Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More on Being Small

A friend who read my blog post yesterday sent me this lovely video of Peter Mulvey performing "Vlad the Astrophysicist". Melancholy, sweet, centering, and exactly what I needed. Thank you, Rosa.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Locating the Moon

There are stretches of time in my writing life when I wake up eager to work and have one productive day after another. Then there are stretches like this week, when I wake up feeling like it's intolerable to be on page 12 of a difficult 400-page revision, and am I really supposed to be in charge of making all these decisions? Is it really up to me and only me to decide what's best at every moment? To figure out the solution to a lot of complicated problems? By myself, in this room today for hours?

It becomes difficult to keep my focus small. Instead of the group of pages that are my small task for today, with a small list of objectives, I start thinking about all the changes the book needs as a whole, and I get overwhelmed. I start thinking about how many days this big revision is likely to take, while my editor and other people are waiting, and I get overwhelmed. My friends might find me to be a little bit glum, because during these times, I tend to see the world through revision-colored glasses. Honestly, I feel like I'm five years old and scared and need hugs.

All of this is why this morning, I went online to find out the state of the moon. Here in the Boston area, the moon is a tiny waxing crescent today that sets at 9:13 PM. This explains why haven't seen the moon for ages: it's been up during the day, and very small. But I'm going to make a point of finding it today. One of the things that kicks me out of this rotten feeling about my revision – consequently making it easier for me to sit down and do the actual work – is to step back, far, far back, and get some perspective on how little this revision actually matters. For example, how much would this revision matter if someone were looking at it from the moon?

The funny thing is that two opposite answers exist at the same time. It would matter hardly at all; look: it's so, so small when seen from the moon. Often I like to back up even further, get myself out into the further reaches of the galaxy, so that the sun is just a dim dot. None of the things that feel overwhelming to me here in my office feel overwhelming to me if I'm looking at them from some other part of the galaxy. I find it intensely relieving to be reminded of how small we all are and how little it all matters. My life is a tiny little speck of a thing.

Yet it also clarifies how important every tiny thing is. The universe is a big mystery made up of tiny things. We are tiny, but our lives are intense dramas that matter. This revision doesn't matter, but it matters a whole lot to me.

I'm not sure why, but every time I'm able to get this kind of perspective, it becomes easier to sit down and work.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rainy Randutiae for a Sunday

  • As I'd hoped, a number of friends emailed me with suggestions of superhero role models for girls. So many, in fact, that I'm going to have to set aside some time to organize it all before I post it – but it will be forthcoming. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions were for teen readers and older, which leaves the youngest girls waiting, but it was encouraging. Many, many thanks to those of you who reached out :o)
  • I'm listening to Peter Gabriel's more recent album Up – one of his darker albums. I love these lyrics, from "Darkness," which is a song that reminds me of early Peter Gabriel (the self-titled albums), mainly in the way he balances silence and sweetness with crashing noise – this sentence has gotten ridiculous, but here are the lyrics I love: "I have my fears / but they do not have me."
  • I've gotten a few of my friends to start using Siri to dictate on their iPhones. (If you have an iPhone and there is a little microphone symbol on your keyboard, you can do this, too.) This means that now I get to enjoy other people's dictation frustrations. Recently, from codename: Cordelia: "So it looks like my phone can do FaceTime? Not sure though – I pressed FaceTime on your contact and it started raining. I have no idea what that means though. Actually, it did not start raining, though that would have been quite an omen." And from a friend who was giving me some personal advice: "Of course none of this is a moral issue or anything – I'm just thinking in terms of what would be most thanks traducing. Actually, thanks inducing is what I meant. Angst inducing!! My god, I'm beginning to think Siri doesn't have an exit stencil bone in her body. OMG! She can't even say exit stencil!"
  • While I'm at xoJane, I like Lesley Kinzel's article, "Dirty Dancing Is a Subversive Masterpiece and Here are Four Reasons Why." Probably the most touching moment for me in this movie, which I can recite practically from heart, is when Baby confronts her father after All the Stuff has happened. She tells him that she's sorry she lied to him – but he lied to her, too. "You told me everyone was alike and deserved a fair break," she says. "But you meant everyone who was like you. You told me you wanted me to change the world, to make it better. But you meant by becoming a lawyer or an economist and marrying someone from Harvard.... I'm sorry I let you down. I'm so sorry, Daddy. But you let me down too." They're both crying, and you can tell that he (played by the magnificent Jerry Orbach) is listening, and hearing what she's saying. Perhaps because I also have a father who listens and hears, I have always loved the father/daughter relationship in this movie. *sniff* Oh, and just so you don't get the wrong idea about my father, if he had ever suggested to young me that being rich or having social status mattered, I would've bundled him into the car and taken him to the hospital, convinced he'd developed a brain tumor.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Weeks of Revisions, Shown in Nail Polish

When I began this revision, I was feeling a little vulnerable.
I wanted my nails to make me think of claws,

or maybe little shields.

My palette.

During the next week, things briefly got impossible
and I needed my nails to help me feel as hard as asphalt.

My palette.

