Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

During my adolescence I thought it quite profound to discuss the question, "If you found out that you were going to die, who would you call? What would you say? And why are you waiting?" At the time, my answers (not surprisingly) always involved confronting the object of my latest heartbreak and/or secret crush. He would, of course, be moved to tears by my eminent demise and tragic love scenes would ensue.

Then I moved out on my own, and I was a bit too busy paying for electricity to worry myself with such matters. But now I have a husband, a house, and (gasp) steady access to health care. This is all wonderful. But I've discovered that with great security comes great complacency.

Don't get me wrong. I love my life. I love my husband. And I'm no longer gaining perverse satisfaction from imagining dire deathbed scenes. But it recently occurred to me that we've put off having kids specifically so that we can experience certain things and accomplish certain goals before we put our energy into parenthood. Sounds smart, right? And maybe it would be, if we didn't spend so much of our time (a) engrossed in the banality of everyday tasks or (b) whining about our lack of energy and lazing about the house.

So this year, I'm not making a virtuous new year's resolution. I'm not going to try to exercise more, or lose weight, or (heaven forfend) quit whining about things that annoy me. Instead, my resolution is to quit waiting. Quit waiting for the perfect circumstances. Quit plodding away at the daily to-do list and instead pay attention to a list I actually care about. Here are the top five things I'll quit waiting to do:

(1) Travel more. The Husband and I want to take interesting vacations, but he keeps saying that we don't have the time or the money. To break us out of that mindset, I'm determined to orchestrate four mini-breaks to local destinations (one mini-break per season). In winter 2009, we will take the train to Portland, OR for two nights at the Benson Hotel. I've already made reservations!

(2) Spend more time with family. My grandmothers are getting older and my nephews and nieces are growing fast! Why guilt-trip over our lack of contact when I could reinvest that time in actual visits?

(3) Take classes. As a Christmas gift, The Husband signed me up for an online writing class with Patricia Kay. I'm so excited! I'd also love to learn some non-writing things. I'm hoping to convince some of my friends to join me in something aerobic and naughty (like pole-dancing lessons). And at some point (I don't know if it will be 2009), I would like to start studying Latin again.

(4) Finish Revising Mr. Right and submit it to at least four agents. This one's self-explanatory!

(5) Read five non-romance novels. (Aside from Water for Elephants, which many people have recommended to me, these are all books that I've started before and long to finish.)
Whew! This turned out to be quite a long post (to say nothing for a long list). I'll wrap up with that most interesting of questions: what is your new year's resolution? Best wishes to you in 2009!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Veni, Vidi, Vici

I'm done with the 50,000 words.

I'm not done shaping the manuscript.

I'm not even done shaping the part I'll send to agents.

But I won NaNoWriMo.

Let me repeat: I won NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who know me, you'll understand that this is a big deal. I managed to set myself a deadline and a goal. I managed to meet it, despite the delights of procrastination promised by my day job, my social life, and my utterly delectable husband (not necessarily in that order). I managed to write 50,000 words despite the fact that I had (a) 1 out-of-town visitor (b) 10 teaching coaches camped out in my classroom (c) over 200 papers to grade and (d) an overwhelming desire to watch 3 seasons' worth of Bones in the span of two weeks.

Throw in a partridge and a pear tree, and you have it just about right!

Suddenly, anything seems possible. Maybe I can actually make a go of this writing thing, even with my hectic day job. I'll be back in a week or so to offer you up my musings on life, and where I go next. In the mean time, I am going to put up Christmas decorations and pamper my husband. (Hopefully, a week of cooking dinner will make up for all the nights he stayed clear of my writing space and subsisted on Honey Smacks...)

Thank you all for your encouragement as I tackled NaNoWriMo 2008!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NaNo Triumph!

Take that, November!

You've been fighting my intentions to win NaNoWriMo. You've given me stress in the work place, depressingly bad weather, and the kind of exhaustion that has me wondering if I'm (a) narcoleptic or (b) pregnant. (No to both, in case you're hoping for a mini-DSW!)

But despite all that you have thrown at me, I have finally caught up my NaNoWriMo word count! That's right--after five and a half hours of diligent writing today, I finally broke the 25,000 barrier. Woo-hoo!

