Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy day

I would be remiss if I did not offer my best wishes to a man who was rejected by publishers some 24 times before his big break. So:

Happy birthday,

I think we're all glad you made it! Now where do you think I can round up some green eggs and ham for dinner?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moments of perfection

Huddled under my electric blanket this morning*, reading a new book, I had one of those moments. You know the ones. When you're reading something for the first time--or maybe for the five hundredth time because its one of those books that's your very favorite it speaks to your soul--and you come across some little moment or description or dialogue exchange that's perfect. Something in that little chunk of text is just delicious its so true and genuine and original.

It's like a little treasure you just discovered, and your fingers itch to grab your phone and text it, out of context, to your friend or younger sister.

Today it happened while I was doing homework--see kids, homework can be fun! But instead of texting my younger sister who probably wouldn't have found it nearly so wonderful as I had, given she was probably, (gasp) working, rather than cuddled up in bed, I thought I'd shared it with you:

"It's a mysterly to me," McTavish said.
"Mysterly?" Banderbrock said.
"Yes," McTavish said. "As in something unknown, or mysterlious."
Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham, p. 59

Oh, mysterlious. It killed me. All it took was one letter! One letter and a perfectly "meh" exchange between an over-proud possibly-a-cat and a gruff badger transformed into a perfect little gem of humor. Though I will say that McTavish and Branderbock--the names, the characters, and the careful characterizations up to that point in the text--helped.

As a writer, I try to take note of these things. What is it that makes a book work? What makes if fresh and funny and unique, even literary?

Another example, off the top of my head, comes from a very different kind of book, E. M. Forster's A Room with a View:
As soon as he had turned his back, Lucy arose with the cunning of a maniac and stole down the arcade towards the Arno.
There was something about Forster's description, "the cunning of a maniac," that not only caught hold of my imagination so well that now, four years after I read the book, I remembered the exact phrase but it also perfectly captures the essence of the moment. I can see Lucy, somewhat traumatized by the sudden fight and death she's just witnessed and befuddled by the strict Edwardian social codes of propriety, driven to try to sneak away from her benevolent but socially unacceptable friend. It's a ludicrous thing to do, crazy even given she doesn't know her way around Florence, but she attempts it and she even has the presence of mind to send Mr. Emerson on a little errand and wait until his back is turned. Even if the societal impetuses of the novel, the little moments of drama caused by what seems to my Modern mind as inconsequential social gaffes, still sometimes elude me, Mr. Emerson had me "with the cunning of a maniac." Those six words, their brilliance and perfection, were enough to establish him in my mind as literary.

Have you, as a reader or a writer, ever had one of these moments?

*You live in the basement of a house built over a hundred years ago and then let me know how you fare even in a mild New England winter

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

That's why we love you Google

I'll admit it. I'm not the biggest Dickens fan. At least not when it comes to actually reading Dickens (his books are just so long and adult fiction-y). But I do love me a good BBC/masterpiece theatre Dickens miniseries. They've got perfectly evil characters, crazy occupation/characterically appropriate last names, and classic quotes like, "I already have in my employ a literary man with a wooden leg." Not to mention the plot twists. Orphans popping up here, there, and everywhere, massive fortunes for the inheriting, child laborers, death by spontaneous combustion? You've got to admit, homeboy* had style.

Which is why seeing something like this:
warms the cockles of my little British, book loving heart.

What do you think about Dickens? Google? My assumption of a national and literary heritage that is arguably tenuous?

*That's right. I went there. And I've got the British Birth certificate to prove it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Since we're talking about Grammar

Little known fact (or maybe not): the 8 am grammar class I took as an undergraduate in college was one of my very favorite.

I know, I am such a nerd.

That said, I actually can't remember too much about what we learned in that class. We did very little sentence diagramming--that is soooo old school--but I know we did a lot of labeling. Different types of verbs, clauses, phrases, sentence types: if it was typed on a paper we labelled it.

I do remember that for our big final group project my group choose to do the very important, landmark work of analyzing the grammatical patterns within the character dialogue in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Wouldn't you know it those wily pirates use much more interesting and complex sentences types than those stodgy old British Naval Officers. They're so much more loveable. Aren't you glad I proved it for you, grammatically.

Even Jack Sparrow cares about grammar:

"I think we've all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically . . . "

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grammar Rocks

With this latest project I've been thinking a lot about grammar. Yup. I'm pretty hip to the jive.

Anyway, that ol' Schoolhouse it doesn't lie. Grammar does rock. So in honor of it, and them, here's a li'l somethin' to brighten up your Friday.

What's your favorite part of speech/Grammar rocks song or video?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don't get me wrong

I love words. I love reading. I love writing. Why I'm even writing a whole story about . . . you guessed it, words. But this? This creeps me out.

May nothing like this ever happen to you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Speaking of a hundred years of winter . . .

Did you miss me? Just as the spring finally did come to Narnia, so I have returned to my blog . . . or I've found my Mr. Tumnus or . . . you know, something all metaphoric and deep.

Once upon a time I used to update my blog. I even had grand visions of, gasp, writing regularly, developing a readership, maybe even finding a fan or two. Well you may or may not have noticed, but it's been a bit. I blame grad school, but then of course there was that summer vacation. Hmmmm, I'll have to think about that one.

Anyway, that's enough about that because now, I'm back! You want to know what's more? I've been writing. Really, I have.

I'll admit it. I stalled out on my last project. I decided to make some big structural changes within the novel, adding another point of view for a character I felt was getting seriously overlooked, but then I couldn't figure out the appropriate interpersonal dynamics between my other two my main characters. I thought and thought and thought about it. One afternoon I even swam laps for over an hour just mulling it over. Also, I tried to remember to breath, but that was secondary. I made several attempts to write out of my rut. I even flew all the way to England so I could go down to Oxford and pull up a bit o' grass on the bank of the Thames and write. But it turns out it is very difficult to write early twentieth century western frontier type dialogue when surrounded by the Britishness of poncy little undergraduates punting down the river, cornish pasties, and, you know, palaces. Fancy that.

Anyway, I finally decided that Cossette et all needed a break. Especially since I was launching into a semester studying Nonfiction and Victorian literature and gearing up for a second Mentorship writing a metafictive Middle Grade fantasy novel. A project where I can make everything up without feeling guilty that I haven't done sufficient research or I'm misconstruing various long-deceased family members? In a word: lovely. Though snerk is not entirely without his own problems. Just ask various friends, roommates, and family members who receive frantic phone calls, texts, and gchats saying, "Quick! What gender is Ain't!" and "But what are the gender politics if that word is feminine?" even "sorry [wasn't paying attention to your very important problem] I was busy drawing a map." I'm creating a whole world here. That's a lot of responsibility for someone who has never yet successfully kept a potted plant alive.

That said, dear readers, I am once again raising a very important question. Words if not worlds hang in the balance (drum roll):
If you had to marry either Mr. Elton, Mr. Eliot, or Mr. Collins which one would you choose?
Wait. Hang on, that wasn't the right question. Okay, for reals this time:
If there was a World of Words, which word would be their elected leader?
I've already picked my criminal mastermind, but I haven't settled on the Word herself. That's right. It's a woman. I'm just that edgy.

Now here's my parting promise to you, my readers. If you'll read and, gasp, comment, I'll keep-a-writin'.

Please note, the above mentioned question has and ought to have no bearing, connection, or commentary on any contemporary, political happenings. Different world, different cast of characters.