesting to think about IN TERMS OF writing: as writers, we spend so much time digging into the details of the details of the details of our stories, thinking that that is obviously where the heart will be, but, as the guys talking say, we really have no idea! It's by digging into the details of the details that we can get to QUESTIONS, not answers, questions that illuminate "a huge fraction of the Universe that no one's ever looked at before."

People. Our stories are exactly this. Parts of the Universe that no one's ever looked at before. We are explorers of endless frontiers, and knowing just how little we know is the best possible thing to propel us.

They, uh, go into a cool illustration of particle colliders next, and while I could extend my analysis to compare particle colliders to writing brains, I think that might be a little much.

But, what they end with is, "What should take away from all this is, we don't know what the rest of the elephant looks like… And you should be ready for some surprises."

And isn't that what all of our writing is, at the end of the day? Surprises. Not an elephant's tail. (Although…)

So any surprises for you guys lately? Mine continues to be the sudden contemporary project that popped into my head from that David Wax Museum song last week. It's been going gangbusters, and I just love it. Also, my MG stumbled into this really clever allusion/play on folklore that, even though *I* was the one who set it all up, I didn't see coming until it was on the page.

And. Back to find the elephant's tail of my thesis.

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