Friday, December 31, 2010

Goal List 2011

‎"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." -Neil Gaiman

Like last year, to make goals for this year, it is necessary to go back and examine the ones from the previous. It is a way to balance the success and what might not be failure, but something to put for another time. In this case, a new year. I have been doing this since I was a teenager. Back then, I would write down my goals and tape them to the bottom of my unicorn globe (which I still have) that sat on my nightstand. The strange thing about my goals is the fact that I write them down and don't look at them all year. I always manage to acknowledge the goals in some way throughout the year with no reminder. They just happen.


2010 Goals
1) Write 20,000 words a month.
I didn't accomplish this, and it is too bad. I record my writing in my Google Calendar, and I know that I can accomplish this goal. Not sure if I can every month, but it is something to strive for.

2) Read 60 books/comic books
I have 67 books on my list this year. Four of those I didn't finish since I lost interest. For the most part, I found a lot of great books that I love and re-read the Harry Potter series. To learn more, go to my previous post about books and comics.

3) Begin urban gardening.
We did grow tomatoes, potatoes, peas, catnip, chocolate mint, lettuce, jalapeno peppers, and broccoli on our balcony this year. I did learn a lot about what to do this next summer. I did buy a book to learn more about growing all year long, but I think I am going to work with the summer for at least another year. It was pretty exciting to see what there was to eat each day we stepped out onto our balcony.

4) Learn to eat a little more vegan and healthier.
Our diet goes back and forth, and we are pretty good. I think this is something that we can always work on and we are very willing to try different foods. Becoming vegetarian has definitely made me more adventurous!

5) Exercise 2 times a week that isn't walking at work on break.
I did this for most of the year while experimenting with different ways to exercise. I haven't found something I like yet and have some ideas for this year.

6) Learn to meditate. Reflect more on spirituality.
As always, a work in progress. It does ease the mind just taking that deep breath.

7) Plan trips to Orlando and England.
We did return to Orlando-- twice. Once in May for a family trip and again to celebrate our five year anniversary and to visit Hogwarts. We don't be returning to England any time soon, and that is really too bad. We do have some other trips in mind...

8) Join a writing organization.
I not only joined the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), but started a local critique group called Stone Circle. I also joined a great ning group to network different book bloggers. There is so much to learn from other writers and it is an incredible how much there is to learn about writing.

9) Make Kaylee Frye's costume from Firefly.
I am really excited to say that I did make one and I LOVE it! And I also dressed up as Lois Lane this year, too.

10) Paint bathroom and replace tile throughout the home.
We decided not to paint the bathroom and did replace the tile in the kitchen (big project). We have to wait to tile the other rooms since we need to replace other items in the house.


It is easy to see where there is need for improvement, but also, I have exceeded my expectations. Sometimes I do make my goals harder than I need to or it takes more time than I imagined. It is great to see that I have done something for each category and didn't just completely pass them over. Now it is time for...

2011 Goals
1) Finish the rewrite of Kin and have it ready for submission by the end of the year.
2) Do a rewrite and edit of Beyond the Garden. Start writing book 2 in the series.
3) Retile and remodel the bathrooms. Retile the laundry room.
4) Exercise at least 2 times a week. Find something I don't mind doing.
5) Draw and paint something that I like.
6) Plan a trip to Japan, Disneyland, and New York City.
7) Re-read some of my favorite authors.
8) Write at least one book review a month.

I wish I could add more to the list, but I think focusing a bit more on my writing is something that needs to happen this year. Having my writing group has really helped with deadlines since I could revisit some of my past writing. I would like to see more new writing, but I have past projects that need my attention. The list looks exciting and I will get started today.

First, I am going to do some changes on the blog and website. I've had both for nearly two years now and I make some minimal changes from time to time. I am not sure exactly what I will come up with by the end of the day, but I think it is time for a new face lift.

Here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Natasha

Monday, December 27, 2010

Books and Comics 2010

I don't like to say negative things about books, but you can see ratings for the books I read during 2010 at Goodreads (and feel free to add me as a friend). As you can see, I have some variety of books there. I try to do something different every once and a while, but my passion really is in fantasy (mostly YA or MG) books.

New books that came out this year that I would like to recommend are (drumroll please):
The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Other books that I fell in love with:
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (my now favorite book ever)

Series that I fell into:

Series I fell back into:

What to look out for in 2011:
Wither by Lauren Stefano

Books I will possibly re-read in 2011:
Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier

Any books that you loved this year or books you are looking forward to in 2011?

