Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Bound" by Donna Jo Napoli (Book Review)

A Cinderella story set during China's Ming Dynasty, "Bound" is full of Chinese legends, beliefs, and customs interspersed in the daily life of Xing Xing Wu, her half-sister, Wei Ping, and Stepmother.  The author brings us into their cave dwelling and sits us down on the Wu khang as the bound feet of Wei Ping are tended to, but never discussed aloud.
Never feeling sorry for herself, humble and petite Xing Xing is a talented poet and calligrapher but is no more than a slave girl and afterthought to her stepmother.  We cheer for Xing Xing's fairy tale ending, coming away with some knowledge of ancient Chinese customs.
Fairy tales have been around since the first storyteller.  Sometimes fairy tales teach lessons about greed or expound on the virtues of honesty, humility, and basically doing the right thing.  The Walt Disney Empire made billions of dollars by bringing fairy tales to generations of children through animation and music. 
They teach us that not all bad things happen to good people and that bad people, unless willing to change, eventually get what they deserve.  But most of all, fairy tales give us hope.
The Cinderella story has always been my favorite, which may explain why I've watched Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman more times than I can remember.
Which tale is your favorite?  Why?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unorganized Chaos

Every morning, I wake up and turn on the coffee pot.  I look around at all the chores that need to be done.  In between drinking my coffee and getting ready for work, I do small jobs like straighten the living room, wash the previous night's glasses and cups, etc. and wish I had more time to get things done.
I can't help but wonder if I hadn't spent the time stocking my store on Facebook or stalking friends, I would have had time to do twenty minutes of yoga, a load of laundry, write a story, or heaven forbid, clean my house.
Every night, I lie in bed and make a mental list of things to do the next day, swearing I'll stick to the list, but the next day comes and goes without getting much accomplished.
Lately, I find that unless a chore has a deadline, I will push it to the back burner. 
"Give everything a deadline," you say.  Ha!  I cannot be tricked.  Even when things do have a deadline, I need to wait until right before the date to start the process.  Maybe it's the rebel in me.
I marvel at the people who have their Christmas shopping done before Halloween while I'm still cleaning up the flower gardens I never got around to planting all summer.
I have lists and schedules and I really, really try to be more organized but sometimes I think it's just not in my blood.
What are your strategies for keeping yourself on track?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm just saying...

I know the topic of politics is a no-no in mixed company, and these ramblings are only my opinion, but I was truly annoyed the other night. 
I sat down in front of the television to watch, "Hells Kitchen" and was immediately bombarded with campaign ads.  Now, I'm not at all savvy about politics but I'm learning.  I don't even know what our elected officials' expected duties are.
I know elections are held for the people in a community, state, or country to pick the most popular person who thinks along the same lines and has pretty much the same kind of values as we do.  But, does anyone really know whether or not "Mr./Ms. Popularity" will do what is right?
Mud-slinging, name-calling, and past-dredging are all well-known, acceptable forms of campaigning.  Candidate A and their people endorse and pay for ads that show the dark side of Candidate B.  Sometimes the ads take quotes out of context, dig up family skeletons, and go as far back into Candidate B's past as necessary to portray them as a buffoon or even a villain.  Candidate B makes their own ad to set the record straight and then retaliate by digging up Candidate A's skeletons, etc.
Now, I wonder, why would I want to vote for either of them?
If a candidate and his people have dredged up enough controversy about the other candidate to fill four television commercials, not only does he need to explain what these controversies mean to me, my neighbors, and my countrymen, he also needs to tell me why he deserves the privilege to protect our rights and make changes.  Vague, empty promises, no matter how eloquently written and spoken, just don't cut it anymore.  We're all wide awake now and we're listening. 
Maybe if our elected officials received no free benefits and no more than the average salary of their constituents they would work harder at doing the right thing.  They would also have less money to fund mud-slinging campaign ads.
Who cares if a candidate has marital problems?  Who cares if they experimented with marijuana in college?  Who cares if their family is dysfunctional?  I figure they're more like the average citizen than the candidate who takes photos in front of the church where they worship, with his perfectly coiffed wife, his designer-clad 2.3 children, and his shaggy-haired mutt.  Taking a family photo doesn't prove he isn't an abusive husband or a negligent father posing with a neighbor's dog.
Digging up dirt about another candidate doesn't make them a better candidate.
What I'm trying to say is, being an elected official is not about who you share your bed with, what you read in college, or that matter, which college you attended, it's about doing the right thing for the people who count on you to get the job done correctly, in a timely manner, and in the best interests of the community, state, or country who elected you.
In the end, it all comes down to whether or not you use the power given to you by the people FOR the people. 
I'm just saying...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All My Children

