Sunday, June 04, 2006

Having fun and (whoops!) looking like an idiot in front of famous people.

Yep. Title pretty much says it all. I'm assisting Glenn Casale with a production of Beauty & the Beast that goes up in less than 48 hours. I have worked for ten hours on average evey single day of this week, taking notes for a soap opera star turned-Belle Mandy Bruno, Brad Little (aka the Phantom in the PotO National Tour--I'm just now realizing that I have a playbill from when I saw him, twice, in Rochester, NY in 1996), Brian Noonan and a truckload of extremely talented people. Half of the time I'm scared shitless (excuse my language, but there was no proper way to express that and accurately convey my meaning), and half of the time I'm just rushing to keep the pace. Apparently, Glennis impressed at my choice of college and myconcentration in folk & myth, and he just so happens to be taking the script of Camelot, rewriting it to his taste with the permission of the authors/copyright holders, and directing it on a national tour. Lancelot, Arthur & Guinevere, man. They're me. They're my THING, you know? He wants to keep in touch and talk about Malory and T.H. White. I'm wondering if I'm dreaming and going to wake up.

Meanwhile, I had a political discussion with one of the other principals in BatB. He's hilarious onstage, but it was so relieving to talk to someone in theater who understands exactly how important politics are to everything and how underlying messages permeate the smallest personal aspects of our lives, whether we like it or not.

Yes, talking politics among thespians is mostly preaching to the choir, but there's a big difference between merely having an opinion and fighting for one, and that distinction in today's dysfunctional society is a critical one. I;ve met plenty of intelligent, passionate people, many of them artists, who have expressed absolutely no interest in voting because they don't (or didn't) believe that it would affect them. Six years ago, I was the same, and I would have said that was an acceptable opinion.

That was six years ago.

Sometimes I'd rather argue with an extremely authoritarian, young-earth Creationist social conservative than a person who doesn't care about any issue besides gas prices. At least I'd know that no matter how misguided we thought each other to be, we both gave a damn about the past, our present, and other people's futures.

That night, I found out that I had just watch a Law & Order rerun with a familiar name in the guest credits. Bingo. Same guy. I kind of just sat there for a minute. Then I went, "Oh. ...Wow." Then I fell into bed.

Occasionally I type up bits and pieces of my novels on my PDA during breaks and intermissions. It's better than nothing. The progress is definitely slower, though I suppose that can't be helped. The sacrifice is well worth it.

Except, of course in the moments after I've spilled my boss's coffee all over the dance floor. Nice going, idiot. Luckily, he forgot about it five minutes later. :D

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How Opal Mehta Got Read, Got Pwned and Got Shelved For Life.

I knew I should have purchased a copy of Kaavya Viswanathan's book for twelve pounds when I was in Heathrow Airport last week. It was only a matter of time before copies sold like hotcakes on eBay for more than the cost of a day on the printer on which they were produced.

Last week, Little, Brown decided to yank all remaining copies of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life from bookshelves everywhere and effectively ended the literary dream of an up-and-coming Harvard plagiarist. The sequal and the movie deal have been canned, and next to graduation, no topic is hotter in the Yard than this one.

I remember when the Blair Hornstine Project was documenting the day-by-day valedictorian battle between two incoming Harvard freshman, and Miss Hornstine turned out the be a plagiarist, as well. Harvard revoked its offer of admission.

It says a lot about American society when a "book packager" can turn a few copied ideas from unknown midlist titles into a bestseller and an Ivy League admission. If your parents have money and connections, and you have sufficient talent but mediocre work ethics, it might be prudent to study the rise and fall of cultural breakthroughs such as this one.

Honestly, I don't know which case I'm more upset about--using doctors to steal a valedictorianship, or stealing words to write about a valedictorianship.

In the mean time, I've heard good things about those midlist authors...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Enabled Comment Settings.

My apologies-- I didn't realize that the default setting for comments was restricted to ebloggers only. I've altered it to word verification so any one can tell me what an artistic hack I am, like some curious 'nitwit' felt the burning need to do some weeks ago. Better yet, you could always say something nice. :)

I'm in London visiting my aunt after a long weekend in Paris. Still blurting out short phrases in French. Will be home on Friday. A bientot!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ebay: Where the Dumb People Breed.