Let us celebrate this triumph with another graph, as victory may be short-lived and we need to commemorate the moment!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Unfeasibly Hilarious Harlequin Parody

As I drown in Victorian autobiographies and pedagogical theory, wondering whether I'll ever get poor Aimee and Gregory into the sack or will leave them stranded in perpetual sexual frustration for the rest of their fictional lives, I always make time for the important things in life: outrageously funny parodies of Harlequin Presents novels.

Those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading The Unfeasibly Tall Greek Billionaire's Blackmailed Martyr-Complex Mistress Bride on Tumperkin's blog are in for a treat. The rest of you who read it when it was written--round-robin style by several contributors--some months ago should give it another look. Jokes about the global hummus industry, Molly Ordinary's consternation-provoking nipple hardening, and lines like "You slut! Why didn't you tell me you were a virgin?" never go out of style.

I'll now be returning to my regularly scheduled rounds of reading, not writing enough, and freaking out about the election.

Many thanks to Kate D. for sprucing up the joint around here. Aren't the polka dots divine?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Get Your Kicks On Page 56

Ames is doing this book meme over at Thrifty Reader, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Here are the rules: Grab the nearest book. Open the book to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal/blog along with these instructions.

Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the closest. Tag five other people to do the same.

So here's page 56 what I started reading yesterday:

Once she took away his pain, they'd be free to investigate places to mate.

"How about if you relax over there." She pointed to a seating area situated in front of a fireplace. "While I sit next to you? That way, you'll be comfortable."

Anyone know what it's from?

I'm tagging: Anneliese, Sam, Shelli and Alyssa Goodnight.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Mountain of Pudding

Congratulate me, dear reader. I have just survived the Week from Hell.

As many of you know, I am a damned scribbling woman with a day job. Specifically, I am a high school English teacher. Last year, I also became co-department chair. What does that mean? It means that my already inadequate prep time is eaten up by meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

This year, I'm teaching five class periods, three different preps (one of them AP English... which is basically a college course). Two of them are new classes--including the AP--which means I'm creating curriculum from scratch. Normally, this is something I can handle. And yet... this past week, I was staying up until 1:00am (and getting up at 5:30am) just to be ready for the day's teaching. (We won't even talk about the grading and long-term planning I've managed to avoid...) To add insult to injury, I actually had two meetings this week about another meeting. That's right: meta-meetings to anticipate and then reflect upon another meeting.

Seriously? Seriously!

I wouldn't mind if the meetings were actually useful, but most days it just feels like I'm climbing a mountain of pudding. I expend lots of effort, but never seem to get anywhere. My work desk is a pit (see above), and my house is a bio-hazard. I haven't worked on my novel at all in months. And perhaps worst of all, I'm starting to resent a job that I used to love.

I want to focus on my students (the reason I'm there in the first place). I want to develop my own brain (and novel). I want to spend time with my new husband, in a home that's not oppressively disorganized.

Ah, well. I don't know if I'll ever clear the dishes from the sink, but I do know that I can take control of my writing. If there's one thing I've learned through our years of blogging, it's easy to whine. It's much harder to actually change one's circumstances. This is why, prodded by Anneliese, I'm making my writing goals for the school year public:
  • I will stay at least two days ahead of my students in terms of planning and reading.
  • I will write EVERY day, including weekends (even if only one paragraph)
  • I will attend at least 6 GSRWA meetings during 2009.
  • I will take an online writing class with Patricia Kay.
  • I will begin sending work to my critique partner every two weeks! (Look for an email on October 5th, A.L.!)
  • I will create and implement a plan to achieve PRO status before the 2009 Emerald City Writers' Conference.
Day job getting you down? I'd love to commiserate! Of course, straight sympathy works, too.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New School Year Resolutions

The new year really starts in September, doesn't it? That's when we reluctantly bundle ourselves back up and head back to school to begin again the endless cycle of classes and papers and reading and research. Resolutions seem much more appropriate for September than January--if you're a student (like me) or a teacher (like Kate D.) that's when you model your new clothes and new behaviors and get your brain ready for new experiences.

