Back to Business...and Shway Goodness!!

After a thrilling and dizzying week last week, I am back to business! I have spent the morning returning e-mails, chatting with my management, and doing some book keeping. Over the weekend I cleaned out all my closets, and my drawers, all in preparation for de-cluttering my brain, so that I can tackle two huge writing courses that I am doing at UCLA. It is important for me to clear out clutter both physical and mental in order to make room for new ideas to grow and bloom.

And sometimes that requires the help of a professional like my friend Ariel a.k.a. "The Feng Shui Guy". I have raved about Ariel's skills in the past and I continue to do so. He is truly gifted at what he does and his sense of humor and shared passion for chocolate, cheese and wine, only make me love him more!

Ariel is now offering an amazing summer promotion. http://summerpromo.thefengshuiguy.com/

And for those lucky enough to be in NYC this summer...

Check it out and pass it on!


Sweet Celebration!

Pink champagne for everyone!! I had myself a celebratory glass at lunch yesterday. Why? Well, I got my very first literary agent, and she is fabulous!! From now on in, I shall refer to her as Fab Agent.

I have been looking for the perfect fit for me and my debut novel, and this week I found it. Fab Agent and Fab assistant loved my book, read it in two sittings, loved the characters, got the characters, had great insights, great comments, brilliant suggestions on how to go about getting this book published, were unbelievably patient with me and all my questions and made me feel like I could ask anything, no matter how uninformed, or obvious, and really proved to me that they are the agency for me.

I spent a long time on my first novel and I wanted to find someone who believed in it as much as I did. And I did. And they are fabulous! And I am over the moon. And tomorrow when my book club gathers, we will crack open this bottle of champagne and I will toast to my Fab Agent and her Fab Assistant and dream of the day when my book is being read in a book club.



Growing pains...

Instead of writing on Sunday, I spent the entire day, cleaning up our dirt pit of a backyard and transforming it into a place where we will want to hang out. Now as we are a rental and our landlords wouldn't pay for, or allow any major landscaping, we have gotten creative with potted plants, hanging candles, colorful chairs, bright umbrellas, patio stones; all things that can be up and moved without disturbing the original lack of landscaping. It was a hot day and it was sweaty dirty work, but it felt great to be outside of my head and doing something physical.

After thinking so much about my novel, I didn't want to think anymore, and yet as I planted this little herb garden, my mind couldn't help but see the similarities between the days activities and my time behind my desk. I was planting. I was sowing the earth, and putting in seeds, watering them, and waiting for them to grow. I knew, like my novel it would take time, and it has. I started working on our backyard months ago, and little by little I have seen the transformation, and just this morning I hung outside and had breakfast and chatted with my neighbor about...my novel.

That's the thing about writing, it is always happening, whether we think it is or isn't. Out walking, or at an audition, or cooking, or visiting with friends; those little seeds that we planted are growing, one by one into beautiful pages, until eventually they have grown into a book.


Tickled pink...and Father's Day!

It's Friday and I am indeed tickled pink! Pink as these gorgeous flowers that arrived on my doorstep last week from my mom.

I have been thinking a lot about the mother/daughter relationship, as it is a focal point of my new novel and I gotta say that I am so lucky that I don't have the kind of relationship that my protagonist has with her mother! I have such creative license in this area, and whenever I think to myself, oh no, that is too horrible, I hear a real life horror story from someone about a relationship with their parents. I am lucky in this regard. I adore my parents and they assure me that the feeling is mutual.

And as this weekend is Fathers Day, I'd like to give a shout out to my amazing Dad, who has not only supported my writing, but has always truly believed it is where my talent lies. Can you imagine, parents who encouraged my acting and writing as a profession? My protagonist should be so lucky. But she's not, and because I am, I get to make up all sorts of heart rendering terrible things for her to deal with, while happily looking at these gorgeous flowers! What fun!


Reading and writing...

I am reading a book for my new book club. I have actually never been a part of a book club, and am very excited about the process of getting together and finding out how the book was received by each of us. I am curious if people liked it, hated it and why they felt the way they did. I love the idea that perspective and personal experience so greatly affect the way that we respond to material, whether it is music, film, art, or literature.

I didn't really start reading until yesterday, and as I got half way through, around page 250, I was struck by how easy it is to read so quickly what would have taken a year or two of an authors life. My first novel is 315 pages, took me 3 1/2 years over all, 2 of the years I wrote regularly and constantly. But even what could take 2 years can be read in 2 days. Or if you are slower a month. I found this whole realization kind of disheartening and it made me want to really pay attention to the writer's words, not to skim when I was tired, but to rather take a break and come back to the pages when I was refreshed and could give them the attention that they warranted. I felt I owed it to the author, much like I owed it to a filmmaker who spends years making a film, or a an actor who spends months working on a play, my attention and respect for their efforts were due.