No, not the soap opera...
I've noticed the process of writing can be described as almost being like motherhood. 
An idea is planted in our mind and our imagination nourishes the tiny idea as it splits and grows, just like an embryo.  We turn the idea around and around until it takes shape.  Sometimes, the idea even kicks back at us.
When it is ready, we give birth to the idea into our computer or onto paper with a pencil or pen.  Our idea becomes a rough draft to be further shaped and formed and disciplined.  Much like a young child.
Sometimes our rough draft takes on a life of its own, telling us what it wants to do and where it wants to go.  Just like a mother to a teen, we give it some leeway.  Sometimes our idea surprises us when we watch it go places and do things we never expected.  And sometimes we need to take authority and pull back before it gets out of hand.
When our rough draft is finally a polished story with all the correct elements, discipline and form, we begin to play matchmaker.  And just like any matchmaker, we search for the one place that will love and cherish and appreciate our little darling as much as we do.
Sometimes our little one comes back home rejected.  We cry and feel so badly.  Perhaps we rushed our little one out the door failing to hold it arm's length long enough to see its flaws with a discerning eye.
So, we tidy up our little one, maybe rework it all together, keeping its underlying sense of adventure, and search for another match.
Maybe our little one will never find the perfect match.  Maybe they served only as practice for the entire process of writing and submitting and thickening our skin.  Perhaps someday, bits and pieces of our little ones will meld into a new little one.
Just think of the adventures our little ones have experienced once they leave our hands.  By submitting, we know at least one person will read it.  With any luck, it may be passed on to the next person in the chain of decision.  And sometimes our little ones get accepted and the number of readers may be too large to imagine.
I do know that as writers (and mothers) we owe it to our children to let them go and explore the big world, otherwise they will never grow, and neither will we.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

They're Here! They're Here!

I just received my 2011 Magazine and Book Markets for Children's Writers!  I can't wait to dive in...but the pool is kind of crowded.  I have two previous years' market books on my shelf.
If there is one thing that causes me anxiety, it's to throw away a book of any kind.  I would much rather give it away for free.  Know anyone who is interested in them?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

23 Days Until NaNoWriMo

In 2009, over 160,000 people from all over the world participated.  I was one of them.  Over 30,000 crossed the 50k finish line.  I was one of them.  When it was over, I swore I wouldn't do it again.  So, why did I sign up for 2010?  For me, it's an addiction, that's why.  It's almost a challenge. 
When I signed up, I envisioned a room full of people, their arms crossed in front of their chests, smirks plastered on their faces saying, "Yeah, sure.  You'll never do it."  
It's a valid excuse to sit in front of my computer screen and type until it hurts, just so I could say, "Wanna bet?" 
There are no prizes, no money, just a really large sense of accomplishment and with any luck, a rough draft for a novel.  Probably with a whole bunch of nonsense mixed in, but a rough draft nonetheless.  And that, my friends, is a huge step towards publication. 
Granted, I haven't even looked at my manuscript from last year, but that's alright.  One of these days, that rough draft just may get dusted off and worked on.  Until then, I need to start outlining this year's novel. 
Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo?  Have you done it?  Would you ever attempt it?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Everyone Has A Story

One of the best things about owning an auto repair business on a busy state road is meeting so many interesting people.

I especially enjoy when customers decide to wait for their vehicles while we perform a quick repair such as an oil change or tire repair.  My work area is part of the front office where we also have a waiting room.  Our customers are offered coffee, tea, and snacks while they wait.

I usually try to engage in idle chit-chat to help their waiting time pass quickly.  Through the years I've had the pleasure of speaking to some very interesting people with some very interesting stories to tell.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending approximately thirty minutes with a young man who grew up in Russia.  His family moved to the US about ten years ago.  This young man works with his father as a dog and cat trainer and together they perform with the circus.

As soon as he told me his occupation, a huge smile spread across my face.  I could almost smell the peanuts and cotton candy and I swear I heard the trumpeting of an elephant.

"How exciting!" I said and meant it.  "Almost every child dreams of joing the circus."

"I just returned from Hong Kong.  I also perform solo.  I juggle and do manipulations," he told me.  His Russian accent evoked images of colorful domed palaces.

When he saw my confusion at his juggling description, he showed me a video from YouTube on his phone.  I was very impressed, but then again, celebrities of any kind leave me star-struck.

Perhaps some day, I'll be a celebrity in the literary world and I'll have a story to tell someone.

Have you ever met and talked to a celebrity?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Resistance Is Futile

I resisted as long as I could.

"Who has time to blog?" I asked out loud.  And yet, I find time to plant crops, furnish an apartment, raise pets, and stalk vampires on Facebook.  I find time to read other people's status updates and even find time to read other people's blogs.

"What could I possibly say?" I asked myself and then laughed out loud.  Oh, I've got plenty to say about almost everything.  If nothing else, this block can help save my poor husband from listening to my incessant chatter.

I've decided to make time and who knows?  I just may possibly say something interesting, funny, or profound.  This blogging thing will definitely be a learning process, but I'm a fast learner.  I hope you are a patient reader.

I can do this.  So, here I am and here it is....Welcome to my blog.