So, in honor of my first week of my PhD program at my new school, here are some resolutions:

1. I will limit internet surfing to no more than 1 hour per day.
2. I will read (academically) EVERY day, including weekends (even if only one article or part of a book).
3. I will write EVERY day, including weekends (even if only one paragraph)
4. I will join RWA's NYC chapter and begin attending meetings (starting this Saturday)
5. I will finish the first draft of O Mistress Mine by May.
6. I will create and implement a plan to actively pursue representation for my first novel.

This is an ambitious plan, but I'm hopeful that I'll succeed at something if I push myself to do more than I actually think I can. It all hinges on the internet usage--the synecdoche for my time-management failures.

I've woken up every morning for the last several months with scenes from O Mistress Mine running through my head, which gives me hope that the book isn't dead in the water. If I can just get my fingers against the keys, I trust it will turn out alright.

To monitor my progress, I'll post status updates at the end of each month.

Kate D.--care to state your New School Year Resolutions?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yearbook Photos!

If you haven't been over to Holly's page lately, it's worth checking out. She recently posted about an absolute gem of a website, I was inspired... as some of you know, The Husband and I went to high school together, but we didn't meet until seven years after he'd graduated (and five years after I had).

So I decided to use the website to answer the question: what would we have looked like as high school sweethearts? And how does our "look" change depending on the decade?

Enjoy, and let me know which one is your favorite!

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Writer... And A Wife!

It's finally happened: I'm a lawfully wedded wife!

This past Saturday, The Fiance became The Husband during a beautiful wedding in my parents' backyard. Our ceremony--lasting a mere 11 minutes, hurray!--was full of laughter and fun. Afterwards, my grandmother came up to me and joked, "It's a pity you didn't look very happy." Yeah, I think my face muscles are still twitching from all the smiling!

Of course, I could agonize about a million tiny details or questions. What about the typo on one of the chocolate wrappers? Did I say "um" too many times during our thank-you toast?

But I guess the only valid worry is about whether or not our guests had as much fun as we did. I truly hope that everyone who came (especially everyone who helped out!) knows how much we love and appreciate them! We are so fortunate to have so many wonderful people sharing such an important moment of our lives.

In the days before the wedding, my (adorable) father agonized over every detail, because he wanted me to have "my perfect fairytale wedding." And I told him not to sweat the details: I was going to have a perfect day because I was marrying the right guy. I was going to have a perfect day because I'd be surrounded by the family and friends who've supported us all our lives, who've taught us how to love with respect, compassion, and patience.

Well, I was right about the wedding. It was an absolute fairytale--one of the best days of my life. But you know what? The next day was even better, because I got to wake up in bed next to my favorite person in the world. I got to hear him say, "Good morning, wife!" and I got to say "Good morning, husband!" right back to him. Somehow, I don't think that will ever get old. Even when we're wrinkled and toothless, I'll still be tickled that I had the good sense to marry this wonderful man!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Magic

I could use some. For starters, I could really use a re-watch of the classic Hayley Mills flick of the same name, which I haven't seen in a good 15 years but is nonetheless imprinted on my cerebral cortex. It's a musical, set in turn-of-the-century small-town America, featuring an impoverished widow and her plucky family, romantic mishaps, a bitchy cousin who turns out to be nice, an elaborate scheme to defraud a wealthy landowner of his house, and a game of croquet. Plus, one of the best, cheesy-romantic final lines of any movie, when Hayley Mills asks recently-defrauded and majorly hot said landowner, "What are you going to do to me?" and he answers, "Right now? I'm going to dance with you." And then they do. Fade out. Damn, that's a good movie.

I could also use some magic of the literal variety-- I have two weeks and one day in which to finish my 40-page MA thesis, finish studying for the comps, and take the exam. I keep telling myself I always finish my work, even when it seems impossible. But this really seems impossible. And there's no margin for error, because I start my new PhD program 5 days later. So it all has to happen, and right quick.

My writing "career" (ha!) could definitely use some magic of the date-planner, scheduling, no-goofing-off, stick-to-your-routine variety. The academic work this summer precluded any real work on O Mistress Mine, but I'm determined to be better in the autumn, when I'm taking classes but no longer have to tutor, as I was for the past two years. And I'm determined to devote myself to finding a publisher for Then Comes Marriage. I'm really serious this time. Stop laughing.

Finally, I want to send the beloved Kate D. some very special summer magic for her wedding this Saturday. Except she doesn't really need any. Kate, it will be a beautiful, gorgeous, happy day. Have a wonderful time starting your marriage.