On a completely different subject...

Running an eBay store, even a small, part-time one that doesn't make much money, is a great way to have a garage sale year-round. I've managed to sell things that I would have otherwise thrown away, such as old college magazines, a very used Power Rangers blanket, and spare electronic parts that I found while cleaning for dorm crew. It's an invaluable business tool and a nice supplemental income for many people.

However, it can also be a big hassle when people are stupid.

I'm not saying that my customers are stupid; in fact, I get a lot of intelligent, kind and friendly clientele because of the stuff I list on the site. Yes, it's a given that there are millions of people on eBay and that a few of them will be a couple of fuses short of a circuit box. No one can avoid that. What should be avoidable is the massive influx of questions from people who obviously haven't even read the listing of the item that they're writing me about and who will probably not buy the item in question. It's one thing to be German and not have a perfect grasp of English; that disadvantage might make you ask repeat questions that have already been addressed (I'm not sure as to how my answers will be of any help to such a person, since I can't translate them into German, but that's okay).

Just for clarification, the good questions are AWESOME to get. I learn what I've been leaving out of item descriptions, what customers look for that I haven't even *considered* yet, etc. The bad questions are, not in any particular order:

--"What's the shipping cost to _____?"

Keep in mind that I have a shipping calculator for every item ON THE LISTING page and a link to it from the top of the listing as well. I will click the same button to calculate for the customer as he could have done himself, and I will get the same answer (unless I make a mistake in entering the ZIP code). I show people exactly what they will pay beyond the actual price, something many, many smaller merchants do not do for whatever reason until they send their invoices. The shipping cost will not 'magically deflate' if I calculate it for someone. ;)

--"I have __ episodes from the TV show ______. Can I trade them for _______?"

This when I have a crystal-clear FAQ at the top of the listing that says am not willing to trade stuff listed unless they're from one particular show. One. Show. I got one of these this morning, one day AFTER putting up the FAQ on this particular listing.

I used to assume that people would read the posted comments in the "Answered Questions" section at the bottom of every listing. I really did. I made my answers public so that the next person wouldn't need to ask the same question. Didn't help at all. In fact, it only made the problem worse. I started getting emails instead, in all caps, sans punctuation: HI INOTICE U R SELLING THAT DVD HERES MY LIST OF STUF 4 TRAD GET BACK 2 ME SOON K THANKS --SK8TRDOM

These were usually followed by a long list of movies and shows that I don't want or need, and even if I did, said person would be the last seller from whom I would buy them.

--"Hi! I see you sell lots of old Barbie clothes and shoes. I have a blonde bendable doll who is not a Barbie (skepticism starts here) with a stamp on her butt that says she is from [insert unknown manufacturer, usually Taiwanese]. She is about [insert height] tall and has a molded body and blinkable eyes. I have tried looking online everywhere (no, she hasn't) with no luck. This doll is unique because [it turns green after leaving it in a metal box for ten years / comes apart / smells like candles / has a beauty spot / used to talk / fits into Ken's outfits / ...]. I was wondering if you could identify it for me (without a picture) and tell me more about it (in other words, write my listing for me) and how much it is worth (so I can make money without doing any of the work). It's a very special doll to me (I stole it from my sister, who got from my aunt, so it MUST be valuable 'cause it's old!). Write back ASAP."

--"I live in the UK but I'm in Italy right now. I was cleaning out my grandmother's closet, and I have a box of old Barbie stuff. Do you want it?" (no pictures, conditon, asking price or description provided, and when you request these, you don't hear back)

--"I want the lawn chair from you Star Traveler set. I know you say on the listing that you'll only sell them as a set, but could I buy just the chair anyway?"

--"Hello. I'm a fan of Lancelot & Guinevere items, so I have those keywords on my favorite search listing. Now I'm getting email notices every time you list something because your store's name is Lance & Gwen. I know you've been in business for a while, but my inbox is filling up and I don't know how to stop it (you mean do something about it, as in, oh, I don't know, -changing- your search criteria in your account? *sarcasm*) Would you please switch your store name. Thank you."