Art takes so long to create and can be gobbled up so quickly, our appetites for entertainment always growing and not easily satisfied. I decided I would take my time and savor reading the words of others as well as the process of writing them, as when the time comes, I don't want my reader to skim a single one.


The Moth...

Last night I went to a story telling event called The Moth. It works like this; the theme for the night is announced ahead of time on their website and people come with their stories crafted, put their name in a hat, and if the name gets chosen, then they get up in front of a packed house and speak for 5 minutes. Randomly selected judges from the audience score them, and the winner at the end of the night gets to compete in the grand slam event held once a year. The participants are judged by how well they tell their stories, (no notes, no stand-up routines) and how well they connect to the theme.
It is an entertaining and terrifying event watching people get up and reveal intimate details about themselves, some for the very first time in public.

And it is a great reminder that we all have so many stories in each of us, just waiting to be told.


A room with a view...

I can not write without a view. I have tried it and it simply doesn't work. I need to see beautiful things, I need to watch what's going on in the world outside, I like to see who's coming and going and I like to remind myself that there is a whole world outside of the one in my head. My protagonist just got a window into a whole new world that she know nothing about, one that is exclusive and secretive and has it's own set of rules. Right now the door has opened into this other room and she is deciding whether or not she should go in. I can't say I blame her, what lies beyond is nothing as beautiful as these Jacaranda's that I see outside my window.


Dream State writing...

The sky is a dark gray , the water is rising and the black waves are starting to swell. I notice that the water has almost reached the street and I turn around to the ocean to see a fleet of giant octopus, their bodies half out of the water, marching west.

I wake up, get my coffee and shuffle to the computer to start writing, and two hours later, I have two new pages, a new character, and I know what happens when my protagonist meets the man we have both been avoiding.

I am trying something new. I am trying to write from my dream state, before I log into the world and check e-mails and facebook, and read the news and think about exercise and the fact that I should clean the house and re-organize my closet and call so and so...and...and... The list of "should do's" is always long and only gets longer as the day goes on.

Writing from your Dream State is something that Robert Olen Butler recommend in his book on fiction called "From Where you Dream." It is a great book, and I am loving how he talks about the conscious and unconscious mind of the writer. Of course the conscious mind is the one that is full of lists of things to do, and criticisms to dole out when I actually start writing. It is incredibly strong and often not only overshadows but squashes the unconscious mind. My unconscious mind however, is capable of seeing a fleet of giant octopus, and not turning away in fear, but staring in awe as I run to the water and throw myself in, wrap my arms around the Octopus's giant head and let myself get pulled in and under, deep into the unknown, to see what else may be lurking there.


When the words won't come...

When the words won't come, I panic. I also rearrange my office, and when that doesn't work, I do it again. Alas, I am now back to my original lay out, and so far, I am liking it. I will do anything to try and stir up some creative goodness. I'll clean my desk, buy fresh flowers and dust my computer. I'll open the window in the hopes of clearing out the stale, and bringing in the fresh air! I will look at all my beautiful talismans, take a deep breath and then wait for the goodness that is a new idea to form in my brain and make it's way slowly to my fingers that are perched at the ready at the keyboard.

And then I will wait some more. This has been a week of waiting and trying and waiting and it is wearing on me. I have a new character to meet that is a real problem for my protagonist, and it seems that both of us, are avoiding meeting him. We are both waiting for the right time and place to make it happen. Waiting....

Alas, at least my office is clean.


Sweet Elixir...

I did it. I fell off the herbal tea wagon and right back into my espresso pot. As a friend of mine so hilariously noted, it was the right wagon to fall off. The herbal tea wagon only travels at about 5mph, whereas the coffee wagon go 55 mph in heartbeat. Luckily no one was hurt.

And I know all about the inevitable caffeine crash, but I will gladly endure it. One cup, some milk, and no sugar. One cup. Come on, life is too short and can be too hard and if I need a little boost in the morning to get me going, then so be it. Already I have blogged, queried, e-mailed and brainstormed on new work. This time yesterday, I think I had counted the leaves on the tree outside my window, but without actually counting, more like staring into space and drooling on myself. It was ugly. But it was just one day. And it was enough!

