Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cries of 'religious freedom'

Front page headlines in today's Scranton Times read, "Crowd rallies for religious freedom." The article describes an event held in Scranton and 100 cities around the country yesterday, in which protesters voiced their objections to the federal requirement that all employers provide health insurance coverage, including birth control.

These folks object to the requirement, saying that religiously affiliated employers should be exempt based on their religious beliefs. They went on to say that use of tax dollars or insurance premiums to fund birth control forces people to pay for something that contradicts their beliefs.

Welcome to America, people. Where have you been?

As Americans, we believe it is fundamentally wrong for one group of people to dictate to another group. It's called supporting diversity, and yes, people who object to birth control must learn to tolerate and even support everyone else and their right to what's legally theirs. That's what we do.

The tax and insurance dollars paid by Jehovah's Witnesses fund blood transfusions, a procedure they object to on religious grounds. Tax dollars of people who object to the death penalty on religious grounds are used to fund the electric chair or lethal injections. Because those things are legal.

Here's my thought - If you object to something being legal, then work to change that. Don't whine that your rights are being violated because you're asked to pay your fair share of what citizens are legally entitled to receive.

Birth control is legal and your dollars fund it. Deal with it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Creative artists

Last weekend, with Addie tucked in a stroller, Katie and I met my sister Judy and her husband George
at the American Quilter's Society show in Lancaster, PA. Unlike me, Judy has a real talent for sewing, and she's been quilting for many years. As her skill grew with practice, her work was recognized in larger and more official venues. That she had two quilts accepted to this international show in Lancaster is an amazing honor.

I'd never been to a quilt show before, and honestly, the only quilts I've ever truly looked at are ones Judy made. So I was amazed by the vendors showing the latest and greatest wares - of course it's an industry Jeanne, there are people in the world who actually enjoy sewing - all the show's different quilt categories, styles, fabrics, techniques, etc. My knowledge on the world of quilting wouldn't fill a thimble. But I know creativity when I see it, and I know how creativity makes me feel - inspired, awestruck, wondering how someone came up with that fantastic idea/design/product. That's how I felt as I wandered through aisles of fabric images, some geometric, some abstract, some artistic and unusual, others traditional and classic.

While Judy and I stood admiring one of her quilts two women chatted nearby, pointing to her quilt and nodding approvingly. When one of them said, "I wonder how she made..." I interrupted them and introduced them to the quilter herself. How wonderful to see that awestruck expression on their faces, much like my own I'm sure. Better yet, I was able to see the ease with which Judy explained her technique, a creative artist in her element.

May we all be so blessed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Driving time

My job requires me to drive to multiple locations, so I spend many hours each week alone in my car. For years, I flipped radio stations, played Name That Tune (I always win when I'm alone,) played my CDs, or just listened to the silence. But honestly, it got boring.

Then I discovered audiobooks from my local library. Wow! Driving took on a whole new pleasure when I could look forward to finding out what my story-hero would do next. I easily doubled the number of books I read, catching up on many titles I didn't find time to read in print.

An unexpected perk of listening to books has been the way it's improved my writing. I can hear the whole story, paced as it's written on the page, without me rushing through descriptions to get to 'the good part.' I can hear the way the author reveals small bits of character through dialogue, the way an action scene is intensified by clipped sentences and powerful verbs, the pacing of the novel as a whole, etc. The words themselves run through my mind longer when I've heard them spoken, so the story and its characters stay with me longer, too.

Hearing stories read aloud has given my own writing more texture and depth. Before I resubmit to the editor and agent who requested edits, I plan to read my entire book into my digital voice recorder and play it back. I hope I don't cringe.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This blog post has no title.

Apparently, I stink at titles.
On my novel's journey from concept to final edits, I've given it about 10 different working titles. I've tried short titles "FOCUS," long titles "WHAT I SAW AND WHAT I DID ABOUT IT," and everything in between.

The most recent title, "THE LAST PINKY TOE PROMISE," went right out the window with my latest edits. Both the agent and editor who generously shared their insights questioned some specifics of Sophie's avoidance of the truth, including her technique to 'make' promises null and void by crossing her pinky toe inside her shoe. I cut that piece, and the story truly does read cleaner and more focused without it. Too bad; the title was memorable and certainly unique.

So this morning in the shower, I brainstormed for a title. No soap. [insert groan here] Later, I took some sage advice from the Write and Publish Fiction website. I wrote a brief summary and then listed all the nouns and all the verbs. Then I created lots of noun/verb combinations. The result?
I struck out again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Something just turned like, embarrassing

Somewhere in my many hours of self-editing and revision, I read about wordle. The designers call it a 'toy for generating word clouds' from text a user pastes in. Basically, the words are scrambled into a geometric pattern, and words used more frequently in the text appear larger than words used less often. It's a quick and easy way for a writer to check for overused words.

So I took my entire manuscript and pasted it in. Some words figured prominently, as expected: Sophie, photos, Papa, letters. But some seriously weak words were just as large: like, something, just, turned. How embarrassing.

Thank God for the 'find' function on Word, because I found over 100 repetitive, boring, and just plain awful uses of those words and changed most of them to stronger words. For some, I rewrote the whole sentence to avoid those flimsy words.
The result? The new wordle cloud shows predominantly characters' names, plus the words photos, camera, and eyes. That's better, much better.
I hope the ultimate result is an improved manuscript.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The muse speaks, I hope

Advice to writers is everywhere - in books, magazines, on the internet. It'd be easy to spend all my 'writing time' just reading blogs, taking courses, etc. but much of the advice is redundant. Leave it to Lin Oliver, the funny, energetic co-founder of SCBWI to put this at the top of her advice-to-writers list: Take lots of showers.

Lin's point is absolutely right. The muse, the inspired subconscious that tells the story, can't be forced. It speaks during routine tasks, showering yes, but also while chopping onions, driving, etc. It's important for me to remember that while I'm trying to work through revisions on my novel. I can't force the changes, they have to be unleashed from the place where my conscious efforts have tethered them.

Thanks to Bookshelf Muse for sharing Lin's list.

Now I'm gonna go take a shower.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grand prize winner

My friend Jalinn shared this video with me, and I want to share it with the world. It's the Grand Prize winner of a the Phillips "Tell it your way" competition. Requirements: the film could be no longer than three minutes, contain only 6 lines of narrative, and must tell a compelling story. The winner was "Porcelain Unicorn" from American director Keegan Wilcox.
We should all be such amazing storytellers. Enjoy.