(Untitled)

Maybe you’ve noticed that there’s a little tab on the top of my blog called (Untitled). Maybe you’ve wondered what on Earth can be found under this ambiguous title. Wonder no more; I am going to tell you.

Since this is a writing and reading blog (but primarily a writing blog), I wanted to be able to share bits of my writing with you. Of course, it can’t be anything that I want to publish, as I’ve been informed publishing on a personal blog counts as first publication rights, but I wanted to write quality pieces on my blog, both to give you a sense of how I write, and to get feedback. So I created Untitled one day when a blog post  suddenly began to transform into a short creative writing piece.

I posted a new creative non-fiction piece there today, which brings the total up to a whopping two pieces. I would love to hear your thoughts on them, should you feel like reading them. I will update as often as I have something to add, or if there seems to be a demand. It should be noted most of the pieces there, as with most of the posts on the blog, are first drafts, written in one sitting on the day of publication, and not polished or finished products. I will indicate whether it is otherwise on the piece.

Again, I hope that you read (and comment) on the pieces I share. Thanks!

Let’s Talk Books

I’ve been spending so much time lately going over my current projects that I haven’t said a word about books or reading in quite some time. Reading is an essential part of my day, no matter what it is that I’m reading. I read several times a day. In the last few days, three Harlequins have met their match (all very good, by the way ;-)). But I have also been reading other books.

During my lunch break, I’ve been reading One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead (I think; going off memory). This book is all about consumerism and the wedding industry. I still have a little bit of book left, so I can’t give a full review, but I will say that Mead’s reasearch is thorough, and some of her findings are startling, to say the least. She also raises some big questions about why weddings are now so expensive, what we’ve been trained to think about them, and what big, expensive weddings are supposed to replace. I can’t wait to finish and review.

Also sitting on my shelf at the moment: Pledged: another nonfiction, investigative reporting style book investigating sororities. From the cover and introduction, it seems she focused on white sororities (that, and most non-white sororities are less likely to talk to her about their rituals and ways, seeing as though she is Caucasian, a non-member, and a member of the media); a book about a woman’s 40 day & night solo sojourn into the desert after a divorce (this is non-fiction as well); What Frenchwomen Know About Love, Sex and Men–pretty self explanatory, I should think; Faith Evans’ memoir, and; Heather Hunter’s attempt at fiction.

As you can see, their isn’t a lot of fiction; in fact, it leans heavily to investigative reporting style exposés and memoirs. While this is easier to jump back into (I usually read at lunch, while waiting, and in the evenings at home when I can), I can only guess the reason why I focused so heavily on these is because I’m going to be working on an investigative reporting style similar to Mead and others for the Marriage Kit book, and I’m going to be working on  a memoir of my college years. I’m taking a look at what works and doesn’t work in the genres, I guess you could say.

Does what you’re looking to write ever change what you are primarily reading? Are you a writer who stays away from all romance novels while you’re writing romance, or does your readership in the genre you are attempting to write in increase? How do you work reading into your day and not end up crowding out writing?

The Buried Life, Examined

I don’t know if it’s because of the introspection that turning a year older always induces in me, or because the ideas I’m working on for my memoir are causing my brain to divulge all of its secret treasures, but the past couple of weeks have been full of memories coming up that have me going “I completely forgot about that!”

I recently recalled my experiences with Tai Chi, a slight memory of golden apples on a ceiling that spawned a creative non-fiction piece “Creative Visualization.” Just today, I was twice reminded of other memories: one directly related to my memoir, and one of a grade school trip to the state capital. I’ve never had a problem remembering things, and I don’t know why it surprises me that the memories are still in there, somewhere, waiting to be knocked loose by an image or a thought so they can float to the surface. It’s just amazing how the cosmic shifts inside of me caused by my birthday have opened me up to such mundane memories. It’s equally amazing that these memories, upon reexamination, are so rich in meaning and appropriate for the projects I’m working on.

I’ve been sort of dreading this birthday more than most. I will be past the prime publication age I held so dear. I’ll never appear on a Top 40 aged 25 and under list of up and coming literary voices. The year that I was twenty-five will be recorded as one where there weren’t many triumphs. I don’t feel any closer to the goals I’ve had for myself or the things I’d always imagined I’d have by the time I’m 25-26: house, husband, heirs…, yet:

  • I’m writing at a higher level than before.
  • My blog(s) are developing a good following and inspiring discussion.
  • I’ve erased some of the old habits and debts that have kept me back.
  • I’m finally ready to seek publication again.
  • My writing voice is more fully developed than it was last year.

Since I’ve stop pushing back memories of my life, stopped thinking my life is uninteresting and uninspiring, I’ve come to see so many jewels of wisdom and insight. I’ve realized I have something to say, not just as a fiction writer, but as a non-fiction writer. I’m realizing I’ve accomplished a lot, much more than I give myself credit for, and I still have a lot of life left (hopefully) to accomplish over and exceeding everything I’ve ever imagined. I’ll get there in my own time, when the time is right. I just have to trust that I’m going to get there, and keep walking.

What Writers are Writing:February 18th

The British Museum Reading Room. A panorama of...

The British Museum Reading Room. Image via Wikipedia

Happy Friday everyone! It’s been a very productive week for me on this site. Even though I pledged to do a PostaWeek here, I’ve done three posts already! I am getting a CC License put up on the blog later today, as I plan to share some of my original writings with you under a new page, Untitled (no, really, that’s the title). The first thing I’ll be sharing is the creative non-fiction piece I mentioned earlier this week. Now, onto my favorite reading & writing links for the week!

