Monday, February 28, 2011

"So I started out for God knows where...

... I guess I'll know when I get there."

(That's how it feels sometimes when you're learning to fly, you know?) (Link plays song.)

So, I haven't been blogging about trapeze class, but it's not because I haven't been taking class. It's because I start to worry that it's obnoxious and narcissistic to plaster pictures of myself all over my blog. Especially since these pictures are so flattering and show up how much more graceful I am than the rest of you people.

(Or maybe I just don't want any of you to realize how much time I spend sitting in the net, laughing hysterically at how badly that trick just went. Sigh...)


Yeah, so. There's been a LOT going on at trapeze class, and there's something I want to say about it. Bear with me while I try to figure out exactly what it is.

I've been learning some new things. I've been working on my swing, which is where you get a lot of the power for your tricks, and which is the hardest thing they teach at trapeze school. It involves learning to kick while swinging, when, where, and in which direction. It feels both completely weird and completely right at the same time. I can't explain this.  Trapeze is often about things feeling simultaneously ridiculous and exhilarating.


After a practice swing like the ones shown above, you swing your legs up a little, let go, and land on your back in the net. Or, rather, that's what happens if you do it correctly. I have not managed to do it correctly once. I know this is partly because it's a new skill for me and my body is confused about how to position itself during a freefall. But it's also because my mind refuses to believe that I will be safe if I can't see where I'm falling. Someday, I will convince it. For me, trapeze is a lot about learning to let go of (the delusion of) control.

I'm also learning how to take off better. Trapeze is all about physics, but I'm not so great at translating concepts I understand intellectually into motions my body does gracefully. I'm working on it. For me, as a writer who's work is all in my head, trapeze is about learning to connect with my body. In the picture below, Steve is trying to show me how to position the bar during the moment of taking off.

 I am, of course, still working on my pullover shoot. (If you're new to my blog and curious, you can learn about my struggles with this trick here, here, and here.) Sometimes, it works.

Often, it doesn't and I tip off. WHOOPS!

At my last class, I learned a whole new way to screw up this trick, but the good thing about this screwup is that it has fun consequences. Hmm, how can I explain this? Okay, look at the picture above. You see that I am about to fall forward over the trapeze? Imagine if, instead, I tipped the other way, and fell backward behind the trapeze. The result would be what you see in the picture below:

See how I'm hanging there like a goober? That's completely normal. But what isn't normal is that because of the way I fell, I pulled the lines attached to my belt through the trapeze. Can you follow the ropes from my belt to the trapeze bar and see what  I mean? Now, when this happens, when I let go to come down, my safety lines will be all tangled up in the trapeze. This will be an annoying thing for my instructors to have to untangle, in addition to being an unsmooth way for the lines to operate while I'm still attached to them. SO. In order to come down safely and untangle the lines, I need to climb up onto the trapeze and jump through it.

First, though, I have a shouted exchange with Ally on the floor, because I actually have no idea what's going on. I can't see the problem with the lines -- all I know is that Ally told me to climb up on top of the trapeze, so I did. But! This was never part of the trick before! WTF is going on!

For me, trapeze is about letting someone else be in charge for once, and doing what I'm told. *ahem* THIS IS NOT A SKILL I TEND TO HAVE IN LIFE. I'm working on it.

Actually, it's fun up here. And my socks say "COOKIES!" Can't I stay?

Okay, fine. Off I go! 

So, I'm having fun writing this blog post... but I'm also trying to figure something out. With trapeze, I'm always trying to figure something out. I'm trying to figure out why I keep going, even though it scares me. Why I keep working at a trick, trying my hardest, even though I fail at it over and over again (and in so many ways!). Why I am willing to embarrass myself repeatedly. Why I come to class thinking, Why did I think this was a good idea?, and leave class thinking, When can I do it again!? Is there anything you do in your life that you know you're never going to be really good at -- but you do it anyway, and couldn't not?

You know what? I think I'm lucky to have a safe and encouraging place where I get to practice what it's like to be outside my own comfort zone. Where it's okay to take risks and fail, over and over; where it's okay not to be great at something. This is actually not a small thing. As a writer, I'm always taking risks. But as a writer with readers in lots of countries and a WIP that's taking a long time, the pressure to deliver, and to deliver a winner, is enormous. Failure does not feel like an option. This is not a complaint -- I'm damn lucky and I know it -- but it is a thing that can mess with your head if you're not mindful. At trapeze class, I fail over and over, then discover that the world doesn't end and I'm allowed to keep trying. What a relief this is!