CLO update and trip to Europe

So, the four show I will be working on as the assistant to the director ( four separate directors) are:

Disney's Beauty & The Beast
42nd Street
7 Brides For 7 Brothers

I know one of these very very well, and I'm familiar with the soundtrack to the Disney production (or at least part of it, as in "Home"). The CLO is actually producing Bombay Dreams and Spamalot later in the summer, but those are travelling Broadway shows and so we don't get to work with them. I just hope I can score some discount tickets if I'm not sick of the building by then. ;)

So much responsibility. I am *so* freaking out right now (can you hear my teenage 90210 impression?). On the other hand, the film director of The Last Samurai visited Harvard a couple o years ago to show the first premiere of his film, and he said that he started as a director of stage plays in the HRDC anyway, which is pretty much what I would be doing if I could afford the last year of college. There is definitely a tie-in here to exploit, even if we're not talking Chekov, Pinter, Miller or Inge. By exploit, I mean use to the advantage of my performing arts career, of course.

I leave for Paris and London on Wednesday, and I wish I were more prepared and rehearsed in my French. I would have liked to have spending money, fluent conversational skills, and a healthier, thinner body before seeing Paris for the first time, but we can barely afford this little luxury as it is, and I'm only going because my relatives live overseas and my grandmother is very old. Narcolepsy makes active vacations pointless, so I haven't had a true vacation in at least a year. Plus, I normally go the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade in CA in July, and now I won't be able to see my friends in California, so I might as well enjoy something else out of town, right? Must pack. But what?

Change of Plans.

For some reason, half of my readers like blogger over livejournal, so I guess that means I'll update here, too. The link to my livejournal, which will have the same content, mind you, is below. On with last week's news:

I'm the stage director's intern for Pittsburgh's Civic Light Opera this year! I am so excited and scared witless because I didn't think I'd get it. I know everyone says that, but I get passed up for jobs in the business all of the time, and I've had more experience backstage than onstage. They had it narrowed down to two people last week. By then I thought they had passed me over and I was applying for other jobs for the summer. Completely out of the blue. There's one downside (very little pay) that means I'll have to make supplemental income from the net, but I can't pass up the top position.
Holy crap, I'm terrified--I have to work for Broadway directors for four different shows. BUT STILL! EEEEEE!!!!! *bounces*

Monday, February 27, 2006

Okay, so I've switched over to livejournal, though I'm keeping this account open to comment on other blogs. The link to my journal is:


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ding dong, the witch is gone!

Larry Summers is quitting Harvard University at the end of the year.

More's the pity I wasn't there in Harvard Yard to see it firsthand (like I should have been for my senior year, but that's a story for another time). I was so happy when I heard that I bounced around the room during the newscast (no small feat in our cluttered home, I assure you). Hey, there have to be SOME things worth celebrating in these dark days, right? Right?

Summers sucked. I wish I could say it more scientifically and professionally, but I'm sure that somewhere, somehow, someone else already did.

Back in January 2005, George F. Will of the Washington Post wrote a misleading article praising Summers for fostering a sense of 'diversity' in opinions on campus. It was unusually tongue-in-cheek and sassy, so I replied in turn. ;) I don't have an electronic copy of his editorial, but I do have the reply that I sent to him:


It appears that many people are under the mistaken impression that Larry Summers, president of Harvard University, has endured aninquisition of intellectual scorn unparalleled since the days of the Salem Witch Trials. By using the word 'hysteric' to describe Prof. Nancy Hopkins and other outraged participants at the conference in question, detractors of the feminist movement hope to paint those offended by Summers' myopic framing of his puzzlement at the deficit of females with tenure at Harvard as mere left-wing reactionaries who seek to stifle dissent on an "ultra-liberal campus." Of course, the truth is far more complicated. I have little doubt that it was not the question itself that raised so much ire as the way in which Summers structured it — and as a former student at Harvard on Larry's proverbial clock, I can safely say that this fiasco is indicative of the underlying problems surrounding our president's tenuous relationship with his students. Perhaps Mr. Summers would have better served his attempt at drawing out a reaction from his colleagues if he had chosen his words more carefully: "Why do we currently enroll just as many women as men in our college and in many graduate schools but fail to hire a proportional amount of female professors?" Or perhaps, "Why does unequal treatment of boys and girls in adolescent education have such an impact on choice of careers in higher education?" Better still: "It boggles the mind that more women than men earn college degrees in the United States, yet the vast majority of all executive, managerial, tenured or otherwise top positions in all aspects of our society continue to be dominated bymales, despite marked decreases in this trend by countries far less industrialized than ours. Why is the American bureaucratic mindset mired in sexist hiring practices?"

It is all in how you phrase the question.

There is nothing wrong with debating the differences between male and female anatomy, physiology, or biological predispositions. Healthy debate is necessary for higher learning to progress and evolve. Mr. Summers, however, constructed his question to preempt any possibility that the lack of tenured women at Harvard is the fault of anyone but women themselves. America is making significant progress to close the gender gap and will continue to do so, as long as crimes like unequal wages for female managers inspire boycotts of corporations like Wal-Mart until the practices die out. In order for women to enter the corridors of power, unfortunately, the men who already occupy the space there will have to open the door for them. As it is painfully clear, the environment breeds the endgame.

Alas, this issue is not the only exercise in power that Summers has misused. This is not the first time Mr. Summers has stifled discussion in a brash attempt to provoke it. In the fall of 2001, I was privileged enough to enroll in Intro to African-American Studies, during which Prof. Cornell West taught an unprecedented 636 students in the basement of St. Paul's Church with his notoriously un-orthodox, bold, and interactive lecturing style. We broke fire regulations on campus with the crowds and had to transfer out of Harvard Yard in order to accommodate everyone; finding a seat was a biweekly, fearsome, and selfish battle. I learned more about philosophy, religious convergences, and racism than I had in all my previous years of education. I am someone siding with Summers would conclude that human nature has predisposed many of us to react better to one way of teaching and that, inevitably, on some intangible and minute physiological scale, certain types of teaching are bound to failure. Larry Summers certainly seemed to think so. In the guise of "returning intellectualism to its traditional roots," he criticized and denigrated West's teaching methods, and the ensuing war of words sent the professor in question and a second valued instructor in the AfAm Department packing off the Princeton. While I cannot deny that Cornell West is not always as receptive to criticism as perhaps he ought to be, Summers took West and his unconventional, innovative methods away from Harvard, denying many future students an experience that was, to me, one of few enlightening times that had the power to renew one's enthusiasm for learning and instill a sense of faith in higher education in those who may make the grade in typical lecture, take-notes-silently type courses but pass through them half asleep, their minds tuned out to the enthusiasm for—and profound meaning behind—the subjects that they study.

Then there was the ominous, blatantly partisan, and autocratic warning to the college community in the fall of 2002 that those students and professors who supported the petition for campus divestment from the Israeli economy because of the United States' continuing financial support of the military exacerbation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were being "anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent." If I recall correctly, the participants in the divestment campaign were concerned that our country has given more military aid to Israel than to any other country ever, save Iraq during the current war, which was not taken into account at the time. It was not a condemnation of Israelis in general, nor was it a protest of Israel's right to exist or the equal rights of Jewish people; it was a criticism of U.S. foreign aid that they believed was, in effect, escalating the violence in the Middle East. Since that speech, every single disagreement on the Harvard campus with Israel's current administration has met with accusations of anti-Semitism. I have born witness to numerous instances of this happening, including "witch hunts" against many progressive activists, and none of them predate Larry Summers' speech. As you can imagine, the campus political mood under our current leadership suffers from a plethora of maladies, not the least of which is a phobia of dissent. Talk about overreactions to imagined slights!

From my observations of Larry Summers, I can only conclude that he is as mired in an outdated system of thinking as he is in his beliefs concerning the values of a diverse education. He repeatedly falls into an "indignation industry" of his own making, and if that makes him a victim of an ideological crucible, so be it.