Natasha

Friday, December 24, 2010

Something about Cheer!

There are reasons that I don't like to explain about why I don't care for the holiday season. It isn't just one thing, or one year. It is more than I like to count. It is a time that my nerves go on edge and there are more days than I like where staying in bed sounds like the best gift imaginable.

This year I decided that enough is enough. There are plenty of reasons to keep going on with this Scrooge or Grinch-esque attitude, but that is the past. The hold that it has had on me must stop this year. It is a new time for making my own cheer.

My husband and I celebrate our five year wedding anniversary next weekend, the 2nd of January. We were friends for six months, and he became the light over that tough holiday period for me. January 2nd is the day that we confessed that we loved each other, and four years later, we were married. Now nine years has passed and he is still the light of life.

Two weeks ago, we went to Orlando to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and DisneyWorld to celebrate. Everywhere was dressed up for Christmas and my heart became light with everything around me. We drank butterbeer and walked the streets of Hogsmeade, gawked at the lights on Cinderella's Castle, and marveled at the Whos make-up while walking around in Whoville. I came home from this trip more relaxed and with heightened spirits.

There is also a promise that was made to myself to not think of the negative things. With the loss of someone special and my dad's triple bypass surgery, it was something that I had to do for the sake of my sanity. To help do away with the negative, I surrounded myself with the positive and that is now the goal. What can I do to help increase the positivity during the holiday season?

During the holidays, we hope to start this decade with new traditions and memories. The Orlando trip helped (as well as the England/France trip from two years ago), adopting our two kitties, and even new traditions for the holidays. The ones we decided on so far was to make homemade pizza, butterbeer, play games, and watch Christmas movies (The Muppet Christmas Carol and Die Hard are at the top of my list).

The negative things can really help determine what person we can be, to show ourselves our strengths and weaknesses, and challenge us to become a better than we were before. The positive things can drive us to do more good for our health, our sanity, and reawaken the gift of every day we have to live. I know that I can live through the bad, and I know that I can live in the good. This year has proven that more good is yet to come and the bad can worsen if I let it.

May your holidays to be filled with light, laughter, and love.

Natasha

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After: First Writer's Conference

‎"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default." --J.K. Rowling, Harvard Speech 2008

"There’s a saying by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst.” In writing, we say, “Your first million words are crap." --L.K. Madigan

(Sorry this is a little late, but I have been waiting something regarding it)

My first writing conference wasn't what I expected and there are a number of reasons why. I had a wedding the first night so I missed out on connecting as well with the other attendees. The second day I was late and lucky that I had a friend. The person that was supposed to critique my novel didn't show up (which wasn't the convention's fault, mind you). The other guests, Jane Kurtz and Wendy McClure really made up for it with their wisdom (they discussed myth vs. reality in publishing and plot).

Overall, it was felt like a practice run on what I should do next time. However, it was a step to be around other writers. That is very important and worthwhile, and some of the conversations really gave me a new perspective. I need to re-do my goals big time before I attend another one.

Natasha

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wither by Lauren Stefano

What if you knew exactly when you would die?


Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

The premise of this book drew me in from the very moment that I read it. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from the publisher Simon and Schuster and there is no better one I could have received as a new release for 2011. This book drew me in from the very beginning. This world could have been a bit complicated, but it was the exact opposite. The author didn't have to explain the world, it just appeared as it should with the first person storytelling told by Rhine's experience with the past, present, and her wants for the future.

The struggle in the book is definitely about being deceptive and patience to earn her freedom. Rhine remained mostly calm throughout the book, enjoying life as it was presented and taking in the bad around her without showing weakness to those around her. This strength came from the outside world in which she was raised and it gave her what she survive, characteristics that her sister wives gave up to do the same.

Another nice thing about the book is that it takes time for developments to happen. She doesn't become captured and forced to marry, and then escapes within a week. This story takes place over a course of a year so it really gives you a complete picture of the world that Rhine and the other sister will live until their life extinguishes. It is filled with their developing friendship with each other, how their marriages all differ to Lindon, and the comforts of life and death that they will lead.

The characters were all vivid, the plot pace kept you going, and the world isn't something that I questioned. You see everything through Rhine's eyes and she really gets to know the people around her and understands how the world works, which gives the reader a good vision of this dystopian world. Definitely a read that I couldn't put down!