I wonder if one of the things I'm practicing on the trapeze is learning that if I failed at writing, that would be okay, too? That actually, it's okay to fail at anything? That the point is to try?

("Failure" and "success" are weird words anyway. I've never been too sure what they mean. They certainly aren't as straightforward or as opposite as a lot of people think.)


It surely doesn't hurt that while I'm figuring all these things out, I get to fly.

The stripey socks pics today were taken by Molly. The cookies socks pics were taken by Christine.  Thank you so much for all the pics, Molly and Christine! The classes depicted here were taught by Erin, Wendy, Kaz, John, Jon, Jake, Ally, Steve, and the president and co-founder of TSNY, Jonathan Conant (shown catching me above). Guys, I still can't believe you let me come and flop around on your equipment. I promise, one of these days I will remember to keep my feet together and point my toes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friday Randutiae

It has been brought to my attention that I'm working too much. Thank goodness for the people in my life who point out to me, now and then, that I have the tendency to work too much. This blog is not work. It's fun, it clears out my head. So... here comes some randutiae!

I loved the Peter Gabriel Cover Story on Coverville last week. Covers by and of Peter Gabriel. It's here if you want to listen.

The world map I've had on my wall for years has finally disintegrated, and here's the one I got to replace it. Ever notice how most maps of the world stretch the far northern and southern latitudes out, so that Greenland seems to be as big as Africa, even though actually, Africa is more than 14 times the size of Greenland? There are, of course, understandable reasons why maps do this, BUT the map I got deliberately emphasizes the relative size of the world's land masses instead. It also happens to be a nice, clear political map. I love it.

I have agreed to do an event at the Sydney Writers' Festival in May. This means Australia is a definite yes. I just have to, like, FIGURE OUT WHAT THE HELL I'M DOING. But. Just wanted to put that out there. Also, I will post my Germany tour schedule (March 13-19) as soon as I have it. What? Why no, I'm not freaking out about getting all of my tax information to my Tax Czarina before I leave for Germany. Why would you think that?


I just read and loved the book Unaccustomed Earth, short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Thank you, Marie Rutkoski, for praising it to me somewhere or other. :o)

Here is a song/dance I enjoy muchly from Dil Bole Hadippa! -- and in this video, both the Hindi lyrics and English subtitles are shown, so if you want to, you can follow along. This song/dance reminds me that in addition to this movie being about women and sports, it's also about westernization in India, the return of a Non-Resident Indian to India, and peace between India and Pakistan. All three are common themes in a LOT of the Bollywood movies I've watched. (Here's my original post about Dil Bole Hadippa!.)

By the way, I read a scathing review of this movie somewhere that had to do with sexism in this movie and in the Bollywood film industry in general. I didn't disagree with anything in the review, but I also believe that an opposite interpretation of this movie is possible. I SO do not have the energy right now to say any more than that about it. Suffice it to say that some of my favorite movies are movies with opposing interpretations, all of which I enjoy agreeing with simultaneously. Watch it yourself, and decide for yourself what you think.

Speaking of a man whom I ADORE, partly (though certainly not wholly) because of his tendency to love strong-willed, independent women (we were talking about that, right?), Angel, you were never my favorite vampire, but Seeley Booth, you are unquestionably my favorite FBI agent. In the following exchange, Booth has hurt his back and is loopy on painkillers while questioning a suspect in a murder investigation.

BOOTH: Did you give her a sword?
SUSPECT: [doubtfully] A sword?
BOOTH: [helpfully, with gestures] It's a knife, but it's only HUGE.

Coming soon, I hope: a trapeze post. Now, I need to go choose some nice passages for reading at my events in Germany. :o)

Monday, February 21, 2011

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

According to the literature that came with my 2012 parking pass, my city, Cambridge, Massachusetts, has the highest percentage of people who walk or bike to work in the nation. (I wonder if I count in that statistic? It's about a 30-foot walk from my bed to my couch.)

I'm not a native of Cambridge -- I grew up in Pennsylvania -- but I was fond of Cambridge from my very first visit. I'm very, very happy to live here, and I hope I'll continue to do so for a long time.

Unfortunately, at the moment, I am a heartbroken Cambridge resident. Why? Because Bob Slate is closing. :( :( :(

Bob Slate's Stationer is the independent store where I buy my Edward Gorey notecards. And my Where the Wild Things Are notecards. And all my other notecards. And my pens and pencils and erasers. And my pirate stickers. And my jousting knight stickers. And my shark temporary tattoos. And my Post-it notes. Most importantly, and I'm actually getting a little teary here, Bob Slate is where I buy my writing notebooks. Ever since I started writing, I've bought my notebook there. Even when I lived in London, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida, Bob Slate was where I got my notebooks, because I have never been able to find another store like them. Bob Slate is on speed dial on both of my phones and if you knew how much I hate telephones you would appreciate the significance of that.

