Monday, February 16, 2015

Why do we write?

(Criticism and the arts, part 2)  

I saw the movie “Birdman” last weekend. Michael Keaton plays a former movie star/action-hero (Birdman) named Riggin Thomas, who opted out of the “Birdman” franchise years ago, and hasn’t had much success since. Thomas adapts the Raymond Carver story “What we Talk About When we Talk About Love,” for Broadway, and is writing and directing the play in the hopes that it will revitalize his career.

One of my favorite scenes features Edward Norton, who plays Michael Shiner, a not-so-likable-character who drives Thomas (and others) crazy before and during the play. In one scene, though, he defends Thomas to a theater critic sitting in a bar. (I’m paraphrasing) 
 
He’s taking a chance. He’s willing to lose everything for this. What are you willing to lose?

So why do we do it? Why do we create art? Why bother, when we know people will line up to tell us what we are doing wrong. Many writers, artists and musicians get the “art” beat out of them early, and stop. But others who are hurt just as badly continue. Why?

Is it that you want to change the world, or share a story that is bigger than you? A story can offer a new perspective or understanding of a topic, or maybe you want to connect with people - make them laugh or cry. Perhaps it’s just that you want to get something off your chest. Writing can be cathartic, and make you feel better. Or do you think your story can help someone who is struggling in the same way you struggled?

Does fame or recognition play a role in the process? A healthy ego is necessary to put forth any art in the world, so is that what drives you? Or is it money? Is writing just a job that pays the bills?

Maybe it’s all of those things, or a little bit of those things all rolled into one big giant unknowable reason that has no definitive answer. So, I'll ask again - why do you write? And what would you be willing to lose?

Write soon,

Mary

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Art and criticism

“Absolutely they can criticize,” actor Bradley Cooper said, in response to a comment from interviewer Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, regarding the criticism following the release of the movie “American Sniper.” “That is what art is about, really, you create it and then it is for people to own, it is not for me to own.”

Cooper played the role of Chris Kyle, America's most deadly sniper. The interview aired Feb 2, 2015, on the two-year anniversary of Kyle’s death.

His comment about “owning” art was one that struck a chord with me. How do you feel about releasing a piece of writing into the world? Does creation mean ownership? Legally, yes, but does your work have a life of its own after its release that you cannot expect to control?

Write soon,

Mary   

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hot Tea Month


Although it’s a little late in the game, January is National Hot Tea Month. I’m not sure how many writers have taken a strong stance in the coffee v. tea debate, but I’m sure it’s a hot one! (Get it? Strong, hot coffee and tea! Hehe!)

Let me make my position perfectly clear. I am a tea-drinker, although that’s not always been the case. I used to drink coffee, but stopped during my second pregnancy with my son. Coffee didn’t make me sick, but for some reason, the mere mention or smell of it was just wrong. So I switched to tea. Now that my son is older, I can and do enjoy a cup of coffee occasionally, but my natural instinct is to drink tea, and lots of it.

Turns out, I’m in good company. George Orwell also enjoyed his tea, and wrote an essay titled “A Nice Cup of Tea” that was first published in the London Evening Standard on Jan. 12, 1946, in which he outlines the 11 steps* necessary to brew tea:

 1.  Use Indian or Ceylonese tea

 2.  Brew tea in a china (ceramic) or earthenware pot
 3.  Warm the pot before adding the loose-leaf tea
 4.  Use strong tea
 5.  Place loose-leaf tea directly into the pot without a strainer, muslin bag, or other device to   'imprison the tea.' Take the teapot to the kettle to pour water that should be boiling
 6.  Stir or shake the pot
 7.  Drink the tea out of a cylindrical cup
 8.  Decant any cream off of the fresh milk before using
 9.  Pour tea into the cup, then pour in the milk
10. Drink tea without sugar

So you still have a few days left to read the entire essay (see link below) during the wintry January weather that is perfect for enjoying a steaming hot cup of tea.

Write soon,
Mary

*Steps from: http://www.teaandcoffee.net/0709/tea.htm
Read the entire essay online at http://www.booksatoz.com/witsend/tea/orwell.htm
Image from: http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0077/8972/files/George-Orwell.jpg?2985

George Orwell: 'A Nice Cup of Tea' reprinted in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell 1968



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Continue space monkey story here

I’m pretty organized when it comes to my work, and I keep file folders labeled according to topics so with a quick glance I can figure out what’s in them. But today I went to my “Blog 2015” file where I store ideas for future blog posts, and read the following sentence: Continue space monkey story here.

