December 15, 2012

Writers Are An Eclectic Bunch

Go to any writers conference and you will see a true mix of humanity: from the high brow literary professor or businessman in a suit who has dreams of being the next best selling author; to a young adult male dressed up as Star Trek's Spock, who believes it is a clever gimmick to pitch his science fiction novel to every agent with an introduction of, "Live long and prosper". And of course, he too, has dreams of being the next best selling author.

Words Can Change You

I remember the first writers conference I went to. I didn't have any idea of what to expect. I had on my blue interview suit and pantyhose (which I frickin hate), packed my satchel with a leather binder and gold pen and went off with my little hopes and dreams.  

The conference was broken down into about four sessions where you went to a classroom in the building to learn about writing, marketing, agents, publishers. Topics like how to write your first novel, how to get the attention of an agent, the do's and don't of writing, etc. (I don't remember what they were actually called.)

I barely remember any of it. (I mean, I loved it and I learned a lot but I don't remember exactly what I learned that day.) But if you know me or you have been reading my blog, you know I DO notice the crazy stuff that happens or the strange people which may meander on by.

During one of the breaks, I went to the bookstore in the building and bought one of the book's written by a presenter at the conference. I was now in line for the author's signature. (The funny thing is, I had no idea who this presenter/author was but he was speaking at the conference so I thought, he had to be someone, right? Five years later and I don't think I opened the book, ever. I think it was a book on Vietnam or something.)

So I was in line and I kept hearing this thumpety thump thump behind me. I turn around and look down and this man is thumping his big white florescent tennis shoe against the floor, obviously impatient about the long line. I look up and smile, more of a gesture of please stop rather than a greeting, but I must have gotten the look wrong because it elicited a huge conversation, and to this day, I have no idea what the point of it was. The man behind me held up his self-published book with a black Labrador on the cover and said, "Do you want to buy a book about my dog." I was like oh man and being the nice person I am, I got sucked into a conversation which made no sense.

A few years ago, I went to another writers conference. I finally decided I was going to take a chance, put myself out there, and let an agent see the intro to Finding Hope. The problem is my beginning to Finding Hope was and still is the hardest part to get right. And even a non-writer knows, if the reader isn't interested in the first few pages, it's unlikely to be read. So I geared myself up.

The New York agent, we'll call him Mr. X, which was going to be holding the pitch sessions was someone I had been reading about for the past year in the writers magazines. (A pitch session is where you go in to a room where an agent is sitting usually at a table and you have about fifteen minutes to "pitch" your story. They read a few pages and tell you briefly, what they think.) My husband and I drove through the night so I could be at the conference the next morning. At 2:00 a.m. I was delivering my rehearsed lines of what my story was about to my sleep deprived driving husband.

At the conference the next day, I attended a few sessions about writing (like the other conference) and I went to the agent's room at the scheduled time I was given. I remember sitting outside of the room in a chair ready to hyperventilate. So when it's my turn I go into the room with the agent and I light up like a Christmas tree, I'm so excited. Mr. X was the star of the agent world to me. He was laid back, easy-going, professional, personable, a true book lover. And  . . . I looked like an obsessed fan.

I started rattling off about how great he is and everything I knew about him. (I knew a lot just because I have a great memory when it came to past articles about him.) He said, "You're not a stalker are you?"  Oh crap, I came back to reality, I just screwed up. I redeemed myself by saying something he laughed about but it was not the experience I had planned. (I think a crazed fan possessed my body like Annie Wilkes from the movie Misery, but surely that person who acted that way was not me.) 

He read my first few pages and he said, "You have the concept but it's not ready to be published yet." Somewhat positive, right? It left me paralyzed. Fear of failure, fear of success, or maybe still blown over that I met The God of Agents. (Okay, I have to stop that. I am not a stalker. I am not a stalker. :o)

What is this all for? What is the point? (I think I've lost it somewhere.) Oh yes, if you want to be a writer, go for it. I attend a writers group once a month and the teacher said that everything really is a story about people and we read fiction to find someone to relate to. It is true. We try to understand people and the world when we open a book; whether it is to learn something, feel better, or just to be entertained. It's all about understanding life and somehow, our place in it.

Or, if you don't think you are good enough to be a writer, or have the background I should say, think again. Here is an appropriate quote from one of my stories, The Writers Resort, when the main character (who believes she has it all together) attends the resort with other hopeful writers and tells the owner the residents are not exactly how she thought they would be.

"I just don't think these are the type of people I expected here. I thought real writers were professional and half-way normal. All I see here are people with problems."

"Imagine that, people writing because they have a problem with life," Mary Alice laughed. "Honey, you don't know the first thing about writers. Creativity and crazy go hand-in-hand. Welcome to the club."

So if you truly want to be a writer, I believe, you need a little bit of craziness in you. Because most writers don't exactly understand the world, but they want to. And they want to take you along with them.

After the last writers conference, I learned it takes all kinds of people to be writers. Some are very professional and seem to have it all together and others, are two steps away from crazy. And I guess I fit right in there due to my "I'm your biggest fan" episode with Mr. X, The God of Agents.  I walked away that day with my blue suit, leather binder, gold pen and God forsaken pantyhose knowing a writer doesn't have to be anyone but who they are because in their stories, they can only write about what is meaningful to them.

I also walked away with a book I'll never read about Vietnam but the good news is; I didn't walk away with a book about a guy's dog.

December 10, 2012

Here We Are

A few tidbits . . .