Behold Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue, and my sadness.

Those of us who love Bob Slate (and there are many of us) are suffering from melancholy these days. (BTW, a note to the wise: if you are waiting until the big close-out sale to stock up on Bob Slate supplies, I would stop doing that. I was in the Mass Ave Harvard Square store recently, and the shelves were practically empty. Cambridge is panicking, people! Get to the stores quick if you want anything at all!)

So, I thought I'd use this post to highlight a few of my favorite Cambridge indies. I'll tell you a few words about why I love them and hope it'll get you thinking about the independent stores where you live. Try to support them when you can.

Brattle Square Florist, 31 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138.
This is actually my favorite store in the world. If you're ever in Harvard Square, just walk in, stop, and look. You'll understand why I love it so. For those of you who can't visit the store: it's this tiny, beautiful, perfect little corner of the earth, all green and full of flowers and plants from front to back. It is SO CALMING in there. I also love the people who work there. Never go away, Brattle Square Florist!

The Swiss Watchmaker, 58 Church St, Cambridge, MA 02138.
I walked into the Switch Watchmaker the other day (in the company of codename: Apocalyptica the Flimflammer) and said to the man behind the counter, "I want a simple watch with no colors, no sparkly crap, and definitely numbers." About half an hour later, I walked out with a watch that had a pink face and sparkly crap *instead of* numbers. What can I say? I fell in love with the watch. I'm going to wear it every day for the rest of my life. And I *can* wear it every day, because it's a brand that's virtually indestructible. Here's what the man behind the counter said: "It's pink and it sparkles, but it's a TANK." Hello. Seriously, did someone who knows me tell him I was coming and give him a profile? Is there anything he could have possibly said to make me more likely to buy the watch?

Petsi Pies, 31 Putnam Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139 and 285 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143.
This is my favorite place to run to get a sandwich in the middle of a workday. Their sandwiches are SO YUMMY, as are their tarts, plus, it's never a bad idea to pick up a cookie or a cupcake for later. The people are great, too. Once I came in and discovered I hadn't brought quite enough cash. They let me have my food anyway, because they recognized me as a regular. :o) AND I was there once on the day before Thanksgiving, and the place was practically filled, from floor to ceiling, with boxed pies. It was adorable.

Dado Tea and Coffee, 955 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139 and 50 Church St, Cambridge, MA 02139.
Notice how "tea" comes first? I love a good teahouse. And this one has YUMMY food as well. I bring work here sometimes; there are very few places I'm able to do that. Actually, I'm suddenly remembering a funny stream of days about a year ago when I kept trying to bring work to Dado, but as soon as I'd sat down with my rooibos chai and my tofu ginger salad, my agent called with some kind of emergency and I had to go running home again. Three days in a row, I came in, ordered the same thing, sat down, spread out my work, then asked for a take-out box and left in a mad rush. Ha! Anyway. The fact that I kept trying suggests how much I was looking forward to a peaceful workday there.

Skenderian Apothecary, 1613 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02138.
When I told a friend I wanted to mention Skenderian Apothecary in this post, she provided me with a list of the reasons why she adores this pharmacy. Here are just a few: if you're a regular, the three Skenderian brothers welcome you by name. They're open to specialized circumstances. They can do pet meds if you want them to. They will help you solve and understand insurance issues. They are EXTREMELY knowledgeable and helpful with questions about meds that your doc may be too rushed to bother telling you. They have excellent stocks of medical and disability supplies. They deliver. Basically, they are awesome.

I could keep going, but *ahem* I'm on a blog break, so that's it for now.

Support independent businesses when you can!

Friday, February 18, 2011

And How about Some Two-Minute Blogging?

I really like Adrienne K.'s most recent post at her blog, Native Appropriations. The post is called "Full Blood, Verifiable Native American: A Weird Experience at Trivia Night." Go check it out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

15-Minute Blogging

I'm giving myself 15 minutes to write this blog post. If I'm not done in 15 minutes, then it's not posting. Because, you know, I'm on a blog break here.