I guess it would have been suffice to say that the subject was 'tetchy,' huh? :D

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I knew the explosion of fandom would hit the publishing world...

...I just didn't expect the response to be so vitriolic.

I'm not a romance writer per se, but from an authorial standpoint, this negative reaction to one of the most basic (and largely unavoidable) cliches [why doesn't LJ let me use accents? Argh] in fantasy, especially YA fantasy, makes me twinge.

Yes, I am sure if I were an agent and had 7000 queries in my inbox, I would also reject all queries with the most common thread to save time. I think Kristin made a sound decision. People who can't even write well using someone else's world and plots aren't going to fare better when they have to invent their own. I'm sure that thousands upon thousands of fans of Tolkien, Rowling and Lewis think they can write well enough for publication when it simply isn't the case.

That being said, transporting teenagers into an alternate world through some kind of portal/device is one of the few ways authors can tie our reality with another. It's the reason why The Chronicles Of Narnia are so successful--the concept of escapism, the possibility of the unknown existing in sync with our world represents that cluster of grapes that hang just above our fingertips, tantalizingly out of reach. It encompasses much of science fiction as well.

One ubiquitous similarity between various plots with portals is the problem of the two incongruous worlds merging in the future. The underlying threat that transcends the Harry Potter books isn't merely the evil ambitions of a singular power; it's the foreseeable calamity that would arise from the 'normal' world were it to become cognizant of the hidden one. What would it take to convince an outsider to believe? What might happen if the common inhabitants of one world decided to finally throw caution to the wind and wreak havoc on the other world? How would the control of politics work if each side publicly ignores and/or conceals the existence of an alternate life?

Another addition that alternate realities make to YA fantasies is the inclusion of the familiar struggles of adolescence. I think this is perhaps the most vital aspect of YA fantasy (and YA lit in general): how teens struggle with everyday concerns on top of the mess in which they've landed themselves. I know some might say that I' missing the point of Ya literature, because all of certainly doesn't need to be about teenagers, but I know that if I'm going to choose between a YA version of historical fiction and an adult version, the YA version had damn well better have characters near my age in it. Mary Sues, especially Mary Sues in fan fiction, survive and thrive because there is a market for 'ordinary teen falls through portal into vast, dangerous, unknown land and now has incredible obligations.' As for how many writers can flesh out this idea and do it well, I doubt the number is large, but I certainly don't believe it is zero, either.

Thus we come round to the central foundation of storytelling, a fact that both assists and inhibits the creative process -- that cliches are cliches not because no good writer ever uses them, but because they work.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Butt In Chair

Well, I did manage to break 1,400 words today. I wrote half of a short story and another page or two on a novel. Yeay me!

It was difficult to acknowledge that writer's block doesn't really exist, but I think I've finally slapped myself hard enough now that I actually get it.

Crap. Sleep attack. Well, it is late, but I woke up late today, so I shouldn't be tired until...argh...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Plodding Along & Pat Walsh

It's slow going for my novel on narcolepsy, but I'm going to finish. I decided to shelve Bad Apples for a later date, as I don't want it to be the first book I submit to publishers and I'm not as excited about it as I should be.

My current project is a fictionalized (openly--I'm looking at YOU, Frey!) semi-autobiographical account in 1st person past. I tried writing it as 3rd limited, but the POV stilted my progress and obstructed my authentic voice, the voice that I want to tell this story.

Julie Worth at AbsoluteWrite posted a review of Pat Walsh's 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published & 14 Reasons Why It Just Might. Granting the endless title, I have to disagree with her opinion of it.

It must be personal taste that turns some of Walsh's readers off, because I thought it was a fantastic book for writers who've written something but who have yet to publish it, and perhaps it's a great read for those who haven't finished their first book as well. Contrary to finding his voice patronizing and superior, I found him self-effacing and humorous. Never underestimate the extent of an artist's potential reaction to his/her prospective middleman telling it to them like it is.