To console myself for not being able to attend the festivities on the other side of the continent, I want a list of our favorite fictional weddings, in print or on screen. Any takers?

And as a bonus, the croquet scene.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Here Comes the Bride...

Now that school's out, I've been trying to tackle all the odds and ends on my wedding to-do list. I find myself terrified that I'm going to forget something vital (note to self: get that marriage license!) I'm also afraid that our guests will show up and think, "Wow. I bought a plane ticket for this? Yawn!"

I've definitely been to my share of weddings--ranging from somewhat scary to absolutely delightful. Along the way, I've picked up a few tips for my own nuptials. For instance, it's off-putting and somewhat tacky when the ceremony officiant dwells on divorce statistics, politics, and/or potty-training stories about one half of the happy couple. And you really ought to be nice to your photographer, because she has the power to send you to Airbrush Hell.

Yet even with these--and other--little tidbits, I sometimes feel woefully under-prepared. Luckily, I have friends and family helping me with the myriad items on my to-do list. I also have many cheerful souls ready to help when something gets messed up. What does that mean? They tell me plenty of wedding horror stories to put my own little worries in perspective.

So here's my question to you, dear reader: do you have any wedding dos or don'ts to share? What was the sweetest, funniest, or most creative thing you ever saw at a wedding? What's the most awkward and/or horrific moment you remember?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Odds and Ends

I'm done with the semester and on to the summer work--the last stretch before I finish my MA and start the PhD. Despite the hectic past few weeks of reading/writing I managed to get some romance reading in.

Oh, who am I kidding. I lost it about half-way through my Madame Bovary/Theodor Adorno paper and decided to go on a Susan Elizabeth Phillips binge. I read all my favorites. It Had to Be You, This Heart of Mine, Nobody's Baby But Mine, Dream a Little Dream, Kiss an Angel, and Ain't She Sweet-- all consumed in the space of two weeks. And I still managed to get two papers written. And (to gloat a little) got an A on one of 'em (the Persuasion paper; I'm less optimistic about the Flaubert).

Re-reading the SEPs reawakened my dormant urge to write a contemporary, and I woke this morning to a vivid half-sleeping dream in which the first scene and basic plot of a novel spooled through my head. In fact, lots of imaginary people have been talking to each other in my head since I started bookmooching authors' backlists like a fiend in January. There's also a new historical that I'm thisclose to starting.

Which brings me to my current writing problem: Oh Mistress Mine, why are thou sucking? I've been "working" on you for two years now, and you're not getting much better--or much longer. How much of this is grad school malaise and how much is a book that's not working? When do you decide to plow through and when to jump ship? (Forgive the mixing of agricultural and nautical metaphors, but writers block will drive one to it) I ditched one novel at about 40,000 words when I first started writing and don't regret it, but I sometimes wish I could have finished that book. I still like Aimée and Gregory, but they don't haunt my head like my new characters do. Just a case of grass-is-greener?

To close, before heading to the gym and trying to write a few pages (and reading some 18th-century treatises on smallpox inoculation for my thesis):

I finished my last Laura Kinsale this morning. I had saved Midsummer Moon for about four years, because I just wasn't ready to have none of her books left to look forward to. But to celebrate the end of the semester, I read it and loved it, and now I'm feeling satisfied and a little sad and more than a little tempted to go on a Kinsale binge...which I really can't afford after my last three days of leisure.

And finally, an excellent procastinatory tool. I haven't laughed so hard in quite some time. Anyone with a passion for correct punctuation and a healthy appreciation of the absurd will enjoy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shaking Those Moody Blues

Why can’t I concentrate? Why can’t I write brilliant, passionate prose?

The sad fact is that I’m too busy worrying about my day job.

Ah, the joys of being a young teacher. My school district finds itself in a bit of a levy bind… which means, if the taxpayers aren’t feeling generous in a few weeks, I can kiss my job goodbye. It’s a little thing we like to call “reduction in force,” (RIF) and in my neck of the woods it’s done entirely by seniority. Merit doesn’t matter. It’s a slap in the face to realize that I’ve been working my butt off for nothing. The disillusioned tenure jockey who hates children and flunks a third of his class? Totally safe from budget cuts… and he already makes $10,000 a year more than I do. But I’m young and idealistic, so I’m toast.