This morning, I have gotten to a place of hope. :o)

My palette.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just a Little Dance

Tui and I have been watching So You Think You Can Dance religiously for a bunch of years now. We have opinions and strong feelings. We are experts.

At the moment, the show is in the midst of its eleventh season. For all these seasons, we've watched one group number a week, which is a lot of group numbers, and I just want to state, for the record, that my favorite group number remains the original, Top 10 performance from Season 2, choreographed by Wade Robson and danced to Roisin Murphy's "Ramalama (Bang Bang)." For old times' sake, here it is. Sorry about the screaming. (If you can't see the video, go to my Blog Actual.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where are the superheroes for young girls?

The other day, my sister, codename: Cordelia, texted me to ask if I knew of any comic-style superhero storybooks for five-year-olds, starring girls. Here's an excerpt of her text: "They [Cordelia's twin daughters] love Batman, Spiderman, Thor, Superman, wonder woman. In addition to wonder woman, do you know of any age-appropriate girl/woman superhero series? Note how Siri capitalized all of them except wonder woman."

In fact, I have noticed, on many occasions, that Siri recognizes, and properly spaces and capitalizes, all superheroes except Wonder Woman. Same with Dragon, which I'm using to dictate this post. No thanks for that extra kick in the ovaries, Apple and Dragon. (Not unrelatedly, have you heard about Apple's sexist iPad engraving policy?)

No thanks to the comics industry, either, for presenting Cordelia with this very real dilemma. What to give young girls who are interested in superheroes? Nina Jaffe/Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman series for young readers? Out of print. Supergirl for young readers? Out of print. I walked into one of our wonderful local comics stores yesterday and asked for advice. The guy behind the counter lamented with me. I left with nothing.

Here are the few suggestions I've managed to collect from friends of mine: Rapunzel's Revenge, by the fabulous Shannon Hale, her husband Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale (no relation). Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke. And of course, there are some female superheroes among the X-Men. My hope is that those of my friends who read my blog are now going to email me with many more wonderful and exciting suggestions. If this happens, I will be sure to pass them on to my blog readers.

In related news, thank you, Nancy Werlin, for informing me today that Marvel's next Thor will be a woman, written by Jason Aaron with art by Russell Dauterman. Super cool. You know what would be amazingly cool? If more mainstream comics were written or illustrated by women.

I honestly feel a bit bored with myself as I write this post, because nothing in it is news. But complacency is part of the problem. So. There you have it. This problem has always existed, it still exists, and we are SOOOOOOOOO sick of it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Transitioning to a Revision

This is what focus looks like.

Here in the office, we are transitioning from writing the new book to revising, for the second time, one of the old books. (I enumerate my current projects here; the book I'm about to start revising is the one I refer to as the "second book" in that post.) Unbeknownst to me, a friend snapped a picture while I was explaining to him my method of, um, organization. Normally, anyone besides me taking pictures in my office is asking for it, but I was rather pleased with this result, because I feel like it expresses well what the beginning of a revision is like: Everything is starting to crystallize, but it looks (and feels) an awful lot like everything is coming apart.

Hanging on the wall behind me is the book plan to the book I'm about to revise. (The old book plan. I will take all those cards down and put up new ones once I know the new revision plan.) The crumpled orange pile to my left is the book plan of the new book I was writing last week, which I no longer care about, AT ALL, because when I'm working on one book, I pretty much forget about the other books. The pages strewn across my floor are, well, various revision pages I'm sorting through. I will organize them and deal with them. Once I've dealt with them I will put them in the recycling bin, though not before tearing them into little pieces, just in case a dumpster diver finds them and reads my book before I have turned it into a good book. Listen, this could happen, and it would be TERRIBLE, and NO I DO NOT TAKE MYSELF TOO SERIOUSLY SHUT UP.

I mentioned in a recent post that I've been having problems focusing lately. Knowing that I would be transitioning soon to this revision, I've been worried, because while it's okay to have some trouble focusing as I begin a new book that has no deadline, it's a problem to have trouble focusing if I'm revising a book that my editor and I are hoping to slot into a particular release season. A few wise and reassuring friends have suggested that the revision might bring focus along with it; that when my editor's revision notes arrive, so will my focus. I don't think it's too early in the process to say that they were right. I am deeply excited by the challenges presented to me by the comments of my editor and my early readers. I have always enjoyed working on this particular book, and at the moment, I feel like I'm facing some deliciously difficult questions. I have no idea what the answers are, but I know that sometime in the next few weeks, the pieces of this swirling mess will settle into their places (or else I will wrangle them there), and then I will be able to see them. And THEN I will have the frustrating challenge of bringing them into being on the page.

I love being in the middle of this mess. I'm enjoying it while I can, because once I know the plan and all the actual work is ahead... there may be some whining here on the blog. :o)

The World Cup of Arm-Folding

If you've been watching the World Cup, then chances are, you've seen a lot of players turn to the left and cross their arms during the line-up presentations. Even if you haven't, I bet you'll enjoy this piece at Slate, Who Won the World Cup of Arm-Folding? Hilarious. Read it on a device that allows you to see the graphics, i.e., maybe not your phone. Thanks, Stephanie.