Pat Walsh doesn't sugarcoat it. At all. I LIKE brutal honesty. Time and time again, professionals in the publishing industry and authorial heivyweights have emphasized that the toughest criticism to stomach is often the most useful, and that's what 78 & 14 is: straight-forward, blunt discouragement to any wannabe who is writing for the wrong reasons, thinks s/he's hot shit when s/he's really lukewarm runs, and/or refuses to live in a state of mind we like to call Reality.

Maybe it's because I've already endured having some of the brightest minds of my generation call a lot of my work crap, or maybe it's because the past five years have been, more or less, a living nightmare for me that his words don't devastate me emotionally. I certainly didn't grow up with alligoator skin, and I definitely don't enjoy criticism of my strongest talent. But while several of Walsh's points hit home, I took them in stride like he intended, and I think (hope) that critics of his style will go back and reread the parts that were the hardest for them to take personally. That's the way we improve as writers.

Success as a writer depends not only on one's understanding the many facets of the creative rocess and perfecting them but also on the recognition that there are two faces of writing: artistic creation and the business model that sustains publication. The creative aspect of writing has no real stopping point, because one constantly edits and revises throughout the journey to publication. There is, however, a definite point when the business aspect kicks into gear, and many writers seem to forget that.

Which leads nicely into my upcoming post...

Monday, January 09, 2006

I'm sure those of you who keep up with oddball news have heard by now that James Frey, bestselling author of A Million Little Pieces, is a liar and a charlatan.

This snotty little falsehood is offensive to me in several ways, the most obvious being that HE LIED ABOUT HIS LIFE AND MADE MILLIONS. The other, not-so-obvious ways have more to do with the manner in which he approached the publishing industry and what it means for the rest of us.

Apparently, Frey tried (and failed) to sell his book as fiction in the beginning, with the promise of a better shot at selling AMLP as a memoir tha as a novel. This defies rational thinking for those of us on the outside looking in on an agent's world. It's supposed to be harder to sell nonfiction without an extremely marketable platform than to sell one's first novel, yet here we have someone higher up the food chain instructing Frey to do just that--attempt the nearly impossible. It must have worked for him to be doing so well, but realistically speaking, what are the odds? Especially if he had truly cut out ALL of the fabrications and embellishments and attempted to shovel his mediocre life at the public?

This puts aside Frey's motivations for the moment, as what he did is despicable.

What will this mean for those of us who want to write fictionalized biographies? I think being a severely incapacitated narcoleptic at Harvard who lives in the incestuous world of student-directed theater and lands in jail for protesting at the Republican National Convention is exciting enough to warrant writing a novel, but should I scrap the idea of incorporating bits and pieces of it into a make-believe story and simply write an autobiography?

After this, I just don't know. I certainly don't want to write nonfiction honestly to the best of my ability and learn that every nonfiction author is now considered lying until proven truthful.

If Hollywood doesn't cancel his movie options, I'm going to scream.

Miss Snark has a fanlisting! Squeee.

I joined. :D

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Remarks I made on reading every day at the AW forum:

I don't think I've read a single book from cover to cover since early college. A lot of that is the narcolepsy, but it's partially a matter of impatience with my own writing. I pick up something and want to write about it before I've reached the end, or better yet, I want to rewrite the entire book! O.oMaybe it's a rebellion from those days in high school of never skipping ahead in a story or passing over the boring sections. I used to force myself to plod through them, and it drove me nuts. Now I can't seem to stay awake through a single chapter (again, mostly because of the sleeping disorder).That isn't to say I don't read volumes every day. I read countless magazines, newspapers, web pages and the like for at least three hours out of every twenty-four. That is how I excuse the lack of interest in finishing books.I don't think I'll ever be able to read another fiction book in its entirety until I finish one of my own. It's a self-imposed mental roadblock; sometimes I purposely skip several pages or a chapter so that I haven't really read the entire thing...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

It astounds me how pretentious some unpublished writers are. When I say unpublished, I mean "have not had any piece of work published professionally, including novels." I am not in that category because my work has appeared in publication, but at least I attempt to show some humility when asking for critiques. Yes, it's a natural response to get defensive about one's writing. Three paragraphs of back-at-you defenses, contrary to popular belief, does NOT make you a better writer. However, the internet's facilitation of instant posting and response provides remarkable insight into the mind of the average 'wannabe author.'