I know that every cloud has a silver lining. Truly, I do. I think if I lose my teaching job I won't wear myself out looking for another one. I’ll substitute, I’ll ponder my graduate school options (hello, history PhD program!), and I’ll write. It might actually end up being better for my long-term ambitions.

So what's the problem? I guess I’m just generally depressed, because many people in my community have been responding with such vitriol to the whole levy discussion.

Yeah, I’m a bleeding-heart teacher type. I’d gladly open my meager pocket book so that we can keep things like librarians and art in our schools (call me crazy, but I think librarians are important). At the same time, I can appreciate any reasoned and respectful viewpoint, even if it’s different from my own. Some people planning to vote no have articulated valid reasons for their choice. That’s great; that’s democracy.

But unfortunately, reactionary cruelty seems to be our general modus operandi… at least when it comes to online discussion. This is typical of many of the bloggers in my community (here responding to the prediction that the levy will pass): “how can it be the NO voters r in the minority? Gosh must be teachers counting the votes wrong? Folks will vote yes when Johnny can read and add! There is a very OLD saying out there, people whom can do people whom can't teach, seems nothing has change this last 20 years!”

I could focus on the misquoting of the old adage, which is actually, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach." Or I could focus on the irony of someone failing to use proper grammar while they bemoan “Johnny’s” inability to read and add correctly. I could also ask how cutting funding and mocking teachers is going to enable (or inspire) anyone in the education system to do a better job than they’re doing right now. Call me crazy, but I’m not motivated by punishment and derision.

Still, I’m not going to focus on any of those things. I’m just going to ask: why do some people think that it’s okay to abandon common courtesy when they’re commenting online? And why do teachers get so much flak? I know there are lousy teachers out there (see tenure jockey, above). But there are lousy people in every profession. That’s no reason to sneer at a whole group!

I just want to say to some of these bloggers, “I respect that your vote may render me unemployed. But please do me the same courtesy. Respect that, while I have my job, I’m honestly doing the best I can to teach your child. I am a highly capable person and I chose this profession. Let me have some dignity.”

Am I alone in thinking we could use a little online etiquette? And just how do I get my mind off things I can’t control? Let me know what you think!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Going For Broke or An Unconventional Approach to Curing Writer's Block

Being an aspiring writer in New York City can be wonderful: inspiration in the air, the publishing industry easily accessible, fantastic research institutions nearby. It can also be debilitating: the constant sense of not writing enough, successfully enough, and quickly enough and the constant stream of distractions outside the writing room (or couch, in my small-apartment-style life) have done as much damage to my writing mojo as my grad school commitments.

But I will fear no longer, for I believe I have found a surefire way to block out the city's relentless thrills and rededicate myself to scholarly and literary pursuits--namely, my poverty. You see, my husband and I are the brand-new, not-even-truly-closed-upon-yet owners of a two bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and I will never be able to afford to do anything in this city again.

I do think this (exciting!) event will be beneficial to my writing. I'm leaving Manhattan and I'm going to have to cut down on my social life a bit, for financial reasons, but that will help me find additional writing time. We'll have a second room to use as an office, as least until we have kids in a few years. A dedicated writing/studying space should help me with my focus in both areas, something I've been struggling with mightily this last semester. I'm a person very much affected by my environment, and I can't help but think that having a home that's truly mine, that I can paint and love and make beautiful, will help me feel creative and productive.

Of course, all the time and energy it will take to move there won't help my writing this summer. Nor will the immense effort I need to put into writing my MA thesis and studying for my comps. But there's always something to keep you from writing. I've let that be my excuse for too long.

(Photo is the main sitting room in my pretty new apartment. Love the bay window and working fireplace just out of the shot).

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Honeymoon, or Getaway?

Dear reader, you must be wondering if I'm ever going to get back to posting about writing and/or reading. Rest assured that I have not abandoned these pursuits entirely! However, I do so enjoy putting forth the occasional wedding plan poll, and I might as well take advantage of the opportunity while I can!