Here's the thing about being on a blog break: what am I to do when people around me keep doing super-cool things that I want to blog about? Now, you may or may not have heard about the brouhaha over at Bitch Magazine when the magazine did what was, um, kind of a shoddy job of assembling a list of "100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader." Here's the good news: Amy Stern has decided to use Bitch's list as a starting point and has created a new forum for talking about intersectionality in YA novels. It's called The YA Subscription and here's what it's all about. I think this'll be a very cool place for discussion; check it out! Amy has already posted her thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time as a feminist text.

(Yikes, 8 minutes left!)

I've found the news from Egypt to be so stirring that I just can't not acknowledge it somehow on my blog. I decided to do this with something easy: I would link you to a picture slideshow, because there are so many amazing pictures going around right now. But the more I tried to find the right slideshow, the more annoyed I became at how the slideshows presented by the American media show hundreds and hundreds and sometimes THOUSANDS of men protesting, and maybe two women. If I really believed there were only two women protesting in Egypt, then these slideshows would be fine, but I don't believe that. So, I asked some friends for help. Thank you, Michelle, for pointing me to the slideshow at the Big Picture, which shows more women than most of the others. And thank you, Lance, for pointing me to this article about the lack of visibility of women in the media coverage of Egypt's protests, because it's nice to get some affirmation when you're getting the eerie feeling that something isn't quiet right. FWIW, I found the comments in that article to be more substantive than the article itself.

With 30 seconds to go: happy Interplanetary Be Who You Are Day, everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Hello everyone. This is your friendly author Kristin here. I wanted to let you all know that I have lost my mind. Here is an emoticon of me standing next to my disembodied head. I am thinking of using it as a soccer ball.

/\ O

Here is an emoticon of me bravely using my laser vision to vanquish a flying apple while balanced on a yoga ball. When you've lost your mind, you think it's normal to do things like this.





Here is an emoticon of me on the flying trapeze. This is actually a sane thing I like to do from time to time, though my mother might argue otherwise.


Ah, those were carefree days. Not like now. Here is an emoticon of me dead from too much work, in profile.


Wait, she stirs!


Again, she stirs!


Is there hope?




There is no hope.


Diagnosis: DEAD.


So, this is what we've been reduced to on the blog. Here's the deal: I am not actually dead. However, I don't have a lot of time or energy right now for anything but the basics, so I might be taking a break from the blog for a couple of weeks. Unless, of course, my publisher contacts me to tell me that I cannot possibly leave this emoticon-death post up for weeks and weeks as the main page of my blog, frightening newcomers away. Newcomers: I swear I am a completely normal and fascinating person and you should read my books. Here is an emoticon of me successfully dodging the manure left behind by a short cow.


Could a not-normal person do that? AND while wearing a fetching hat? Confident of your answer, I leave it to you to decide.

Anyway, this does tragically mean that I won't be around on February 14 to celebrate Interplanetary Be Who You Are Day, as I have been wont to in the past. So I'll just have to link you to to my past celebrations. Here is my original post about Interplanetary Be Who You Are Day. And here is my post from last year. I notice that Spike is still winning the "Whom Do You Love" poll, which is, incidentally, still open. Don't let Valentine's Day make you feel bad, people!

Well, I guess that's it for today. Maybe I'll close with an emoticon of Spike.


(You would run, too, if you were a vampire being chased through a field of manure by a tiny crucifix.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

This Post Is Dedicated to Six Seconds in a Song

I am reaching but I fall
and the stars are black and cold
as I stare into the void
of a world that cannot hold.
I'll escape now from that world,
from the world of Jean Valjean.
There is nowhere I can turn.
There is no way to go on --
I suppose I should warn y'all that this post contains spoilers to the plot of Les Misérables (though nothing you wouldn't be able to figure out by looking at the song list). So. Bear that in mind.

I currently have a favorite six seconds in Les Mis. It's in the song "Javert's Suicide," the version I've been listening to is the original London cast recording with Roger Allam playing Javert, and the six seconds is the final "on" in the lyrics above. Javert is singing a melody we've heard before. It's the same melody Valjean sang during his own identity crisis in "What Have I Done?" The lyrics are also parallel. But here, when Javert gets to the word "on," he sings this amazing, unexpected high note. It's an imitation of an earlier high note in the same song, but differs in that it's so dissonant that the first time I heard it, I didn't even think it was a note. I thought he was just yelling. (Yes, I know that even yelling is a note, but I mean that I didn't think the note mattered -- I thought he was just randomly yelling, no longer singing.) The music behind him abandons him for almost an entire five seconds, refusing to join his new key, hence emphasizing the dissonance. Then it swells up to join him in the new key. It's one of the most beautiful, sad, and chilling things I've ever heard.