The problem is, I don't recall ever having written a space monkey story, or remember hearing or reading about a monkey in space that would be pertinent to my blog. I honestly have no idea what this means, except for the fact that 2015 is obviously not going as well as I had hoped.

How about you? Do you ever find bits and pieces of information you have written down with no clue as to what it means?

Write soon,

Mary

Monday, December 15, 2014

Got goals?



It’s that time again, when we say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new one. I don’t want to intimidate anyone with the “R”* word, so I won’t use it except inside parenthesis at the bottom of this post so as not to scare anyone who isn’t ready to make that kind of commitment.

So I’m going to skip that word altogether and talk about the “G” word (which stands for goals, and doesn’t carry with it the same weight as the “R” word). I’ve read many books and articles about the importance of defining, setting and achieving goals, so am well-schooled in the importance of being goal-oriented. In some aspects of my life I am a goal-setter, and others, well, not so much.

But this year I’ve begun to look at goals differently, thanks to a documentary I watched about Tomi Ungerer titled “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough.” It’s about the children’s book author whom Maurice Sendak called disarming and funny, and not respectable at all. “He broke down doors, he broke down windows, and made enemies like crazy and seemed oblivious. He was treated badly, not reviewed as often as he should have been, not held up as an icon, which he was.” 

If you watch it, be warned that the images can be graphic. In addition to children’s books, some of his art could be defined as the OPPOSITE of suitable for children (and some adults). I’m not kidding. He said his life was driven by fear: his father died when he was a child, and Nazi occupation also played a big role. Let’s just say these two influences show up in his art.

So, what did he say that changed my attitude towards goals? It’s a simple sentence that resonates with me, and moves beyond the idea that setting goals can sometimes feel like a check list. He said “Destiny needs a destination.” Isn’t that beautiful? If you are driven by a passion, then that work is your destiny. Your work needs a destination, a place where it belongs – a home. And thinking of a destination in terms of bringing your work home is like setting a goal, but with a deeper commitment to realizing its potential. The two become one. They can’t be separated. Completing the work is the destiny and the destination. 

I love that, and hope his words inspire you as much as they did me.

Write soon,
Mary

(*Resolutions, as in “New Year’s”)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Feeling rejected?



Me, too! As a matter of fact, some of my work is probably being rejected right now. But alas, those rejection notices also piled up for these writers:

Kurt Vonnegut, C.S. Lewis, Anne Frank, Hunter S. Thompson, Sylvia Plath, Gertrude Stein, Louisa May Alcott, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell and many others. 

So get back to work. That’s what they did. And look what happened.

Write soon,
Mary

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Voodoo Butterfly now available




Camille Faye's new book, Voodoo Butterfly, is now available on Amazon as an ebook. She found the muse for this novel during a family trip to New Orleans where she dreamt of a woman who had the power to change evil people good. I asked her some questions about her writing process, and what's next!

1)      What is your writing process? Do you have a routine, or does it vary according to the limited time you have available with two kids at home?
As a busy mom, I have to write things down. That goes for my fiction writing too. I keep notepads everywhere: in my bedside table, my kitchen junk drawer, my desks in the living room and basement, and in my car. Whenever a scene, plot twist, or bit of dialogue comes to mind, I jot it down. This method has eliminated writer's block from my life. (Hallelujah!) I always have something to write because I have a gazillion pieces of paper with ideas on them.
My routine is to commit to 15 minutes a day of writing time, which doesn't sound like much but I was able to, over the course of one year, write a draft of Voodoo Butterfly that was ready to submit to New York editors and agents. Normally the 15 minutes will stretch into an hour, but sometimes I could only make time for the 15 minutes.
 The best times to work are during my toddler's nap time or after the kids go to sleep. Now that school's in session, my son goes all day and my toddler goes to preschool two mornings a week, so I try my hardest to make those two days my "work days." But I'm a SAHM, so many times I will have to use the preschool time to make appointments, run errands, and catch up on housework. 
The support of family and friends is crucial. My husband is amazing at stepping in to cook a meal or watch the kids so I can go on a weekend writing retreat. My good friend, Karla, watches my toddler one day a week so I can write and catch up on mom business. My parents live four hours away, but they'll come watch the kids so my husband and I can get a weekend away. Happiness at home and connection with my husband is essential so that I can focus on my work when it's time to work. Sometimes I'll try to force myself to work at every free moment and then I really get no rest, so I don't think that's productive. 