So. Today's question is about romantic getaways. The Fiancé and I decided long ago that we would take vacations at least four times a year (once a season). Sadly, we're only averaging about once a year... and I would like to step things up to the original plan! We have also decided to spend four nights on the Oregon coast. This could be a progressive honeymoon (start at the southernmost point of interest, and work our way back up to Washington) or we might just stay in one place and relax. Some of our favorite things to do on any vacation include:

  • Behaving in an utterly mushy and romantic manner
  • Sleeping in--comfortable rooms a must!
  • Eating very good food and drinking fantastic beverages
  • Spoiling ourselves at a spa
  • Doing a wine-tasting, if at all possible
With that in mind, the following options are up for the honeymoon. Take a virtual tour! Help us decide where to go! Or, if you happen to be an Oregon Coast Aficionado, tell me about the hidden little gem of a town/hotel I've forgotten in my search.

The Edgefield - Troutdale, Oregon
Okay, so it's not on the coast. But it does have many lovely options for food and drink--including a winery out back! Ooh, pretty! And tasty! Ooh, and a spa! Check out the website. Isn't it cool? I love McMenamins, and this is supposed to be their best hotel. I mean, who wouldn't love to spend the night in a converted poor farm? Woohoo! Well, perhaps this might be good for a quick weekend vacation later in the year.
The Inn At Spanish Head - Lincoln City, Oregon
Apparently, it's the state's only resort hotel built right on the beach. Floor-to-ceiling windows, balconies, and full kitchens in many of the rooms (not that I plan to cook on my honeymoon!) Amenities include: oceanfront restaurant and bar, outdoor heated pool, ocean-view spa, a short elevator ride to the beach. Although... I couldn't find a link to the spa. Could anyone else?

Hecata Head Lighthouse - Florence, Oregon

This bed and breakfast is a converted lighthouse keeper's cottage. You get to wander around the grounds (including the lighthouse). Amenities include: gorgeous decor, a decadent seven-course breakfast every morning, and a chance for Kate to feel like Anne of Green Gables. There is no spa on the lonely cliff (go figure), but the Overleaf Spa is close by in Yachata.

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Squee! The spa! How lovely. Whenever you tell anyone that you're going to Oregon for a romantic reason, they say "Go to Cannon Beach." I have no idea where we'd stay, though. I looked at links for The Ocean Lodge or The Stephanie Inn. They both look nice. What does everyone think?

All right! I would love your thoughts--we're going to try to book our honeymoon this week!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Meme: Six Things You May Not Know About Me

In a startling confluence of events, I was hemming and hawing about what to blog about. Then, Alyssa tagged me for the "Six Things You May Not Know About Me" meme. Yay! Problem solved, although I'm not sure what juicy tidbits I have yet to reveal in previous memes.

From Alyssa, here are the rules:
  1. You link back to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post these rules on your blog.
  3. Share six unimportant things about yourself.
  4. Tag six random people at the end of your entry.
  5. Let the tagged people know by leaving a comment on their blogs.
Without further ado, my six unimportant items:

1) I don't like pork as a dinner entrée, but I love bacon or sausage at breakfast.

2) I've been in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream twice. The first time, I was the equivalent of a chorus person. The second time, I played Puck.

3) My preferred drink at Starbucks is a Grande Nonfat Cinnamon Dolce Latte with whipped cream. I've also been to the Oracle of Starbucks to see what my drink type says about my personality. Fun!

4) My spice cupboard is out of control. Because I like to cook all kinds of ethnic food, I've got everything from dried mint leaves to Garam Masala. The one spice I don't currently own (but desperately want to) is saffron.

5) One of The Fiancé's many nicknames for me is "Garden Gnome" (long story). Because of this, I've been getting hideous garden gnome gag gifts from his family at Christmas.

6) I agree with the American Film Institute when they say, "deeply principled and idealistic attorney Atticus Finch (portrayed by Gregory Peck), from To Kill a Mockingbird, was chosen as the greatest hero in 100 years of film history."

And the six people I am tagging:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just Call Me Doctor

Interrupting our usual D Scrib fare for a bout of shameless self promotion:

I'm getting a PhD! (trumpet fanfare)

I just received my first acceptance from a doctoral program in English. Still waiting on a few others (and on the funding details for this one), so I can't say for certain where I'll be next year. But I can say that I'll be studying 18th and 19th century British literature.