5 Stars-- Loved it!

Wither comes out on March 22nd, 2011. Be sure to check it out!

Warning: There is sex and violence in the book so this book is not written for younger audiences.

Links:

Natasha

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Quiet

Why has my blog been so quiet? I'm on vacation (two days left!). I do have a few upcoming things in store, including our trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a review of the ARC for Wither by Lauren DeStefano. Oh, then there are the end of the year lists!

Hope December has been treating everyone well.

Natasha


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Final Week of Nanowrimo

Novel Rewrite Count: 22,000 Words


I didn't complete what I thought I could this month, but I am halfway through my novel. I am not going to be too hard on myself right now. A death happened in my extended family and my father went into a triple bypass surgery--- just as I arrived at the hardest chapters to write in the book. Everything is fine as they can be at the moment and I am approaching the time to sit down and plug out those words better than I probably could do before.

Goals have changed, but there are still goals to be had. The cycle of examining the past year and what I have done has arrived. It isn't always a good or bad thing, it is just a way for me to determine where to go and how to become what I want to be.

We had a great discussion in Stone Circle, my critique group, about our goals on where to go with our writing. We each have our own and distinct wants, and mine have changed from the knowledge that I keep learning with each passing year.

I remember the moment that I wanted to become a writer. I was in the third grade in my classroom and our teacher had arranged books along the chalkboard. We each took turns going up to grab a book (I was going for anything from the Baby-sitter's Club spin-off, Baby-sitters Little Sister) and I knew that anything that could give me this much happiness was something I wanted to be. Books were (and still are) my favorite thing and being a part of it became my goal. I carried a book, and eventually a notebook of writing, with me to every class I took after that.

The vision of becoming a writer changed a bit as I learned more about it. There is the publishing aspect, the rejection, the critiques, and the importance of rewriting. The first step that I give myself is just to write and not to think of those things. Right now it is easy--- I'm not published. It is a dream, a goal, something that I reach my hand out to and cannot touch quite yet. There is still growing going on and the ambition hasn't changed as those new responsibilities popped up in the picture. They are challenges that I am ready to meet, however, it is taking time to focus myself.

December is a new month. I am going to a cafe tonight to continue my book and to face what needs to be written. Here's to a new challenge!

Natasha

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fairy Tale Ending

Disney announced that their newest release "Tangled", and 50th animated feature, is the last fairy tale that they will tell (for now). Reading through the LA Times article, their reasons didn't make much sense to me. How can a genre run its course (Snow White, after all, came out in the 1930s!), do 6 year olds really want to give up their crowns to be "hot", and where is the wider audience appeal?

Audiences might have changed, but I am seeing all types of people enjoying "Tangled". The image featured is from my favorite scene in the whole movie that I hear really cause people to tear up. Disney really grasped onto some interesting fantasy elements and kept some of their old tricks. The two main voice actors, Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi, did an amazing job with their characters. The tavern scene felt like it was right out of the theme park with the song and just how the scene is set up with everyone doing their own thing and a cupid-man going around in circles.

I am really hoping that Disney will change their mind somewhere down the road (and it won't be too late). I would love to take my little girl or boy someday to a new fairy tale movie. I want to see their take, even if it isn't like the original tale. In the meantime, I think original stories would be a wonderful asset to the company. Maybe they could even write a new fairy tale or adapt books like Studio Ghibli. I would like to see them continue with having hand drawn animation with some of the new styles. The thing is, it is all about the story. We need to keep them coming and the old will always influence the new.

Go out and see "Tangled". Pull out some of the old "classics" while sitting at home. I already have some Disney music on my phone to get pumped up to our upcoming trip to Orlando where we will celebrate our five year anniversary. There is no better place to celebrate than an exciting place with stories--- and where you can make more.

Natasha

Thursday, November 25, 2010

About Being Thankful

Since I am vegetarian, I found this clip from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that I now completely adore. We watched the episode again and it reminds me that I need to watch the whole series again. I would like to see this episode as a tradition, really!


Also, what does a vegetarian eat on Thanksgiving? Well, it is easier if we go to a place with people that eat the same as we do or to bring some dishes of our own. For example, we are making a nut roast to take to the family dinner. We won't partake in their turkey, stuffing, and gravy. We will have our own. I am also bringing the vegetable (yams) and cranberries. It really isn't that difficult to substitute, it just means we always need to eat beforehand or bring our own food (which I am okay with).

