I’ve been asked a couple times in interviews whether I have any pre-writing rituals, like “lighting a candle” or “drinking a glass of tea” or something. I don’t do either of those things (though they do sound very romantic and “writely”). But I do have one tradition I break out whenever the revision/writing process starts to make me a little nutty: I dance.
No joke. I put on some music, sing out loud, and dance in my office. Think of it as a pre-football game, get-psyched, “Go team!” ritual in the locker room that looks a little something like this:
What you might find odd is that my get-psyched music is surprisingly mellow. It’s not Bon Jovi or anything. I rock out to Dido.
Yeah, the English singer-songwriter. Not exactly club music, I know. But for some reason this skinny little Brit inspires me.
Here are two of the classics I dance to most often:
Now other music might work for you. Stephenie Meyer has publicly thanked The Muse in her Twilight novels for being so inspirational to her writing, and well, I don't like a single one of their songs. So whoever it is that gets you in a writerly mood, I suggest pumping up the volume before you sit down and belting out a few notes (bonus points if your neighbors can see you). Trust me, it really is a nice stress relief when you’re on the edge of typing, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
POP CULTURE RANT: So You Think You Can Dance What’s up with all the injuries? First, Alex goes down with an injury so bad he needed surgery. That alone, in my opinion, should qualify the whole season for a mulligan. I don’t about you, but he was my favorite to win. So with that star gone, there's really no one left to care about. Then, the girls get picked off one-by-one with Ashley going down in another injury. And then Billy Bell has the nerve not to dance because of a “soar knee” the doctors cleared him of earlier in the week. I think the rapid-fire season with only ten contestants jumping straight to the two-dances per night round might have been a bit much for the dancers, psychically. Just sayin'. However, on a side note, props to Tabitha & Napolean for giving us the best hip hop routines since “Bleeding Love.” Go Nappytabs! I'd vote for them as the winners if I could.
Celebrate Christmas in July With Some Haiku Reviews
Just in time of Christmas in July (which I know you all celebrate because decorating a palm tree is awesome), I’ve decided to offer a few haiku reviews in case you’re looking for entertainment during your next vacation. I’m covering all age groups here, all reading levels, and even a movie.
So without further ado…
My Summer Haiku Reviews
THE HELP, Katheryn Stockett
Jackson is racist?
No way! But three maids see all
with great points of view.
CERTAIN GIRLS, Jennifer Weiner
Cannie and Joy fight
mostly about bat mitzvahs.
Let her wear the dress!
DAIRY QUEEN, Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Child laborer plays
linebacker. Hard to believe
but hard to put down
SNEEZY LOUISE, Irene Breznak
Great rhythmic pattern
in this cute bedtime read. Just
cover your nose please…
ECLIPSE, the movie
So much better than
New Moon! Awesome dialogue.
Bella makes more sense.
So enjoy! Now go out and buy books! Lots and lots of books!
POP CULTURE RANT: Eclipse So I wasn’t kidding about Bella’s thinking making more sense in this movie. She even makes more sense than her character did in the book. Now just to warn you, but….
My favorite part of the movie was the end where Bella explains to Edward that it was never a choice between him or Jacob, it was choice between her being the “Bella she should be” and the “Bella she is.” The DH turned to me after that scene and said, “I think that speech was the best part of the movie.” I said, “It wasn’t in the book.” And really, it should have been. That one monologue summed up the entire point of the series in a few sentences. So kudos to the screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg! (And kudos to her for taking out those obnoxious crying scenes at the end of the novel.)
So I recently saw an article on Galleycat that solves the publishing crisis in such a simplistic and obvious way that I can only call it genius. Anyone outside the industry may not realize this, but books aren’t doing so hot right now. The industry is sort of facing what the music industry did during that whole Napster thing. (The Internet? What is that? Someone call Metallica!) And while they were trying to figure out how make money off this wacky e-book thing while not killing brick and mortar bookstores with complicated lawsuits and authors guild disputes, one independent publisher found a solution that only required a few lines of text.