I'm totally psyched to know I'll be working toward this degree that's been a dream for so long. I'm a little nervous about what this will mean for my already delayed writing career. But those doubts can least a day!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wedding Wear

For those of you who haven't lived through a winter in the Pacific Northwest, let me assure you: it's dreary. We don't have anything as exciting as snow. Sure, we get patches of black ice and the occasional late start school day. But generally speaking, November through February is a morass of gray days, persistent drizzle, and perpetually cold, damp feet.

As you may imagine, it's hard to picture summer during such dreary weather. It's even harder to feel all romantic and wedding-plan-y. However. Today was the first sunny day in forever. Not coincidentally, it's also the Sunday of my midwinter break... meaning I'm not feeling grim and resigned about going back to work tomorrow. I have two more days off, people! I'm getting lots of sleep. I'm cooking/baking lots of food made with love and care (as opposed to exhaustion and spite). And I'm finally starting to get excited about wedding planning again.

Why am I telling you? Because I'm zeroing in on my dress for the maid of honor, and I've got it narrowed down to two. I tried to have the maid of honor make the choice, but she's as conflicted as I am (and she'd look great in either dress). So... which do you like better... the Nordstrom's (first picture), or the J.Crew dress (second, pictured in blue, but we'd order in black)? Either way, it's going to be accessorized with a bouquet of light blue hydrangea. Keep that in mind.

And also keep in mind that this is a backyard ceremony--so no stilettos to go with the dress, unless we want her sinking into the lawn. Plus, this is the Pacific Northwest, people: in other words, the Land o' Dress Jeans. We're not insanely formal out here. Finally, the maid of honor is a brilliant veterinarian with many benefit dinners in her future--I'd love for her to be able to wear the dress again.

So. I'd love your vote on the dress... Nordstrom's (1) or J.Crew (2, blue)? And if anyone out there has a line on a cheap place for wedding invitations, I'm all ears! (Yes, I know this post has nothing to do with writing... does that tell you where my focus is lately?)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Just Sing (La, la, la, la)

I popped over to Julia Quinn's website the other day to check out what's on her agenda (new series drops in 'o8, woohoo!) and found this tempting nugget: soundtracks for each of her novels. I loved reading her insightful and entertaining reasons for picking each of these songs--songs she listened to while writing the books, songs that remind her of her own plots and characters, and even songs that inspired the writing of certain of her novels. To quote Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn't help but wonder what a soundtrack for my own works in progress would look like. JQ gets all high tech (and famous writer-y) and actually has iTunes lists to match her books. I am not so gifted. Nor do I even listen to music while writing (I prefer the sounds of the Second Avenue bus stopping outside my window, thank you very much). But in an effort at seeking inspiration wherever it may come, I decided to play dj for the night. The results follow.

Then Comes Marriage:

"Chapel of Love" My first ( completed novel begins and opens with weddings, so I have to pick this old chestnut. I think it fits Calla at the beginning of the novel really well: simplistic, totally confident and optimistic, ready for a fall.

"Dancing in the Dark" The old jazz standard not the Bruce Springsteen song. Calla and Peter do dance in the dark, and I've thought about titling the book after the song. The line "Looking for a new love to brighten up the night" fits the book well.

"Heart of Life" (John Mayer) This song fits Calla's situation so well-- beaten down by losing her husband and the life she always thought she'd live, but restored by the "circle of her friends" and her new love for Peter. It's such a sweet, beautiful song with a touch of sadness. I think it fits the mood of the book.

"Something to Talk About" I like to think of Calla and Peter being down with this song by the novel's end. They're both ready to stop letting other people's opinions dictate their lives and just live already (and make a little mischief, too).

O, Mistress Mine:

I'm only 1/3 into the writing of this book, but I already have a few ideas:

"The Song is Ended" This is one of my very favorite songs (I'm a huge cabaret/Great American Songbook geek) and fits this story of a love affair cut short perfectly. Gregory and Aimee's memories of their affair are like a lingering melody for both of them, despite their different reasons for entering into it.

"No Matter What" (Badfinger) This is totally Gregory's song. He's ready to take on the world to be with Aimee at the beginning. I think once I reach the end its resonance will have changed-- more that he's ready to accept all the different parts of her, as different and confusing as they may be.