As you can tell, I haven't updated my NaNoWriMo. I didn't do very well last week since I am now at the chapters that are the hardest to write right when difficult things were going on in real life. I lost someone that I love last Saturday and my dad had a triple bypass surgery yesterday (so thankful he is doing just fine). Today I am thankful such wonderful people in my lives that I care and love so much, people that have shaped my life in big and small ways.

There is so much to write about being thankful, but there will be much of that today. May your list be long and growing!

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Natasha

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nanowrimo Update: Week 2

I am not one for outlines, and if I write one, I rarely follow it. I don't stop to edit and just keep pushing through the story, saying to myself that going forward is the goal.

This is a different kind of story. It is a rewrite of something already written. There is an outline and it is really good. Following it is in the best interest of a great story. It is open enough to insert ideas that like to appear when writing.

I have close to hitting 30,000 words in my novel, closing in on the halfway mark. This has caused a stand still. Do I go back to analyze the outline versus what I have written to adjust and add in different events? Do I just keep writing and adjust things as I edit?

That is the challenge that I will face tonight: to stop and write or to write, write, write. I do know that stopping is not an option.

Natasha

Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Week 1 Update

Novel Rewrite Count: 22,000 Words

I am down 5,000 words from I should be to stay on track. I am not too worried about it since my goal is to just write and hopefully complete this rewrite. If I write at the pace I am currently at, I should hit 50,000 words for the total novel. I am shooting for about 70,000 words. In short, I will have to beef up my count this week. How will I do that? I made up time at work on Friday, but this Friday I should have my half day again so I can go to a cafe or the library. I am thinking doing that at least once a week with no distractions will help.

Starting this week and for the rest of the month, I am using my lunch hours at work to write. I usually average about 500-600 words in that half hour period. Right now that plan is to keep that schedule until Kin is completed.

Hope everyone is meeting their goals or just writing. That is the point, right?

Natasha

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bringing a Smile

Sometimes it is good to have things that can cause the mood to rise. Over the past few years, one of those things is finding videos on YouTube. They can range from creative montages, a cheerful song's music video, or kitties (really, you know as well as I do that the Internet's basic foundation is showing off the magic that is kitties).

Without further ado, here are five video that make me smile.

1) Kittens Inspired by Kittens

2) Chad Vader
3) Comic Relief--500 Miles by the Proclaimers


4) Ok Go-- Here It Goes Again

5) Talking Cat Translation

6) Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody

Hope you enjoyed one or two! Now back to writing and I will have an update on Nanowrimo soon!

Natasha


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lois and Clark

Clark Kent: There are times when I think you don’t know me at all, and others where I think you know me better than anyone.
Lois Lane: That’s what I’m here for, Smallville – one save at a time.
-Smallville

The husband and I have never dressed up for Hallowe'en or conventions as a couple. We both have Jedi costumes, but we always stuck to our own thing. Over the past year or so, we started watching Smallville, the movies, and Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman. Over that time, we have both come to enjoy the characters Lois and Clark and their relationship as a couple. The thing that is really special about their relationship is that they make each other better and they are truly a partnership. Lois sometimes becomes the damsel in distress, but sometimes Superman/Clark needs her help too. They are good friends that understand each other, and not only that, they accept each other. Lois might try to get the truth of Superman's identity, but she always genuinely cares about him and will protect him with her own life. I see some similarities between Lois and Clark's personalities and relationship and my own with my husband. Otherwise, well, we probably wouldn't have bothered. I think that is one of the reasons why this picture works so well.

Lois Lane: You still think I'm crazy?
Clark Kent: I think you're brilliant. But there is a fine line between brilliance and lunacy.
-From Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman

This picture was taken at the Winnipeg Convention Center where we dressed up for the holiday and Central Canada Comic Con. It was great walking around and having people take our picture. We found Green Arrow and had a fun time talking to him (what a flirt!) and had our picture taken in costume. Joey had a lot of fun with the snaps that he sewed into his shirt that let him bust open the shirt to reveal the homemade "S" shield. He liked to walk around with it open so people could see, too. It was really fun, especially when I was always looking the opposite direction and calling him "Smallville".

I must say our first "couple" costume turned out a success and we have a pretty awesome picture to share.