The typical critique at AbsoluteWrite goes something like this:

1. 'Author' (One should not employ this term here in the first place, as an author should be published, but I'm using it here for the sake of mental clarity) posts his novel exerpt. Author is most likely new with fewer than ten posts to his/her name.

2. Other writers review and critique said novel excerpt.

3. Author feels compelled to respond in order to protect his/her fragile ego and his baby (substitute 'work' for 'baby'). Author thanks critiquers for replying, then proceeds to explain in long-winded paragraphs too boring to even read why every suggestion the critiquers made is wrong, why they don't 'get it,' and something along the lines of "thanks but no thanks." Reply may include several plot points that author failed to point out in the piece that confused other writers instead of spending his/her time figuring out *why* audience was confused.

4. Harsher, more blunt critiquer comes along and says all of the above, and them some, in blunt layman's terms.

5. Shit ensues.

6. Author stomps off in a huff, determined to see the story through their way no matter what, taking nothing of consequence with him/her that might have resulted in a publishable manuscript.

7. Critiquers roll their eyes. They notice another newbie who has posted their work.

8. The circle of life continues.

I don't know if this is a syndrome that everyone has to grow out of or recognize and squelch within the bowels of his/her mind, but it sure seems contagious to me. No wonder editors and agents say that there are heaps of slush out there from crappy writers who think they have a masterpiece on their hands. Didn't any of these people have peers reviews of their essays in high school? Do they really think that the publishing industry is going to be NICER to them?

It's one thing to take all criticism with a grain of salt, especially on message boards where the reviews come from people about as successful as you are. It's quite another if several people in a row find your references so oblique as to frustrate all understanding of plot, your prose to be purple beyond and purply purplish prose ever written, your understanding of POV to rank at about the level of a sea slug, and your telling (vs showing) to recall trite, self-published reading 'booklets' from a second grade writing class.

If you have to explain all of the vital references, plot points and character flaws to your audience AFTER THE FACT, then it's time to rewrite. Drastically.

We all get defensive of our work. It's a natural response. But take a step back before you hit the keyboard and send a flaming rebuttal to someone's effort to evaluate your work. You wanted criticism. You wanted to make youir work better. You wanted to improve...right? There is always room for tightening and corrections; only you have the ability to recognize when to stop, and chances are that if you're uncertain enough about a piece as to plead for creative feedback, you have not reached that point.

Just food for thought.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Twenty-one days into this hellish nightmare known as NaNoWriMo, and the walls are seeping blood... #@&^$%*!!!


It's a slog from here on out. Extremely painful. One might even say excruciating. At least I haven't wasted a ton of time posting on my blog, right? Right. That's something.

I feel better already.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Day Five of NaNoWriMo. My arms are a bit sore, and I'm craving some exercise, some fresh fruit, maybe even some sunshine. Damn you, Mid-Atlantic drear. May your farms grow mold in their silos and your school boards join religious cults...oh, wait.

I have a story. I'm using the phase outline and marking each POV shift with a color change, since it's an ensemble piece. Works pretty well so far. Story's called Bad Apples. It's based on the premise that there is this uber-elitist private college operating out of Henrietta, Rochester, NY that caters to a lucky few hundred people. One guy is a cruel snob. Another guy comes along and follows it act while improving on it. Outcast girl loves/hates Guy 1. Guy 2 likes Outcast Girl, even though he can (and has) done every warm body in school by his second month there. Outcast Girl witnesses Guy 1 doing an evil deed against Guy 2. Guy 2 bribes Outcast Girl into having a date with him so that she can tell him whatever bad news she has. She does so. Guy 2 is furious at Guy 1 and sexually blackmails him with the promise of revealing incriminating evidence of Guy 1's crime that would get him expelled, and Guy 2 continues to date Outcast Girl.

