Friday, August 27, 2010

The Death of Subtlety in Books and Film

I’m a big fan of old black and white movies, particularly those starring Kathryn Hepburn. The other night I stayed up watching “Without Love,” a comedy with Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. I knew that they’d end up together in the end, but I wanted to SEE it! At 11:30 p.m., I started to regret staying up so late… then, at last, witty, rapid-fire dialogue about how they’d fallen for each other. The finale: they hug. Hug? Where’s the passionate kiss? Well, there’s the subtlety in these old films. “Philadelphia Story” with Hepburn and Cary Grant is the same way. There’s innuendo and some titillation but it’s up to the viewers to use their imaginations rather than have the directors include explicit love scenes.

As a writer, I faced a similar dilemma recently. My current protagonist, an 18-year-old psychic/medium starts seeing the ghost of a teen boy who’d been killed in a tragic car accident. She learns that she and this guy have shared numerous lifetimes together – including lives as adults who’ve had sexual relationships. While they don’t remember exact details of those lives, they know they’ve ‘done the deed,’ so to speak. They consider trying to have a sexual relationship as human and ghost. I deliberately wrote these scenes without being in-your-face explicit.

People knock Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight trilogy for its archaic, prudish treatment of the two main protagonists who wait to have sex. In the last movie, “Eclipse,” there’s a scene in Edward’s bedroom where they consider having sex. It’s sexier than many of the films I’ve seen with outright coitus and full nudity. “Cold Mountain” is another great example of showing an intensely passionate relationship between two people without looking between the sheets.

I believe we’ve lost subtlety in describing passion, suspense and horror. Books and films beat us over the head until we no longer feel the building emotion.

Do you agree or disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Six Words -- The Sum of Me

I’m borrowing an idea from one of my favorite agent blogs. On August 22, Rachelle Gardner asked her readers to submit memoirs of six words. Yes, that’s correct. Six words. She’s received a whopping 212 responses and they keep coming in.

At first glance you’d think the assignment was next to impossible. We’re known for using lots of words to describe who we are, what we feel, where we've been, where we're going. The genius of this exercise is in its simplicity. Once you strip away all the garbage (i.e., memories, hurts, fears, regrets), you’re faced with the core essence of who you are. You may come up with a few different six-word combinations – and that’s okay. Keep going back to the one that resonates.

Please post your six-word memoir here. It’s a great exercise to get you thinking about what’s important and true in your life. Plus I'd love to get to know you in this meaningful way.

Here’s mine: Workaholic saved by mountains and writing.

If you're curious, check out Rachelle's blog and the many memoirs posted there.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When Comfortable Doesn't Necessarily Mean Happy

On a recent visit to Texas, I bought an inspirational magnet at my sister’s gift shop. It reads: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I intended to give the magnet as a gift but kept if for myself instead.

My friend, Alison, posted the same quote today on Facebook, asking friends to comment on what the statement means for them. Which got me thinking…

Despite my well-laid plans for a comfortable life (which I described as no surprises, no ups, no downs), I have consistently been faced with a flashing sign warning me: Scary stuff ahead! Leave comfort zone at your own risk! And yet, I kept going despite the fear and discomfort.
  • I grew up in a town of 1,200 people yet picked a university of 48,000 to attend.

  • My husband and I gave up a house, our cars and our careers and moved to Geneva, Switzerland, to work for the UN.

  • A second time, we gave up a house and careers (and Washington, DC salaries) to move to Durango, CO, where we now feel richer than we have at any point in our lives. And it has nothing to do with money.

  • In July 2009, I asked my employer if I could work part time so I could devote time to writing fiction and developing a career as a novelist. And today, I’m working on novels number two and three, and pitching finished novel number one to literary agents.

So, dear friends, what comfort zone have YOU left and was it worth it?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

And the Little Writer Went Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

And today, a blog edition on all things social media.

My short story, Coffee with Satan, was the featured piece on CellStories today. This nifty service brings a different short story to your mobile device daily. I love the idea of writing getting out there in new and interesting ways. Cracking into the literary magazine market can be tough and demoralizing. Kudos to Paul Davis at > for this ingenious way to share great writing.

This week, I attended an online writers’ conference that was COMPLETELY FREE. Sessions have been live chats, guest blog posts, and vblogs. Although the conference is targeted to the young adult/children’s book market, the concept is what’s truly brilliant. Literary agents and authors volunteered their time to give great advice to writers in a solely online environment. From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time, WriteOnCon has been chocked full of good information. You don’t have to watch or read live because everything is archived. In fact, that’s how I’ve attended – during lunch and after hours. If you have an interest in writing for the YA or children’s market – or just want general advice on the publishing industry, check it out.

And the Dinosaur Goes the Way of...the Dinosaurs
I think I’ve bored myself (and most of you) by my longstanding claims of being a social media dinosaur. The fact that I use Facebook, attend online conferences, read agent blogs faithfully, and now follow multiple agents and authors on Twitter proves me to be a hypocrite. I use social media for my writing career and I’m fascinated by how much fantastic information I’ve been able to glean from these platforms.

In what ways have you used social media or are you still resisting the leap into that realm?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sometimes Even Iced Tea Won't Cut It

In true broken-record fashion, I found myself lacking motivation to write this week. Instead, I looked up quotes about motivation on the Internet. Not quite what I needed to actually motivate myself to SIT AT THE DAMN COMPUTER AND WRITE.

Next, I decided to buy myself a $1 iced tea from McDonald’s as a treat when I didn't have a reason to reward myself.

I *almost* sat down to watch the special features on the “New Moon” DVD for the hundredth time (go Team Edward) when I finally guilted myself into opening my laptop. For a couple of hours, I revised a short story from the Taos Writers’ conference (incorporating workshop participants’ critiques). Then, I rewrote a chapter on my second (actually first) novel, “23 Conversations before a Funeral.”

Tomorrow is Friday, which means WRITING DAY. Just the little bit of writing and revising I did today jumpstarted me. I don’t think I’ll even need my iced tea fix but I’m not making any rash judgments.

What’s your favorite way to procrastinate?