Natasha

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nanowrimo

I cannot believe that November has arrived again. I participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) from 2005-2007 (in which I won) and now it is already 2010! I think it is time to take advantage of this time of year again.

I will admit, I am not going to do the tradition start from scratch route. I am on the Chapter 5 in the rewrite of Kin and I need to keep going. If I wrote 50,000 words in Kin, the rewrite would be complete. I am doing my own goal because this Nanowrimo is a great motivator. There is just something about being in over your head with a bunch of strangers. This year my two critique partners from Stone Circle will throw their hats in the ring, too.

There are a three tips that I can give for Nanowrimo. You might have to find your own way, but these have been working for me.

1) Just keep writing. Don't edit. The point of this is to get the words out. You can edit later. Don't like what you wrote and want to start over that paragraph? Space down and start there. Don't delete it. You can delete later. Key point: Write now. Other stuff later.

2) Ever write until you come to a road block? When you come back later, you might still be at a roadblock. To help minimize this from happened, stop at a point where my mind is still working. Write down a few notes for the next day and when you come back, you can just pick up and get more words out.

3) Keeping your daily word count is important. If you know you can't write a day, make sure you distribute the difference somewhere. Maybe you have more time Saturday, or maybe add a few hundred words the rest of the week. Know your goals. I use Google Calendar to record how many words I wrote in that particular day. It is amazing to see how much you can do in one sitting sometimes.

I will share my progress each week on the blog. I really am hoping to have Kin's rewrite complete. If I am lucky, I will have an excerpt to share at the end of this process.

Good luck to all of those that are taking the challenge. If you ever thought of joining in on the fun, there is still time to string some ideas together for the first sit down on November 1st.

Another thing is I want to wish everyone a Happy Hallowe'en! I had a great time last night with my critique group. We have a storm system coming into town and the lights went out. Two of us had horror stories so it really fit the mood when we lit candles to go over our writing. Maybe we will have to make this a yearly thing!

Natasha

Monday, October 18, 2010

What to Be

Halloween is my favorite holiday and autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the costumes, the creativity, the chill in the air, the rustle of the leaves, the haunted looks of the houses in our neighborhood, soup, and even the moon. I have spent hours standing in line for haunted houses and the Haunted Hayride as a kid. I remember the smell of the hay and the hum of the tractor as we go through the woods, waiting for something to happen.

I like to dress up, but I can do it any time of the year. I have my Jedi, Corellian, and my Kaylee costume ready for conventions. This year we decided that we would go as Lois and Clark. We watched all the seasons of Smallville over the past year and are now caught up. We are on the fourth season of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman right now. It seemed appropriate for us to dress up as the two main characters. I have really come to admire Lois Lane (who sometimes reminds me of myself). I have the outfit almost all ready for us to wear next week, but it poses lots of questions. Which Lois should I be? I am very fond of Erica Durance's Lois Lane so I am leaning a little bit towards her. Joey is all about classic Clark (with the glasses). All in all, we will have fun (and post pictures!).

It is hard to believe it is that time of year again. I can't wait to see what everyone else will be wearing!

Natasha

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Cream Part of the Oreo

I am waiting for a phone call from Sharyn November to go over my critique since she didn't make it to the convention this weekend. So, I think that I will hold off on my full review of the convention. Instead I decided to focus on one of the things someone said at the convention.

A good way to become a great writer is to read, read, and read. It is the number one piece of advice that that I hear over and over again from all authors. One question that is asked over and over is "What about when I want to become published, what is something I can do?" Read new authors. Find out what editors, agents, and publishers are looking for by seeing what is the latest in their catalog and see where people started.

Over the past few years, I have been reading tons of new authors or author's first books. I don't know what the attraction is, but it is just something that I have been attracted to. I follow lots of authors on Twitter and a few are on this very list. They are all so amazing.

Here is a list of the authors and their first books that I have read over the past few years that I can definitely recommend. Some may have published more since so be sure to check them out and a few you will probably recognize.

Natasha

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Before: First Writer's Conference

I wrote a few weeks ago about submitting the synopsis and first chapter of KIN for an upcoming writer's conference. I was able to put it together and send it off on time. I discovered during this time that mixing e-mail, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and OpenOffice Write really causes formatting issues and that I probably need to just use Word (or Docs). Why did I have to learn about this when I mailing off something this important? We shall see if it came out acceptable this weekend.