It's useless to try to explain music in words. If you get a chance, listen to it sometime. (If you're really curious, you can buy that single song for $.99 on Amazon and other places, too, I'm sure.) I'm pretty sure he's hitting the key one full note higher, but I don't have a score in front of me, so my apologies to those with a musical vocabulary who wish I were being more specific.

Now, in the spirit of listening to music rather than talking about it, here's Jake Shimabukuro playing "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the ukulele.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"There are shortcuts to happiness...

... and dancing is one of them." - Vicki Baum

Here's a writing tip: dance. If you're writing and you get stuck, or you're tired but don't want to stop quite yet, or your head is spinning, or it's just time for a break -- if you're able, and in whatever way you're able, dance. I do this almost every day (just ask the guy next door whose windows look into my kitchen) and it clears my head right out. Sometimes, the problems I'm having in whatever scene I'm writing solve themselves. Just try it once! And if you need some inspiration:

I will now recommend a Bollywood movie that does not star Shah Rukh Khan. (*gasp*)

In Dil Bole Hadippa! ("The Heart Says Hurrah!"), Veera, played by Rani Mukherjee, is the best cricket batsman in the Punjab. Unfortunately, when it comes time for tryouts for the Indian team, she is not allowed even to try out for the team. Can you guess why? Yeah, that's why. Can you guess what she does? Well, naturally, she disguises herself as a man! Unfortunately, the captain of the team is just so damn cute. And has *feelings*. Shenanigans ensue!

This movie is fun and charming and SO SO FUNNY, and the reason it's funny is that Rani Mukherjee is an outstanding comedic actor. I knew she was good -- I've seen her in *tons* of movies, thanks to the fact that she's often SRK's costar, *ahem* -- but I had no idea how bright she could shine when she's not in SRK's shadow and is allowed to play the movie's main role. I just love her. And in addition to the humor, this movie has a few scenes that made my heart glow. For example, Veera comes to tryouts as herself, clearly a woman, and is turned away at the gate by a guard who tells her something to the effect of, "This is cricket, not a beauty pageant." Veera is crushed. Then, a religious procession goes by, carrying the effigy of a goddess (my apologies for not recognizing her -- though I was proud to recognize some of the Sikh references in this movie!), and the guard and all the men standing in line for tryouts make signs of reverence and respect to the goddess. Veera then says something to the guard that I think many women, brought up under any of most world religions, could relate to: "She, who you turn into an idol and worship -- when she is human, you crush her. Shame."

It turns out that Veera's spirit is very hard to crush. :o)

Here's a trailer that does a decent job of conveying the feeling of this movie (and also demonstrates a tendency of bilingual Hindi-English speakers that I've mentioned here before, namely, the switching back and forth between Hindi and English so fast that if you only speak one of those languages, you get a headache).

Also, IMO, this is a good choice for someone who's never seen a Bollywood movie before and wants an introduction. There are some Bollywood movies that would make a terrible first introduction to the industry and would cause you never to watch another Bollywood movie again. I could make a list. I won't, but I could. BUT! This movie! It's funny, it's colorful, it's a good story with likable characters and good acting (and some exceptional dancing), it's only two hours and 28 minutes long (short for Bollywood), and I think it's representational. As you watch more and more Bollywood, you discover that there are plenty of quality movies that aren't light and fun -- Shakti: The Power, for example, is one of the most upsetting movies I've ever liked (and would NOT be on the list of movies *not* to watch that I'm not making) (and WOW can Karisma Kapoor act) -- but to pull you in and get you curious about the industry, I recommend something a little lighter for starters, like Dil Bole Hadippa!.

And did I mention the cuteness and the dancing? The two leads of this movie (Rani Mukherjee and Shahid Kapoor) are rawther beautiful people; they're excellent dancers; and Hindi movie credits are way more entertaining than other industry's credits. Evidence for these three points can be found in the video of the movie credits below, which I'm embedding just for fun. The credits don't have much to do with what happens in the movie itself (especially wardrobe-wise, and ALSO, in case you're getting the wrong impression, most of the screentime of a Bollywood movie is not actually singing and dancing), so don't watch them hoping to get a sense of the movie actual -- they're just fun, and occasionally hilarious (I strike poses in the locker room shower while clothed, don't you?). They will also teach you how to pronounce "hadippa." Mostly, though, I'm embedding them to get you dancing.

Writers: twirl those scarves like Rani and Shahid!