Friday, February 26, 2010

Spring Cleaning, Already

Sponges and cleaning supplies
Me: I have to tell you something.
Jennie: Ok.
Me: It's mean.
(because I can be a really mean girl)
Jennie: Then don't say it.
(because she is a really wise girl)
Me: But it's fact, too!
Jennie: Don't say it.

This happened earlier today. I like saying mean things, because I am a mean girl (a lot). I don't like this about myself, but it's not like I do anything to change it. But luckily, I have a good friend who doesn't let this crap pass.
Also today, at work we had a big clean-up day. Everyone went through drawers, cupboards and cubicles we rarely visit, in an effort to throw out the things we don't use or need. It's kind of amazing to see what comes out. There were things in our area from 2003, which is strange because none of us were here in 2003. Plus, we just moved into this area about a year and half ago. In the meantime and mysteriously, that trash appeared.
So basically, all this to say: there are things in my own life that need to get cleaned up, like my "mean girl" attitude. What are some things you need to throw out of your life?

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Shift

Shift key
Last night's Bible study and yesterday's church sermon really tugged at my heart. Well... more than tugged. They ripped at it. This won't be easy, but I'm having to create and foster a shift in my attitude. I am a person who plans, who looks ahead eagerly and who waits with fervent hope. And that's not necessarily bad, but it's missing the point. If I'm always hoping for the future, then what is happening to my joy in the present? It's nonexistent.
So, while the destination (is there one? or would I always be looking ahead?) is certainly something to strive for, the journey is worth stopping, taking a breath and being joyful. Joyful in the moment. Honest joy. It won't be easy, but I'll find a way to do it. After all, Paul rejoiced while bound by chains in a jail cell. David praised God while hiding for his life in a cave for a decade.
Here's the shift in my perspective: find the joy in my present state and protect it, nourish it and bask in it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Be Still my beating heart.....

Late...but not TO LATE.

I have not read the book Dear John in quite a while, so when comparing the two I had forgotten a lot of the details in the book. I skimmed the book and was able to refresh my memory. I personally think the movie was better than the book.
The basic premise of the story is like all Nicholas Sparks novels. Man falls in love with woman, man/woman needs to overcome difficulty to be with the other and an overall sad ending (sometimes bittersweet, sometimes just plain sad).
This film was NO DIFFERENT. In Dear John, the main character falls in love with Savannah, a tender-hearted moral girl. They spend two amazing weeks together during John's military leave. At the end of the summer, Savannah must go back to school and John returns to his military assignment. The two promise to keep in touch and share everything with one another, but when September 11th occurs, John decides to re-enlist. Savannah makes the decision to break off the relationship and pursue one with a man who needs her more. When John's dad gets sick and passes away, John decides to visit Savannah. A heartbreaking interaction ensues leaving both individuals unsettled. Kudos to Richard Jenkins who played a fantastic role as John's Autistic father. He did a marvelous job. The endings are a little different. In the book, John and Savannah do not end up together. John commits a selfless act, helping Savannah's dying husband get treatment. The movie takes it one step farther (killing Savannah's husband) and suggests that the two end up together. However this is not a definite, it leaves the ending up to you ultimately.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting into the practice of practice

Studio shot
My writing teacher has us writing at least 1 hour per week, and really we should be writing 1 hour per day. So, while I'm not necessarily writing more, I'm thinking of writing all the time. So today, while I was thinking of writing, I had an epiphany, which let me in on my own little subconscious secret of why I don't write.
Being the neurotic girl I am, I keep several copies of my stuff in several places. Unfortunately, since I'm also super lazy, there tends to only be one updated copy somewhere. So, I'll have copies of my work on my home computer, on my flashdrive and on my work computer, but I'll only have the most up-to-date copy as an .odt file on my flashdrive. Don't ask me why this happens, but that is always the case. So when I want to work on my story at home, I'm inevitably out of luck because I only have Word at home.
I will sit down, pull out my flashdrive, start up my computer, open the folder and then BANG! Realization hits me: I can't work on my updated file. I either have to open a new word document and type away, transferring the copy later (this is bad, because I'm writing "blind" so I will get details wrong), or I can open an un-updated copy and try to work off of this (this is also bad, because then I have an un-updated file, with new stuff, that has a newer date attached to it... this will undoubtedly screw me up at some point in the future).
So, I was sitting here at work, pleased because I have 2 copies of the most up-to-date story on my flash drive. One is an .odt file and one is a .doc file, but they are the SAME, which is an achievement all on its own. And I thought, "I should really just go ahead and write."And this is where the epiphany struck like lightning: My next thought was, "I'm not going to write because I don't want to have to save the files again."
Oh, lazy, lazy Christy. This is why you're not writing? Get to it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Characters in Everyday Life