You see, for as many books as there are on bookshelves, there are millions sitting on the hard drives of laptops across America. Turns out most people really do think they have a book in them. And each of those writers fire off letters to agents and independent publishers daily (only indie publishers will accept unagented material). Imagine the amount of manuscripts these publishers receive on a regular basis, it’s enough paper to make an environmentalist find a steep cliff.
And one such indie publisher decided to use those wannabe writers to pump air into the life support of your local bookstore. Tin House Books is offering, for a limited time, to accept unsolicited (ie. unagented) manuscripts if, and only if, the writer mails the manuscript with a receipt proving he/she has purchased a book at a bookstore recently.
Think about that: they will read your book if you prove that you read books yourself.
“Writers who cannot afford to buy a book or cannot get to an actual bookstore are encouraged to explain why in haiku or one sentence (100 words or fewer). Tin House Books and Tin House magazine will consider the purchase of e-books as a substitute only if the writer explains: why he or she cannot go to his or her neighborhood bookstore, why he or she prefers digital reads, what device, and why.
Writers are invited to videotape, film, paint, photograph, animate, twitter, or memorialize in any way (that is logical and/or decipherable) the process of stepping into a bookstore and buying a book to send along for our possible amusement and/or use on our Web site.”
I think if every struggling writer out there supported another writer by buying a book, the industry would look like the Silicon Valley in the late ‘90s because that’s how many unpublished authors are out there. And one day, if/when each of these writers makes the leap to published author, he/she is going to hope a future struggling writer returns the favor.
(BTW: the last book I purchased at a bookstore was a Sneezy Louise children's book by Irene Breznak).
POP CULTURE RANT: Vampire Diaries
Okay, I recently got hooked on this show to the point of unhealthy obsession. You see, I started out just dabbling. I watched a couple of reruns because there’s nothing else to watch on summer TV. New to me, right? Then I found myself looking forward to Thursdays so I could see the next episode. No biggie. Fun new show. Then, last Thursday, the meanies at the CW decided to skip from episode 6 (the last one they aired) to episode 14. I nearly freaked. How did the characters end up in some tomb? Why are Damon and Elena so tight? Wait, did Elenda sleep with Stefan and I missed it? Of course, the CW did not hook me up with the missed back episodes on their website and every other site I found containing them wanted me to pay (yeah, right) or download a bunch of garbage onto my computer. But alas, Twitter came through. I posted my plight via Tweet, and @lafemmereaders connected me with this site. Granted, it’s got some inappropriate banner ads and the resolution of the videos is like 72 dpi, but still, I am now officially caught up! And I hold by my claim that this show has better acting than Twilight. (And Damon is hotter than Edward.)
It’s Shoobies, Shlocals, and Locals in GCC Member Jenny O’Connell’s New Series
Oh, who doesn’t remember going down the shore and meeting a cute local (year-round resident), shoobie (one-week vacationer), or schlocal (full-summer vacationer)? The sand and surf really give “summer fling” a warmer brighter context. And GCC Member Jenny O’Connell is going to give you plenty of young summer romance in her two Island Summer novels, LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS out now through MTV Books.
As always, here’s a little bit about her books to get you hooked:
Bestselling author Jenny O’Connell presents a sizzling series for summer. Her first two Island Summer novels, LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS highlight the lives of the summering visitors, the year-round locals living in the beach towns of Martha’s Vineyard, and the fireworks that explode when they combine for three steamy months.
In LOCAL GIRLS, friendships are in danger of ending with the summer. Kendra and Mona are best friends, local girls who spend their summers catering to rich tourists and the rest of the year chafing against small-town life. Then Mona's mom marries one of the island's rich summer visitors, and Mona joins the world of the Boston elite, leaving Kendra and Martha's Vineyard behind. When Mona returns the following summer, everything is different.