Another guy, the Jock, is friends with Guy 1 but obviously not as smart, because he gets help on his homework when football practice gets too intense. He receives an anonymous blackmail notice as well: someone knows that he's a cheater. The Blackmailer (not to be confused with Guy 2, who is only manipulating Guy 1) make the Jock do humiliating and embarrassing things. Jock is furious, fingers the wrong guy--let's call him Shy Guy--and plays all kinds of vengeful tricks on him.

Meanwhile, Preppy Girl, Guy 1's only ex that he's ever befriended post-coitus, discovers that she isn't really happy with a shallow, drifting existence. She likes Jock at first, but he's too distracted to pay attention to her all of a sudden. Her friends (hereafter dubbed the Mean Girls) tease Outcast Girl mercilessly, because that's what Mean Girls do. Outcast Girl helps Mean Girl 2 home after Mean Girl 1 totally blew her off, and reppy Girl finds out and starts to think that maybe Outcast girl isn't so dorky. The Mean Girls start a feud with each other. Preppy Girl avoids them and meets Hottie in the city, but he's more into her ultra-feminine Best Friend from U of R. Preppy Girl resolves to mold herself into Best Friend and put her high-powered, liberated feminist side in check to impress him. (Always a bad idea.)

Guy 1 doesn't really understand why, but suddenly he feels less like mocking Outcast Girl like he used to constantly and more like shagging her. He finds out that Guy 2, in fact, is already shagging her. Guy 1 approaches Guy2 about this during one of their own 'sordid sessions' and Guy 2 makes a critical mistake. Guy 1 puts two and two together and realizes that Outcast Girl told Guy 2 what he did.

In a confounded rage, mixing his sense of betrayal with his jealous passion, Guy 1 rapes Outcast Girl--after hinting at what Guy 2 has been doing to him. Outcast girl has mental/emotional breakdown, but she runs to Guy 2 anyway without telling him what happened. Guy 2 is sorely tempted to beat Guy 1 one to a pulp but first convinces Outcast Girl to take a nap and then hopefully go to the hospital. She stays for a few hours in his room, half-clothed, bruised and crying.

At some point, one of his roommates misinterprets what he see there and starts telling other people that he thinks Guy 2 raped Outcast Girl.

Jock knows he's not having an effect on the Blackmailer, but he can't do the latest thing the Blackmailer wants him to do, either. He decides to outwit the Blackmailer into incriminating himself and simultaneously confesses, while the Blackmailer, who turns out to be the friends who had been doing his homework for him in the first place, ends up expelled for hacking into the college computers. Jock never tells Shy Guy that he was the one playing pranks on him.

Preppy Girl hears the rumors of Guy 2, and being a friend of Guy 1, believes Guy 2 must have done it. She discusses this and Shy Guy overhears her. She and Hottie started dating, but it turns out the person she's become is so far removed from her true self that she's worse than she was before. Jock points this out. As it happens, Hottie has been cheating on her with Best Friend anyway.

Unfortunately, Shy Guy's senior year has fallen apart because of Jock's misappropriated revenge, and hearing that Guy 2 has brutalized Outcast Girl, his secret crush, he stabs Guy 2 and leaves him to die.

Shy Guy hints to Guy1 at what he's done but never confesses.

For Guy 2's protection, the administration tells the campus that he died, and Outcast Girl totally loses it. She's done a rape kit but never informed the police that she wanted to press charges. Guy 1, both ashamed of his treatment of her and longing for her in spite of himself, uses her malleable state to convince her that Guy 2 really DID rape her.

Jock and Preppy Girl get together. The Mean Girls still aren't speaking to ach other. Outcast Girl is a shell of her former self, and Guy 1 takes her under his wing. Guy 2 vows to find Outcast Girl and explain everything.


Why is it that all of my plots, no matter how cheerful they were in the beginning, always end up stating "Why Bad Things Happen To Good People," or perhaps more accurately, "How Bad Things Happen To Good People." The why, apparently, is a mystery to me, too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I'm really not feeling artistically inclined or I would probably create another livejournal account. Anywhoo, I'm on my second day of NaNoWriMo, my phasing is dried up and nowhere near the quitting point, I'm over 4,000 words behind my daily requirement, and I have six and a half pages of my screenplay that I'm dying to add to my Final Draft file.