Nov. 26, 2009 - New York, New York, USA - SNOOPY BALLOON.AT MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE 11-26-09.PHOTOS BY - PHOTOS,INC©2009...K63610JBB. © Red Carpet Pictures
Okay, so while we didn't specifically talk about the Peanuts crew in my writing class this week, we did discuss characters (and these are some of my favorite characters). Characters in stories need to be believable, so the best way to develop characters is by keeping your eyes and ears open all day long. Taking snippets of everyday life and incorporating them into stories builds a base that people can relate to, and will make readers keep turning pages. This works for ALL characters. Even villains work best when there's some issue that helps the reader understand why they are the evil way they are. Sympathy (or empathy, or some kind of 'pathy) does wonders for character development.
So let's look at our Peanuts gang and see if we can find their flaws, their desires and all that good stuff that makes a character into a realistic person we can care about:
Charlie Brown: poor Charlie Brown! He is a normal kid, with a little sister and a dog. He wins spelling bees, but crumbles under pressure. He has a crush on the little red-headed girl. He is not so great at sports; in fact, kites and footballs seem to be going after him. Good grief! So what does he desire? Probably a normal dog, a normal sister, normal friends. A well-placed kick at that football. A nice day with a kite. A chat with the little red-headed girl.
Snoopy: well, he's a complex dog! He likes writing and imagining stories with him as the hero. He likes doing his own thing. He likes dancing. But... Snoopy has some family issues that come to light. He has some visits from long-lost brothers, but they never feel quite at home in Snoopy's little doghouse. This is a dog that yearns for adventure, but also for the stability of a family.
Linus: oh, little Linus is one of my favorites. So innocent and pure! So dependent on his blanket! Linus loves spending time with friends and he loves his security blanket. He is either unaware or just ambivalent to the affections of Sally. His desires are to write that perfect letter to Santa, tell the world the true meaning of Christmas and to see the Great Pumpkin!
Lucy: well, I guess if anyone's a villain in this list, it's Lucy. She's always the one pulling the football from Charlie Brown and overcharges (in my opinion) for her advice. But she's always around, so there's something about that group that keeps her there. Oh... I know. It's Schroeder, the man of Lucy's dreams and lover of classic music composers.
So, there we go. Even in the simplest of stories, the characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Each one has his or her own desire or obstacle to overcome.
Think about characters in your favorite stories: What drives them? What changes in them throughout the story? Why do you care about them, or hate them, or pity them?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dairy Free....WHAT DID I DO?

The past few months I have been having a lot of issues with my skin. When I went to the dermatologist her options were:
I am not a health freak, but I am really adamant about attempting to stay off as much medication as I humanly and possibly can. I see people who have medicine cups FULL of pills to take every day. I have heard of many cases in which the mixture of medicines have given Parkinson type affects. So...if I don't have to take medication, I really don't want to. This medication, in this case, would be for lack of a better term: Vanity. I just couldn't do it, so in boycotting my dermatologist and her "pill frenzy", I have decided to try a dairy-free diet in an attempt to coax my skin into submission.
By the way, THIS SUCKS. I started yesterday and it is hard. Basically I wanted a cheeseburger all day long. Part of me wants this NOT to work so I can have cheese again!
One thing that confuses me though is lactose-free vs. dairy-free. What is the difference?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Favorites List: Books

One of my writing exercises was to pick a book I love and tell, in one sentence, why I love it. I'm not going to lie, it was hard for me to think of a book. I like to read, and I tend to only finish books that I really love, so to choose a favorite is kind of like ... letting down those other books.
But I'll say this: Right now, my FAVORITE author is Markus Zusak. I first discovered him with the book The Messenger, or I Am The Messenger (depending on what country you're in). It's a tale of adventure in redemption for the main character who is an ordinary guy given extraordinary tasks. Through these tasks, he helps strangers, his friends, his family and finally himself. Zusak is an amazing writer. This book was funny and exciting, tense and thrilling. Also, how awesome is that book cover? My dream is to have a cover as cool as that for my novel.
THEN! Zusak wrote a beautiful, descriptive story about family and love and salvation in The Book Thief. The style is the same, but the stories are so different! The Book Thief focuses on an orphaned girl and the German family she is adopted by during the Holocaust. They end up hiding a Jewish young man in their basement. The friendship that develops between the little girl and this man is heartening, but that's not all that is amazing about this story. Just trust me and read it. Narrator is Death. Seriously. Read it.
Before these two amazing new favorites, Zusak wrote a few young adult books. I've only read one of them, but again - it's a completely different story, different time period, different place, but it's still amazing writing. I kind of can't get my head around it.
Anyway, read anything by Markus Zusak. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Snow and Ice and Sleet...OH MY

This past weekend was less than ideal in South Carolina. Freezing Rain, Snow, Icy road conditions. This put a damper on my weekend plans.
Because of the weather, the Boundaries Simulcast was cancelled. VERY DISAPPOINTING. They haven't rescheduled it, but I am hoping I still get a chance to see the simulcast. I think it would have been very informative.
Will keep you updated on the status.

ON A HAPPIER NOTE.....I get to see a sneak peek of Dear John tonight. VERY EXCITED!!
I will post a movie review tomorrow. Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Writing Class

I can't believe it, but I'm actually keeping on top of my New Year's resolutions, plentiful as they may be. Last night was my first Fiction Writing class, and it was ... intriguing. There are only eight of us in the class, and it will be interesting to see how everything unfolds. The professor already gave us some great tips on establishing a process and staying focused when we write.
He said that when we start studying characters, he'll take us to the mall to find "characters" but I gotta tell you, there are some characters in that room. We range in age from 16 to 50-ish, and it's a decent mix of men and women. There were some crazy conversations already in last night's class and I know it's just going to continue. Good fodder, definitely.
I'm hoping to produce a good short story by the end of this class, because in our final session we share some of our writing with everyone. This is a little stressful to me. But it's good to practice critiquing and that's the whole point of me taking this class - get more comfortable with my writing and improve. Looking forward to seeing what happens!