Unlike his sister, Mona's twin brother Henry hasn't changed. He's spending his summer the way he always has: with long, quiet hours fishing. Early mornings before work become special for Kendra as she starts sharing them with Henry, hoping he can help her figure Mona out. Then Kendra hatches a plan to prove she's Mona's one true friend: uncover the identity of the twins' birth father, a question that has always obsessed Mona. And so she begins to unravel the seventeen-year-old mystery of the summer boy who charmed Mona's mother. But it may prove to be a puzzle better left unsolved--as what she is about to discover will change their lives forever...
In RICH BOYS, Winnie jumps at the chance to babysit for a wealthy summer family and earn some extra money—but soon learns that life in the Barclay’s beautiful vacation home isn’t as perfect as it appears. And what was supposed to be a carefree summer quickly becomes more complicated than she ever thought possible.
Here’s what Jenny had to say:
Q: In AMIGAS AND SCHOOL SCANDALS, Mariana takes a road trip to Cornell. What’s your funniest road trip story?
Jenny: We did a lot of road trips in college (I went to a women's college, so we often got in the car and headed to schools where we had a better chance of meeting the opposite sex). But the funniest road trip story would have to be the road trip I took right after college with my best friend. I was heading back to school and she was heading to NYC for a job, so we spend 3 weeks driving around the country, just us, a tent, a box of wheat bread and peanut butter and jelly and $200. We were nuts!! I don't know how our parents let us do it. We spent nights in tents with bisson wandering around us (Yellowstone National Park), woke up in 100 degree heat in a tent that was not well ventilated, which is why my best friend was practically panting for air (Moab, Utah), but when we left Scottsdale, AZ for the Grand Canyon it was pretty funny. We managed to drive for hours until we saw a sign for Las Vegas, which meant that we missed the biggest gaping hole in the whole damn earth. Just drove right around it. We made up for it with a night in Vegas, but we had to circle back the next day and find that freaking Canyon!!!
Q: I often talk about how I didn’t always “know” I wanted to be a writer. Did you? Or did you have other plans when you were little?
Jenny: Nope. Wasn't even an English major. Dropped the only English class I ever took in college because I hated reading stuff I didn't want to read. When I was "little" I: wrote advertising jingles; opened a bank in my closet, complete with credit card machine made out of cardboard; wrote a play; ice skated for hours and made up my own routines; painted rocks and made mobiles that I'd hang from my bedroom ceiling. So while I wasn't terribly focused, I guess you could say I was imaginative. My sister and I wrote a play when we were little too. It was called ROCK & ROLL USA. Genius stuff. Very 80s.
Q: Throughout the AMOR series, Mariana and her friends celebrate their Sweet 16s (and 15s). What did you do for your Sweet 16 or Quinceanera?
Jenny: My parents threw a surprise party for me. I got home on a Saturday afternoon and a bunch of my friends were there. My parents gave me a little jewelry box with a sweet silver keychain with a heart on it. And a key. I got excited. Until I realized it was a key to our family car. (I did end up getting my own car a month later when my parents realized there was no way in hell they wanted me driving their car).
Q: I wrote the AMOR series organically, no outlines. My new manuscripts, I’ve outlined extensively. How about you? Are you an outliner?
Jenny: I don't outline. I don't write chronologically. I just write what feels easiest to write at the time, which could be a scene, the ending or the beginning.
Q: Where were you when you found out that Endless Summer was going to be published? Tell us the story.
Jenny: I'd already written and published 8 books when these two were sold. But I was so happy because I love Martha's Vineyard and couldn't wait to write about it. Once the publisher bought the books I wrote both of them in five months. Then I was braindead. Which is why I'm just starting to write a new book right now.
Thank you, Jenny! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!
Diana Rodriguez Wallach’s debut young adult novel, Amor and Summer Secrets, is the first in a three-book series published by Kensington Publishing in 2008 and 2009. In addition to writing, Diana is a pop-culture junkie: everything from primetime to soaps, ew.com to The Soup, The Hangover to Slumdog, and Gossip Girl to Jane Austen. She’s loves it all and loves to rant. Enjoy!