Yes, the Writing for Children and Young Adults Conference is this weekend. When I handed in my submission, I couldn't help the nervousness and excitement that crept into me. A list of expectations keeps adding and crossing off in my head. Will I meet other fun writers? Will I get completely lost on the University of North Dakota's campus? Could an editor/author/agent actually read my story and like it? Could I even possibly win the award for most promising work?

I have researched many articles on suggestions on how to dress, what to bring, how to approach people, and what to say (or not). I have my outfit (I decided to go dressy) , a list of all the things I can possibly stuff in my Stargate bag (I have an accordion folder), and sheets of paper as back-ups if the GPS doesn't work (addresses are the best clues). You would think that I would be staying overnight (I am not--- one of my best friends is getting married Friday!). No, I am packing for one day.

And these were my thoughts before I found out editor Sharyn November was going to read my work. My friend Violet, who is also attending, started freaking out and told me that we were both having our work looked at by November. Checking my e-mail, I saw the e-mail that confirmed this news. We were both really excited and freaking out at the same time. Late Saturday afternoon, we will sit down with November for fifteen minutes to go over our synopsis and first chapters.

Sharyn November is the reason why I pushed myself to hard to attend this conference and she is reading my work. How did this happen? Why am I completely thrilled and terrified at the same time? The conference's website says it all: "Sharyn November is a senior editor for Viking Children's Books and the editorial director of Firebird Books. She has acquired and edited books by Laurie Halse Anderson, John Barnes, Charles de Lint, Sarah Dessen, Diana Wynne Jones, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Klages, Pat Murphy, and Nnedi Okorafor, among many others. " Diana Wynne Jones? She wrote my favorite book, Howl's Moving Castle! I read her Firebirds anthologies, and the authors and work in the books were amazing. I wasn't prepared for this, but I can handle it.

This is a huge honor. I am not having my expectations high. To me, this is the moment that I can have a professional in the field give me the critique that I have been waiting to hear. It might good, it might terrible. It could be in between, but whatever it is, I am not giving up. This is a milestone, a marker to where I should go. It is what I make it.

I will write an "After" update next week. Here's to a great weekend!

Natasha

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week

Being an avid reader and an aspiring writer, it is really hard to ignore Banned Books Week. Why are banned books a big deal? The American Library Association explains it simply: "Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week." Also, as Americans, it is against our freedom of speech according to the First Amendment.

There are tons of lists that you can find of books that have been banned. Can you believe books like How to Kill a Mockingbird, The Shining, The Grapes of Wrath, The Canterbury Tales, and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night have all been banned somewhere? How about the Harry Potter series, Bridge to Terabithia, and A Wrinkle in Time? The lists go on and on and affect both children and adult books.

This is an issue that is happening today. Right now Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak is under attack from a man who wants the books banned because it has"soft pornography". When the book is about a girl who is raped and how she deals with this traumatic experience "pornography"? This has caused a campaign over the internet speaking out against the proposed ban and the man's comments. This book was a Printz Honor Book in 2000 and is not only being attacked unjustly, but his reasons are disturbing.

I encourage you to go out and buy a banned book that you have wanted to read or go to your local library to check one out. Read one in your book club. Support banned books!

Why else should we support banned books? The article Censorship is rampant and lethal from the School Library Journal can explain it better than I ever could.

Time to lighten the mood! I found this web series called Book Club that I think is worth sharing. I think the characters are quite unique and cannot wait to see more.

Lastly, I wanted to share that my friend Natasha Nuhanovic's poetry collection is out! A big congrats to her and I encourage you to check out her writing. It is beautiful and moving.

Natasha

Monday, September 20, 2010

Into the Groove

There is a time when writing just flows. The story just comes out and it all makes sense.

I am in the middle of a rewrite and it feels really amazing. Even when I think my writing is terrible, I have the confidence that the story is better than ever. Or, at least I hope that I am this lucky. I remind myself I can always go back and to just keep moving.

I ended up becoming stumped after finishing the synopsis and first chapter for the upcoming writing conference last week. I am doing my best to sit at the computer no matter what for a certain amount of time. If I write, great. If I don't, I will be back again another time. I also try to sneak in a few words during the day as my brain wills it. It is great to have direction again even if I find myself lost from time to time.

Speaking of lost, check out this article from the Huffington Post and Andrea Cremer's blog about the ridiculous claims that Laurie Halse Anderson's book "Speak" is considered soft core porn. It will get you into the spirit of the upcoming Banned Books Week, I promise!