Time to go perform the scripts of the Young Storytellers Association. I can not wait to see what those brilliant little minds came up with this time!


Brain Drain....

I am trying to do a sugar cleanse, although why, now escapes me. It really escapes me...as in the thought enters my head and floats away into the ether and I am left staring off into space, wondering what it was that I was wondering. Ugh, I need caffeine.

Great friends of mine gave me a health consult with a nutritionist who looked at my diet and suggested, less caffeine, less leaning on the sugar, and less processed soy foods. We had been discussing my cholesterol, which is strangely high for a vegetarian, and which I have been working hard to lower naturally for months now. I was looking for ways to get more nutrients, more mental acuity and more energy out of my diet and he suggested that I first try and clean out for 3 months. I haggled him down to a month and then jacked up from my morning latte, I got him to concede that I do eat really well, and even a week of cleansing and some good supplements would make a big difference. A week. I could do a week, I told him. No problem.

Well...the real test will be, whether or not anything other than avoiding sugar and caffeine gets done this week. Maybe I need my little friends to help me create? What about all those great writers who lived in France like Hemingway and were 2/3 wine and cheese? Okay, I'm not Hemingway, but I am a fan of the grape, and all other fruits and sugar and coffee...and oh no, it's happening again. I might need to move to France.


Words from other writers...

This picture is from the famous bookstore in Paris where a lot of great writers works are kept. The place was packed to the rafters with books from all over the world and the store was crammed with people studying them.

As I have stated before, I am a big fan of studying and workshopping. I think it is important no matter how well established you are in your field to keep learning, to keep finding new ways of seeing the work, to expose oneself to fresh ideas and for me personally to be accountable to this new community that I have committed myself to for the length of the course.

This week marks the end of a course I have been taking at UCLA with Robert Eversz. Robert is a fantastic teacher and the author of the NINA ZERO series. He has an amazing eye, gives excellent specific notes, identifies problems and helps one find the answers. He is a demanding teacher and twice during this course I had to hand in 30 page submissions. There were lectures to read and articles to discuss and everybody was so interesting and motivated and I saw peoples works grow leaps and bounds during this course. I myself made many changes to my work, solved a lot of problems I was having and am fairly confident that I have enough in my story to see me through the next 200 pages. Fairly confident. I have a long way to go still.

But one of the best things that I got from this course and every course that I have taken at UCLA is the insight into how other writers write. Still defining my own methods of writing and on more days than I care to admit, defending them to myself, it is wonderful to learn how someone else goes about extracting thoughts from their brain and putting them on the page.

This week we read an article about writing from the writer Walter Mosley. He describes the ideas that come to writers like smoke, wisps of ideas, or words, or images that float around into the ether that we try to harness and grab and form and get on the page, nebulous and fleeting. I absolutely agree. I often say that writing to me is like pulling cotton balls from my brain and trying to untangle them into thread that I can then organize and unspool and weave into something tangible. Walter Mosley believes that the only way to achieve this is to write everyday, no matter how long, or how many words, it is the daily practice that keeps that smoke swirling that cotton twirling and the only way catch the muse. And I believe him.

UCLA will be starting their summer session soon. Check out UCLA extension.com for incredible classes. Who knows, maybe I'll see you on line, and learn how you write!


Researching so much my brain hurts!

Time lines are tricky and you can not just make them up! Today I have been researching Africa in the 1940's and 1950's and Canada in the 1980's. I need to know about computers, and cell phones and government records and alliances and wars and who fought who for how long and why. It has been amazing, but my brain is definitely aching and after hours of research I still have to write 3 pages. I couldn't write anymore pages without some basic answers, which hopefully, now I have.

Did you know that the ol' world wibe web wasn't even widely available until long after 1989? Which means that my protagonist is going to have to do her research the plain old fashioned way; digging and driving and asking her questions in person. Poor protagonist. As for me, I never even had to leave my office!

Mmmmmm....that actually might not be a good thing.


The plot thickens...

I spent yesterday doing more mapping work and more plotting and I showed my work to a colleague who had this to say..."plotting is like chess, you can only ever see a few moves ahead."

Well I gotta tell ya, the light bulb went off! Of course, I can't know every single element of my novel, there are too many wonderful variables and considerations to take into account. Not to mention that one of my characters might surprise me, as has happened in the past. In fact, just the other day, a man from my protagonists past resurfaced and another might have even risen from the dead! And if I had chained myself to my plot points, I may have missed it.

So for the next few chapters I am only going to try and think a few moves ahead, and trust that when I make those moves, the next steps will be clear.
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