Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Nirvana Phase

An alternate Nirvana :)
I'm at that Nirvana place in my current WIP.

From what I've gleaned from fellow writers, the writing process has a common arch. There's the initial beginning struggle when the world you're creating is tenuous at best.

While I've heard some people rhapsodize about that phase, for me it's the hardest part of the creative process. The place where I have to set defined word goals in order to keep my book from languishing in the land of almosts and could have beens.

The first draft is followed directly by the beastly first edit. The first time I re-read my words and take a fresh look at the people I've been living with on the page, day in and day out. The first draft is ALWAYS, without fail, cringeworthy!!

Somewhere between the first and second edit the book starts to settle in, become something real. That's my favorite writing place. It's also when the book becomes a home away from home. It's a place I can go for refuge. It doesn't matter if my Tweenpod is slamming doors or the men two tables over are talking about politics at a volume that's disturbing everyone in the coffee shop, I can jump into my creation and disappear for hours.

That's where I am right now. There's pleasure in the process. I look at my watch and realize hours have slipped away and I've been inadvertently muttering the words I'm writing out loud, in public, like a crazy lady in the corner on her laptop.

My characters might be dark. Bad things might happen in the world I created. Sad things too, but it still becomes a place I crave, a treasured addiction like chocolate or coffee.

Even though the end of this book has yet to be written, it's in sight. If I stretch out long with my mental fingers I can even feel it. This should be good news, but I have to admit it's exhilaration mixed with the bittersweet knowledge that soon (sooner than I'm ready for it to happen) it'll be time to move out of the safety of this world and into the awkward birth and creation phase of the next one.

Lucky for me I know the Nirvana phase exists and will be there waiting for me with each subsequent book.

What about you? Do you get a little sad when you're in the homestretch of your work in progress?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tweenpod, Defined

The other morning I had to Google Tribbles. When the furry little creatures popped up on my screen I realized they look a lot like a Pygmy Puff. For those of you not in the know, Pygmy Puffs are a favorite pet of house Hufflepuff as envisioned by J.K. Rowling.

It just so happens I know a LOT about Pygmy Puffs.

My daughter is a longtime fan. We have a couple Pygmy Puffs lying around the house, thankfully they don't multiply like Tribbles, but what struck me as I was mentally comparing Tribbles and Pygmy Puffs is I now  have a Tweenpod in the house.

Tweenpod, a phrase coined by my daughter circa 3rd grade, is a teenage Pygmy Puff. During that period of my parental history I was routinely referred to as Mama Pygmy Puff. Maybe, my haste to put my Mama Pygmy Puff years behind me was part of the reason it took me so long to spot my own legitimate Tweenpod Pygmy Puff.

In case you're wondering if you have one of your own, here are my top five signs and helpful hints for spotting and dealing with a Tweenpod.

1. Tweenpods are often found behind locked bedroom doors. They enjoy communicating this way. Try not to raise your voice. This will only anger your Tweenpod.

2. Tweenpods enjoy conversation with you. They want to cuddle with you and sit close to you on the couch. They want to know what you're reading and why. They also want to be left alone. They need their space and they need it NOW! Failure to correctly intuit your Tweenpods mood will result in their hibernation back behind locked doors.

3. Do not say the following words around your Tweenpod. "Breast" "Period" "SexEd" "Crush" You might think saying these words in a different context, such as 'Who'd like the chicken breast?' is fine.

You are incorrect.

Any use of the above words will cause your pink Tweenpod to turn red and your purple Tweenpod to develop an interesting shade of blue.

4. No matter how much food your purchase for your Tweenpod, you'll need more. Double all recipes. Don't be alarmed when your Tweenpod devours your leftovers. Let them. They don't bite. Not usually.

5. Tweenpods don't like scenes.

Scenes are broadly defined. Your unwelcome presence in a room is occasionally tantamount to a scene. Scenes are less broadly defined in other contexts. Slamming doors, growling or cutting remarks are not scenes when performed by your Tweenpod. They are all nonverbal methods your Tweenpod uses to communicate your lack of understanding about their world.

Even though Tweenpods are often unpredictable, they're also often sociable, intelligent, enthusiastic and responsive to logic.

The best thing about Tweenpods is every so often you get a glimpse of the full grown Pygmy Puff they'll be in just a few short years. And that, truly is a treat.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reading as Broccoli For the Mind.

How to get kids to read?

It's the subject of at least a gazillion internet articles and an ongoing topic of preference for educators, policymakers and politicians of all stripes.

Most writers love to read. I'm no exception to that generalization, so you can imagine my discomfort at discovering my children don't necessarily share my passion for the printed word.

That being said, I've come to realize my childrens' world bears almost no resemblance to the one where I grew up.

I was the only child of back-to-the-land ex-hippies living in a rural area without television. Reading wasn't a chore, it was my savior. Better yet, my parents didn't keep tabs on what I read. Stephen King in fifth grade? Sure, why not. The Blue Book of Fairies the next week? That worked too. I read indiscriminately, voraciously and without censorship.

My kids, however, live in a world filled with distractions. They have television, video games and a neighborhood filled with children. There are after-school activities, pets, texting with grandma, instruments to practice and cookies to sell.

Still, despite what seems like the constant forward motion of our lives, the occasional silence will settle upon our house and someone will fling themselves bodily upon me wailing the lament of children throughout time. "I'm sooooo bored. What should I do?"

It dawned on me lately that busy schedules might not be the only thing getting between my kids and their love of reading.

Instead of a simple pastime, something to do to relieve the, sometimes suffocating, boredom of childhood, the rhetoric which now accompanies the act of reading has transformed it into something to be measured out in doses and prescribed like a particularly untasty medicine.

The conversations I hear about reading revolve around quantity (30 minutes a night), leveled readers, award winning books and novels chosen on behalf of our children, after consultation with a trusted librarian. 

All this goes a little way towards explaining why, when we arrive at the library, my children tag-a-long after me asking questions like "Is it okay if I just read a graphic novel? Does it have to be a Newberry Award winner? Can I pick a book from the little kids' section?"

They've picked up on the societal message that reading is like working out. No pain, no gain.

My newest rules about reading are as follows:

You have to pick your own book.

The book should be interesting.

"Check out a lot, as much as you want," I tell them, "If you don't like it, don't finish it. Read what you love."

I'd like to think my new rules are having their intended effect. From Sunday evening to Friday after school, screens go off. There are still plenty of distractions, but more and more the plaintive whine of "I'm bored" is being replaced by the silence of an entire household reading, not because it's mandated, prescribed or assigned, but because it's a pleasurable way to pass the time.