Natasha

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Deadline and the Synopsis

I have decided that deadlines are a good thing for me. In all the years I was in school, I think I missed less than three deadlines. I sometimes procrastinated until the very end, but I had it in on time.

The reason why I am late this week is for that very reason. Today was a deadline day to hand in the first chapter and synopsis of KIN for a manuscript critique at an upcoming conference. I have stayed up late for days and worked for hours to get this completed on time. I e-mailed my submission a few hours ago and it is an amazing feeling. Tonight I plan on exercising and sleeping, and then onto the rest of the KIN rewrite.

I really enjoyed writing the synopsis. I wrote a long outline and then shortened it two times until it was less than four pages long and almost 1400 words. As with the rewrite, it is hard to make those cuts to what you might see as important. You must reveal the plot and even the ending. If you can write effectively enough, someone will see the potential of the story in those few pages. It is scary and exciting at the same time.

One of the biggest struggles with this submission was trying to find information on the elusive synopsis. Why do I call it elusive? There is no real standards to the formatting to synopses. There are short and long versions. They are not the same as outlines. Yes, none of this makes any sense. It will be interesting to find out more at the conference. For now, I wanted to share the links that I have bookmarked.

Guide to Literary Agents- How to Write a Novel Synopsis
Carolyn Jewel- The Dreaded Synopsis
Fiction Factor- Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis- Condensing Your Novel
Del Rey Digital Writing Workshop- How to Write a Synopsis FAQ


After reading through this information, I know have realized I will never complain about a query letter ever again.

Natasha

P.S. Much thanks to my helpers during the editing/rewrite phase: Joey, Paul, Kris, and Violet.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A New Beginning

"I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way. How would it be to live a lie every minute of your life?"
Alison Goodman (Eon: Dragoneye Reborn)


The rewrite has begun (again)!

I am learning more and more about writing every day. I know how to write. I can sit down and be dedicated. I think the challenge that I really need to sit down and work on is rewriting. This is where the real work sits because that first draft is for me. You don't want to read it, and boy, I don't want you to read it.

Once I read the first draft, I am learning that I need to crack down on my mistakes even more. Rewriting is necessary, especially since I don't outline. That's right. I don't outline my stories. I write down ideas, and most of the time know where it can go, but writing is a journey where I reveal things as I go. That is why a rewrite is more important more than ever.

This novel is going through a major change. I am redoing the point of view. I am cutting characters. I am changing their roles. I am even changing the name. Why go through all that work? I believe in my heart of hearts that this story has a right to be told. I could shelve it, but I want to give it a little more time. I want the first rewrite completed and then I can analyze where I am going.

By this time next week, I expect myself to have the first chapter and that sneaky synopsis sent off for the conference. I will start the rest of the rewrite. It will be good to write again (even if it is technically a rewrite).

I am reading an amazing book right now. I read this book off and on all weekend as I rewrote and edited the first chapter. It is called Eon by Alison Goodman. It is not only an Asian based fantasy, but it also has other characters that I would have never expected. And do you see that cover above? It is amazing and I love covers that almost tell a story in themselves. Definitely worth checking out.

Natasha

Monday, August 30, 2010

Perspective

"And indeed if you think you're a genius at something, what you achieve is very much according to your expectations; if you think you're no good, you're not going to get anywhere." ---Diana Wynne Jones

Over the past month, my whole perspective of my novel has changed. I haven't even dented the rewrite, and decided to try a different approach of going through my notes and outlining. To be perfectly honest, I don't like outlines and never seem to stick to them. This time, it might be different. Until I start this rewrite, I don't think I will have any idea what is really going on.

I am feeling more confident even as I realize that this rewrite is becoming more and more intense with every passing day. I could give up, shelve it, and never look back. In my heart of hearts, I know that this story needs to just go through some changes. Some might be drastic, but that happens in life and wonderful things can come out of the woodwork (or, in this case, paperwork!).

This upcoming weekend is Labor Day. I am excited to have a three day weekend away from work. I promised myself that I would use one of those days, go to a tea shop or bookstore, and sit down to work on my writing. I am hoping to rewrite, again, the first chapter of KIN for an upcoming conference. My attendance all sits on a first chapter and synopsis that I willing to have critiqued. Goals are good to have, even when they have to change.

