Friday, February 26, 2010

Learning to shut up

As part of my research for my WIP, today I was graced with two hours of stories from a very kind man. He hails from a different culture than I do, so sometimes the rules for conversation are different, as are the rules for listening to elders (which he is). I went in there with my respect in place and my listening ears on. Or so I thought.

At one point, deep in my notes and scribbling along, his comment was along the lines of "you know, sometimes elders don't allow people to take notes."

I put my pen down.

At another point, I said, sort of as a conversation-mover but also as a truth, "Oh, I know that." And he said "well, then what are you doing here?" I am sure I blushed bright red. He followed up that comment with, "If you want other elders to talk to you, don't say stuff like that, or they'll ask you the same question. Just be quiet and listen."

I nodded and stayed quiet.

Stories from other cultures fascinate me. But I need to make rock-solid sure I'm learning them in a culturally appropriate way--appropriate to *the culture*, not me. In this case: shut up. Don't write. Listen.

I was glad for the reminder that my way of understanding the world might actually be disrespectful. I need those lessons. Later this spring I have a big interview with a very respected, rather famous elder, and I really really really really really don't want to screw it up. Wearing duct tape would look stupid, so I'll imagine it--which will also be much less painful. I will probably want to take notes--desperately! But I will just listen.

Then the key part: I must REMEMBER.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tomorrow's agenda

Blog friends, this entry is small, but mighty: I NEED TO WRITE. I WANT TO WRITE. I MUST WRITE. Ray and Callie want me to write (they're my protags).

Why? Aside from the obvious reasons (love it, want to make $ at it, etc.)?

NEWS FLASH: there's a lurking ex-girlfriend. Where the hell did she come from? Why is her name Keisha? What does she look like? How did Ray get an ex-girlfriend when he seems so clueless about Callie?

All questions will be answered, I am certain, by some bus passenger in my subconscious who knows what she's doing, though she is not me. I just drive the bus. I don't tell it where to go.


I must grade, grade, grade. THEN WRITE.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I should be clear: the blog entry about becoming an addict was tongue in cheek. I grew up with addicts, currently know addicts, and know that life, and it's not a path I want to take. I also know addicts with amazing recovery stories, and they have all my respect. I intended no DISrespect by suggesting that addiction was cool or fun.

In the face of all those genius works (that sell and sell and sell), addiction looks pretty good. But not really. The trail of destruction behind those literary greats may have been even greater than their genius. As for me, I have skated close enough to the edge to know addiction would be disastrous.

Just to be clear.

And PS: the photo is, if you're not sure, the infinitely fabulous Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin in her heyday, long before her bedazzled hat at Obama's inaugural. Didn't her presence just say to you, "yes, folks, it's a new day at the White House"? Love. It.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Addict = best writer ever?

I'm doing it, friends--I'm getting back in the swing of blogging! I think I need another theme for March. That might help.

A grad school friend sent me this link to a bunch of great Life (as in Life Magazine) photos of literary friends with teensy tiny drug and alcohol problems. The dude up top (photo in the slideshow) is the wonderful addict Truman Capote, who is rocking some very cute ladies' sandals and is famous for IN COLD BLOOD, the first non-fiction novel (written with help from his friend Harper Lee). There's also the world's worst photo of Stephen King, and some other gems in between. Best list of addictions: "EVERYTHING," attached to Hunter S. Thompson's photo.

Maybe I need to drink more. Or add opium to my list of things to spend time with on a Friday afternoon. Maybe being an addict makes a person more honest, and you call it as you see it, which is an excellent trait for a writer.

I honestly don't think I have time in my life for an addiction, and I'm not independently wealthy. But the number of classics produced by these addicts is more than impressive, and as my friend Kristin says, there's nothing more literary than alcoholism.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Contest winner and suckage, but being open to it

Hey, friends--I realize I'm fantastically late in announcing the winner of the WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON contest. All entries were awesome, of course. But the winner: ALAINN! E-mail, please, me so I can get you your book. Please also know that I've been so busy the book is pristine---the cover of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON hasn't even been cracked. Now it's yours, Alainn. Happy reading!

So--I suck at blogging right now. Honestly, I suck at many things right now. And I'm trying something new. Instead of getting freaked out, I'm trying to stay OPEN to sucking. Why? You don't get all blocked up and mad at yourself. You just accept your suckage, and it gets better. Well, you have to apply yourself a little bit. But it does get better.

What do I suck at lately? You name it: teaching, writing, marketing, parenting, housekeeping, the list goes on (is there a word like "spousing"? I suck at that, too). Know what I did yesterday? Put dish soap in the dishwasher. Bad result, if you like your laminate floor to remain intact. Good result if you like suds. Epic fail on my part. Not sure why I can't read and tell the difference between bottles.

But . . . I am OPEN to it, friends. I am ALLOWING MY SUCKAGE. Is this an enormous excuse? No. Suckage still needs to be attended to. But it helps you not feel so bad if you say "wow, I suck. But I'm open to it!"

And, if I stay open, there might be possibilities out there *besides* suckage. So who knows what good things might come through the portal? You just don't know.

Beautiful, open Erie Canal culvert photo stolen from here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I've got something you want

Oooh, what is it? Is it really something you want? Yes. Yes it is.

It's an ARC of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, John Green and David Levithan's latest, which comes out in April.

Would you like it to be yours?

Then think like Gabe, my music wonk protagonist.

And post (in the comments, of course) the song you feel is The Best Song of The Entire/Your Universe, plus WHY. It's the "why" part that will get me interested--I like a good justification. Doesn't have to be a song I know (I can investigate), and it doesn't even have to be musically astute (ever heard Tom T. Hall's "I Love"? Corny as hell, but it makes me smile every time). It just has to be perfect to *you*.

Ready? Go. Contest open until 11:59 on Monday, Feb 8.

Can't wait to see what you choose!