The Reading Posts:

After reading this explanation of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin over on Three Hundred pages by Kiley C., I am adding this to my (ever growing) To Read list. I’d heard about Gretchen before, but I’d never actually known what the book was about. Selfmanic shared his trials with reader’s block over on Off the Mark and Roaming. I especially enjoyed “When Bad Titles Happen to Good Books” by Alec Nevala-Lee, as I’ve been struggling with naming my own works lately. Finally, Kaye over at Have Coffee…Will Write discusses her love of romance novels (which I very much love, too!) and defends the genre.

As for writing, Amanda gave me two really good posts (as per usual) to ponder. One was about the attitude one should have towards rejections. The other was suggesting we use our senses when strapped for story ideas. Ana discusses getting over her aversion to the word “heroine” and embracing the addictive qualities a main character should have in her blog post “Embracing my Heroine.” Sonia M. finds inspiration in an unlikely source in “Mining a Migraine.” Nova shared her excitement over her book blurbs and asked “where do you write?” over on her blog Distraction no. 99.

I love Janna’s blog, JannaTWrite’s Blog! Her post this week, “What a Caesar Salad Taught Me About Writing-And Life” is especially good. I could certainly related to Ana’s discomfort when trying to write something and not being able to because of someone’s voice in your head, although my post on that would not be titled “Sex, Writing, and my Mother-in-Law.” Of course, I haven’t worked on my novel lately, so Jessica Stilling’s Guest post “Five Reasons You’re Not Writing Your Novel” really hit home. Once you write your novel, how are you going to publish. Catana gives some good thinks to consider in “A Few Notes about Indie Publishing.”

If you have any great links that I missed, feel free to post them in the comments. Please read the links provided, and keep checking back here for more content and reading suggestions! 🙂

Painful Honesty

Image of a stylized eye

The eye that looks inward allows good writing to flow outward.-Me! Image via Wikipedia

I had a story published in Prize Papers, an anthology my high school gave to students to show them models of good writing. They would refer to different types of essays found in the book when teaching, giving an illustration to students how to write well.

I never would have gotten this honor had it not been for Mrs. Jackson. I was in a memoir writing elective class called Self-Portraits. This was my first writing assignment for the class, and I wanted to make sure it was good, so I wrote it a week early and gave it to Mrs. Jackson to read when she had study hall duty in the dorms.

I’d never seen so much red ink in all my life. What is this? I thought. I’m a good writer. I don’t make many grammatical errors or spelling errors. What all did she find that resulted in this massacre? It looked like the beaches of Normandy had exploded onto my personal essay. Never being shy when it comes to my writing, I asked her.

She went over all of her notes with me, pointing out all of the things she didn’t like about my essay. Her main critiques kept coming back to the main issue–it was surface layer writing. I didn’t use sharp enough descriptions. I glossed over how it felt. I didn’t stimulate the reader’s five senses or prick their hearts. It was a good idea for a paper, but not if I didn’t write it well. She said something like If you don’t want to dig past the surface, don’t write it.

After I got over being angry (she obviously had no idea what she’d just read; everyone knows how great I am at writing), I thought long and hard about the story I was telling. It was a true one, as far as that went. I’d faithfully recorded all the pertinent details, but I had to admit to myself it was a little flat. It was like the cold rough surface of a piece of coal; you know there’s a diamond inside, but how do you get to it?

While that realization was painful, her words are not the painful honesty of the title. The essay was about me in elementary school. I had a crush on a boy, and through a series of unfortunate events, he was told I was telling people he liked me. Not only did he disabuse me of this notion, the encounter ended with me being hit with a mud-filled tire, walking home soaked and muddy. It had crushed all of my self confidence, affecting all of my subsequent relationships with family and friends, and I couldn’t get away with chronicling it as if I’m telling you what I had for breakfast.

So I started over. I had to return to that moment. I wrote and I choked on tears. I paced my floor. Why am I saying this? Why am I putting this out there on display? I wrote honestly, crossed it out, wrote it in again. I went back and forth like a seasaw.

When I turned it in, my teacher was amazed. She chose it to be the first thing we critiqued. That wasn’t what I had planned. Everyone couldn’t read it! But they did, and they thought it was amazing. I was relieved. Then she told me she was nominating it for Prize Papers.

Since it was the first semester and they choose Prize Papers at the end of the year, I forgot about it. I’d been nominated before and hadn’t won, so I didn’t put much stock in my ability to win. I was sitting in the principal’s office (someone had opened an orange in class and I’d gotten sick; yes, I’m allergic to oranges) when in strode the best English teacher on the faculty (so I’d been told; I’d never taken a class with him, except a quick AP English Exam prep session). He saw me and put his hand over his heart (no joke). “I just read your piece for Prize Papers,” he said (he was on the review board to choose the winners). Uh-oh. “It was so beautiful. I really related to it. It connected to…”

And that’s when it hit me. All of the choking and pacing and worrying, the struggle to be honest, the great care in choosing words to convey exactly how it was–all of that was so someone could read it and say “she’s writing about me! I’ve been there and done that.” When you write a piece that speaks to people and relays basic human truths, it’s going to hurt a bit. It forces you to look at yourself and make judgments. Whether it’s creative non-fiction or not, it has to be true and genuine and deeply felt.

I read a blog yesterday about finding the lie in your writing. The first essay didn’t work because I was lying, trying to make the whole thing seem like it was no big deal. I was attempting to distance myself from the incident, and ended up distancing myself from the essay.

How do you find the lie in your writing? How honest is too honest? Have you ever wrote until it hurt?