When I talk to people now, they are starting to realize how much work writing truly entails. As I talk to them, I remind myself that I am learning more and more every day. Learning brings such excitement to the world and I am so happy that I have found something that gives me such a great gift without even trying sometimes.

Natasha

Monday, August 23, 2010

Letters

I finally, finally, finally finished writing out the online of the current draft of my story. Now I am going to sit down and actually go through and see if I can create a new outline. Only problem of this will be: Can I follow it?

As you can tell, I am still stuck at Chapter 3 and will probably not finish the rewrite. Hmmm. Did I just say that?

Not too much else going on. Just getting psyched for our trip to the Renaissance Festival, still loving the new kitchen tile, and bought a car (a hybrid!!!). I am also reading four books, and am over my head with those and writing.

So, I am going to keep this short this week. Instead, I am going to pass on this great link of Letter to Myself where authors write letters to their younger self to give them advice and encouragement. It is worth reading.

Natasha

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unbaked

"Because.... OK, I'm cookie dough. I'm not done baking."
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I wanted to write a post about revising and some of the great posts I have been reading lately. However, I am going to hold off until I have more to say on the subject.

Right now, I am at a stand still. I have started writing out note cards to outline each individual chapter (I am not much of an outline person). I think then I can really see all what I need to cut, add, and expand on. I really have hit a road block at Chapter 3, so I know that I have to really look at the bigger picture.

In other news, we redid our kitchen tile this past weekend and booked an upcoming weekend in the Twin Cities for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. There will be some Asian food, booths, and presentations the weekend we chose so I am hoping to gather some inspiration from that. I am in my editing week right now for Stone Circle (my writer's group) and reading a friend's manuscript. Maybe doing all this editing will push me forward with my own.

This is a learning experience, that is for sure. I am not giving up.

Natasha

P.S. Today is the 90th anniversary of when woman gained the right to vote, otherwise known as the 19th Amendment. To think, my grandmother was 15 years old when this passed. It amazes me to think that she didn't have those rights at one point in her life. I wish I would have been able to ask her what she thought when she heard it was passed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wishing Song

I don't know how I cannot point out this week's opening of This American Life. In it, Ira Glass talks about the "I Wish" song, which is "In many movies and Broadway shows, it's the main character's first song, in which they express the hope that will set the story in motion". It had me really thinking about the "I Wish" songs that I have related to, and the ones that I might have sang to at different parts of my life.

The one that sticks out most to me is in Beauty and the Beast. I always related to Belle. I grew up in a small town, read books as much as I could, and always felt like such an outsider. In the first song "Little Town", her thoughts are mingled with the perception of what people in her village think of her. It is in the "Belle Reprise" that we finally hear her wish (or in this case, her wants):

Is he gone? Oh, can you imagine? He asked me to marry him.
Me, the wife of that boorish, brainless . . .
"Madame Gaston!"
Can't you just see it?
"Madame Gaston!"
His "little wife", ugh!
No sir! Not me!
I guarantee it
I want much more than this provincial life!
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere
I want it more than I can tell
And for once it might be grand
To have someone understand
I want so much more than they've got planned

This moment in Belle's life matched my own. The longing for something more and that no one could understand. Most of all, to find someone out there that can understand and share it with me. I, like Belle, was lucky enough what I was looking for.

Then there is the question: then what? What about the present? Today my dream of becoming awriter is growing stronger and stronger. After much thought, I realized that my current "I Wish" song has transformed into "Almost There" from Disney's The Princess and the Frog:

People down here think I'm crazy, but I don't care
Trials and tribulations, I've had my share
There ain't nothing gonna stop me now
'cause I'm almost there

I remember Daddy told me: "Fairytales can come true
You gotta make 'em happen, it all depends on you"
So I work real hard each and every day
Now things for sure are going my way
Just doing what I do
Look out boys, I'm coming through

And I'm almost there, I'm almost there
People gonna come here from everywhere
And I'm almost there
I'm almost there

It may seem silly that I am taking both songs from Disney movies, but they are the masters at these types of songs. This song sung by Tiana really spoke to me as an adult, and it was easy to relate to this 20th century Princess. The romance was also refreshing since they complete each other in ways that we understand. From where I sit, the song speaks to me of the goals that I feel so close to accomplishing and it is a good feeling that I am finally going somewhere. For, someday, I will arrive. Determination is the key.

If you have an "I Wish" song you want to share, go ahead and write in the comments.

Natasha

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