"Maxine" (John Legend). The song's about a cheating lady, but the refrain "She may not be you...but she looks just like you" exemplifies Gregory's confusion over Aimee/Genevieve's identity (which doesn't really go away, even when he figures out the truth behind her past). John Legend has such a great voice.

Finally: I'm absolutely determined to write a book based on the ridiculous, very entertaining song "Rhode Island is Famous for You" (as sung by the glorious Nancy LaMott). Any song with the lines "They know mink where they grow mink in Wyomin(k)" and "A camp chair in New Hamp(chair)" is a well-spring of inspiration. I can see it now...a driven doctor/knitter...a dashing naval pilot...a date with punny destiny!

Friday, January 11, 2008

To Read, or Not to Read?

That is the question.

Because something momentous is happening on February 21, 2008: they're releasing a prequel to Anne of Green Gables. That's right, you heard me: a prequel. Before Green Gables comes out this year to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the original book. A Canadian children's author (Budge Wilson) was commissioned to write it; and it's been approved by L.M. Montgomery's heirs. So part of me is very excited because, let's face it, I'm a rabid fangirl of all things Avonlea... and this is something new to obsess over.

Well, I'm a fan of almost all things. Let's be clear. I own all of L.M. Montgomery's books. I desperately enjoy most of them (we won't speak of Mistress Pat). I think I may have The Blue Castle memorized. And Gilbert Blythe is officially my Ur-Crush.

Then there's the adaptations for television and film… I have the first two Sullivan Entertainment Anne movies memorized. It's on my list of goals for 2008 to begin acquiring Road to Avonlea on DVD. And though Gus Pike is a totally made-up character (not original to L.M. Montgomery's books at all), I love him dearly.

And yet… and yet, I fear what might happen with this adaptation. For one thing, Anne: The Continuing Story has taught me to be wary. (We will not discuss that movie. As far as I am concerned, it never happened.) For another thing, the prequel years will, by their very nature, be something of a downer to read about. After all, our dear Anne was in the early twentieth century version of foster care. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't happy.

And there was no Gilbert.

So here's my question: am I ordering the book or not? Am I reading it obsessively the day it comes out, or pretending that it doesn't exist? Decisions, decisions. I need your help!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Move over Potter

Looks like we're all YA all the time here at Damned Scribbling Women this week. While Kate awaits the delivery of her now two weeks late "advance" copy of The Sweet Far Thing, I can't spill too much about the book. Having finished the read at 3 am yesterday however, I am moved to give a little teaser about my thoughts and feelings (I was also moved to post a fawning fangirl note on Libba Bray's livejournal at 3 in the morning, but that's neither here nor there).

Anyone mourning the loss of Harry Potter needs to pick up this series now, because--much as I love the Pott--Libba Bray kicks JK Rowling's ass. This is how you finish a series. This is how you take all the amazing work on character/plot/mythology that you set up in previous books and ratchet it up a notch. I thought the conclusion to the Potter series was fine, but Bray's just a much braver writer than Rowling. Her concerns are so much larger, more significant, more meaningful, and the lessons her character learn or try to learn are much more painful and more important. Truly, I'm in awe over this series and wishing desperately I'd been the one to think of it.

This isn't meant to be a diss against J.K. Rowling. I think she's great and love her work. It's more a public service announcement about how unbelievably wonderful I think Libba Bray is.

More substantive comments (including my very few reservations) to follow in a dialog once Kate gets a chance to read the book.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Delicious Anticipation

With the hectic rush of Christmas/New Year's, travel, and grad school application filing, I managed to lose track of one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of 2007: the conclusion of Libba Bray's Realms trilogy. Hearty thanks to whichever good angel inspired me to check out her livejournal (a favorite writer's blog of mine) the day after the new book was released. I'm now a proud owner of The Sweet Far Thing.

But all things must come in their own time, etc, etc, etc. I had other books in the queue and order must be maintained. When one's working days are filled with 1,500 page 18th-century novels, one's holidays become rather excessively devoted to reading (and writing) romance.

Perhaps its for the best. I've waited this long to learn what will become of Gemma, Kartik, Felicity, Pippa, and the rest. I can wait a little longer. I know this book won't disappoint, so the expectation will only make it all the sweeter.

Expect my thoughts sometime next week...