Yesterday morning, I decided to watch a movie on Syfy while I was giving the baby a bottle. It was called Transmorphers. No, not Transformers but Transmorphers! First, I should have known a knock-off of Transformers would not be good. A second clue. What good movie is on at 8:00 A.M. in the morning?

Next . . . A week or so ago, I was putting my 6 year-old daughter to bed. While I was in bed with her, we overheard my husband answer the phone. "Good evening, sir." Olivia says, "Is he speaking to the President?"

This week, I needed to get my license renewed because it is my birthday! Woo hoo. I received a paper telling me I needed to take a vision test. My husband looked on the site and said I needed to take a written test, he thinks. I started getting really nervous about a written test. I dislike the license bureau. For some reason, the place makes me nervous. (It may have to do with the fact that it took me 3 TIMES to pass my driver's test in high school. For the last test, the person took pity on me and let me drive in a nearby lumber yard without cars. And I passed!)

Anyway, I call the license bureau and the man tells me I don't have to take a written test. All of a sudden, I say Halleluiah! Without me realizing it came out of my mouth. I know the guy thought I was crazy. Then I went to the license bureau and took the vision test. The lady who was behind the counter doing the vision screening couldn't have been less enthused to be there. "Next," she said in a deep raspy voice similar to Roz, the slug-like administrative clerk on Monsters, Inc. "The vision test was so easy!" I started to tell her, "I can't believe I was worried about this test. I would have come here sooner if I . . ." She interrupted me and said, "Pay over there." She was the epitome of a bored state employee.

Anyway, I was quite happy the vision test was that easy. And thank goodness I didn't blurt out, "Halleluiah!" to that raspy lady. I can just imagine how well she would have liked me then.

December 5, 2012

The Movie: Life of Pi

(Spoiler alert, this talks about details of the movie. If you are planning to see it soon, you may not want to read it.)

I finally took my 6 year-old daughter to the movie. Perhaps, it was the wrong choice. The animals die.

I had read the book a long time ago and I had forgotten what exactly happened. I just remember it was an amazing book, one which only comes around probably once a year. It was a story where at the end you almost believe the events happen. For an author to make a reader question reality and believe in a story that rationally, they know can't happen, it means the author is a genius.

So I knew the ship was going to sink. I warned my daughter on the car ride over there. I told her it was done on a computer. It's not real. "I'll hold my hands over your ears for that part. I'll cover your eyes." In the movie, everything went according to plan. It worked. We got through the boat scene and I thought it is smooth sailing from here on out. (No pun intended.) 
And then . . . the animals got in the lifeboat. A zebra and an orangutan. With a tiger. With a hyena. Oh man, I said to myself. I finally remembered what happened in the book. And then she let out a huge cry.

I took her outside to the hallway and tried to convince her the animals weren't real. "They wouldn't put a real tiger in the boat with a boy, a zebra, and an orangutan. It's all done on a computer." She wasn't buying it. Those were animals and they were killed. I told her we could go home. (Leaving the theater after spending over $20 dollars on 3D movie tickets was not great but I was ready to leave if this is what she wanted.) She said she wanted to see the rest of the movie. I told her we can leave at any point, just tell me.

The killing was over by the time we got back to our seats. The only other bad part (which made me cry, too) was during the rain storm when the tiger almost drown in the boat. I kept whispering to her, "The tiger isn't going to die. The tiger isn't going to die."

In the end, it was not a good movie to take her to. She learned a lot of good lessons but those animals  . . .  Olivia said, "You know who I liked the most and wanted to live? The tiger." She is exactly like me. Always, rooting for the animal. The human, sure, it would be nice if he survived too. But if not, life goes on.

They said this book couldn't be made into a movie. But the movie was amazing. Ang Lee did a wonderful job directing the movie. I loved the ending, the whole point of it became clear. With God and with life, sometimes we need to believe in the better story even if we are unsure whether or not it is true.

A True Blessing - Yes, They Do Happen When you Are at Your Lowest

Chewie and Tigger

A Big Blob of 16 year-old Brotherly Love

Chewie, our 16 year-old cat, has been at the vet for the week because he has had a chronic ear infection for the past couple of years, about two times a year it rears its ugly head, we medicate it and it goes away and then eventually comes back. The problem is (and if you have a pet this might be good for you to know) when a person cleans the ear, they get the infection taken care of in the upper part of the ear. Vets know how to manipulate the Q-tip and medicine down further without puncturing anything. The ear canal is shaped like a L. It is very difficult to get to the root of the infection where the bottom of the L goes sideways.

Through the week, the vet himself took care of the infection because it is the worst he's ever seen, cleaning it and applying medicine. (We applied it for two weeks before but it just wasn't going away.) The vet said he got most of it but it still was present.

On Friday, he was going to put Chewie under with a light gas, not full blown anesthesia because of his age, and flush the ear or something with antibiotics to try and get it resolved once and for all. He said he would be okay, there is always a chance a pet may pass while under, but it was very unlikely.

He called Friday morning and said after they administered the gas Chewie's heart stopped beating!!! The vet was able to revive him but he said if anything happens in the future where he needs an operation Chewie wouldn't probably survive if he was put under anesthesia. Oh Lord, Oh Lord! Give a stiff drink and I don't really drink.

So here is an example of a blessing (Chewie didn't die) with a painful hardship (the way Daisy died). If you ever think EVERYTHING bad happens to you or why did some hardship happen to you and not to someone else, remember this is LIFE and one week it can be hard and painful and the next, you may receive something great. I'm going to have a heart attack by the time this is all through but I am so very THANKFUL he lived.

God bless you Chewie! You have always been a fighter.