2)      Are you an outlinter or a pantser? Do you plan or fly by the seat of your pants? Why does that work for you (or not!)?
For Voodoo Butterfly, I was a pantser. A scene would flash in my mind, I'd jot it down, and then deal with it during my writing time. When I had enough of these bits and pieces, I worked them into a loose outline.
With the second book in the series, I decided to try an outline. I like knowing the overall structure, but I give myself flexibility to move chapters and scenes around. And if I'm working on chapter 6 and then get an idea for chapter 17, I allow myself to bounce around. I must be more of a holistic thinker rather than a linear thinker, but that's okay.


3)      Do you edit as you go, or write a draft or two before the editing process begins?
During the first draft, I really resist the internal editor. When I feel a bit stuck, I'll do a freewrite, which is a technique I've taught as a university Composition instructor and when teaching to writing groups. Basically, you write for 1-5 minutes and there are only two "rules":
            1) Don't stop writing
            2) Don't edit
When I have a chapter ready, I'll submit to my critique group,
The Lit Ladies. Being a part of a critique group helps you grow so much as a writer, plus we help support the careers of the others in the group when one of us has a book published. So far, 3 out of 6 of us have earned traditional publishing contracts, and all of us have had submission requests from agents and editors who work in NYC.
Based on The Lit Ladies' critiques, I'll revise the chapter. When I've worked through every chapter in the book, I'll do one final revision of the book as a whole. Then it's ready to submit.

4)      How long did it take to write this book? What would you do differently now, knowing what you know?
Five years from the start of writing to publication. I began writing Voodoo Butterfly in October 2009 and submitted the manuscript to an NYC agent (at his request) in late 2010. Since then, I've been learning everything I can about the businesses of writing and publishing from books, attending writing conferences, and joining writing organizations (in person and online). As well as getting about a dozen partial or full requests (for submission of the manuscript) from agents and editors.
In October of 2013, I became a finalist in the paranormal category of the Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America writing competition. One of the judges of my submission was Debby Gilbert, who owns Soul Mate Publishing out of New York state. She offered me a contract, I accepted, and we got the novel out for the Halloween season of 2014.
I don't know that I could have done anything different. In the midst of writing the novel, our family moved twice, my son and I had surgeries, my husband took a new job, and we had a baby. So life was carrying on. My hope is to be able to feel comfortable churning out a book a year. I think as my kids grow, that will become more realistic.

5)      Where can we buy it?
Voodoo Butterfly is available on Amazon as an ebook for $2.99. If you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the Kindle app on your smart phone or e-reader and get the book that way. It will be available as a print book at a later time, but I don't have that release date yet.


6)      What’s next?
Right now I'm working on book two in the Voodoo Butterfly series while balancing home life and marketing the first book as well. It's a roller coaster, but I love roller coasters!

----------------
About Voodoo Butterfly:
When twenty-five-year old Sophie Nouveau inherits her grandmother's voodoo shop she knows nothing about voodoo. Or her family's history of Mind Changers who have the power to change evil people good. To complicate matters, someone doesn't want Sophie in New Orleans and sends a series of death threats to scare her away from her new enchanted life. 
Tipped off by her grandmother's ghost, Sophie realizes her mind changing spell's been missing one magic ingredient: true love. If Sophie cannot experience transformative love, she cannot make her spell work, and she will be powerless to fight back when confronted by the one who wants her dead.


About the Author:
Camille Faye lives in Missouri, loves on her family, and writes during the baby’s nap time. She grew up in a haunted house, which sparked her fascination with the paranormal. Before becoming a writer, she reported for an NBC affiliate and taught writing at universities in Missouri and Illinois. She found the muse for her debut novel, Voodoo Butterfly, during a family trip to New Orleans where she dreamt of a woman who had the power to change evil people good. The Northwest Houston RWA named her novel, Voodoo Butterfly, a 2013 Lone Star Contest finalist. Camille's stories are inspired by her travels to 27 countries and counting! Follow her journey at www.camillefaye.com.