Friday, March 30, 2012

Fess Up Friday: I Like Sad Songs

I've been busy getting ready for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge starting Sunday so I was totally not planning on participating in any more blogfests until I stumbled across a post on Empty White Pages referring me to Spunk on a Stick's Sad Songs Blogfest where participating bloggers post their favorite sad songs. I confess, I like sad songs. For me, a true sad song isn't always about shouting out how miserable one is but it's a quiet recognition of suffering or loss. 

L. Diane Wolfe of Spunk on a Stick says: List the songs that move your spirit, cut deep into your soul, and threaten to break your heart. Some of the songs I'm sharing here are old school- I was more emo when I was younger. Get your hankies ready.

Song: Rue's Farewell, Composer: James Newton Howard
This was the song played when Rue died in The Hunger Games movie.

Song: I'm in Here by Sia
For anyone who has ever felt like they were locked inside their darkness...

Song: I'm Not That Girl from Wicked by Idina Menzel
The beauty of this song is that the unloved witch Elphaba is that girl. 

Song: Lately by Jodeci
Truly an oldie, but still a goodie.

Song: Don't Look Back in Anger by Oasis 

Song: Don't Cry by Guns N' Roses

Song: I Don’t Love You by My Chemical Romance        

Song: Silent Lucidity by Queensryche
Listen to this the next time you have insomnia.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cliche Love Triangles vs. Original Love Triangles

I was just commenting on a blog post  the other day that some readers are drawn to love triangles so they can put themselves in the shoes of the desired one. Today I'm brainstorming on a story that has to do with twisted love triangles of sorts. So that got me thinking about love triangles that I've seen in books, on TV, and in the movies. What makes a love triangle sizzle, and what makes a love triangle somewhat cliché?

Here's the formula for a cliche love triangle: Girl or boy is torn between two contenders. One would make the perfect polka dance partner, and the other is someone you'd go on a dangerous motorcycle ride with. Usually, the polka dancer is an open book while the motorcycle rider is more of the brooding type. Now I'm not dissing cliche love triangles- they do sell books and draw in audiences. 

Example: Back in the day, I was curious to know who Kelly from the original 90210 would pick- boy scout Brandon or living-on-the-edge Dylan. Hence, her infamous line, "I choose me!" Yeah, anyway.

So while predictable love triangles don't always turn me off (but they often do), I am more captivated by a love triangle with some depth, when there is something more to be unraveled and shown by all parties as the story plays out. Contenders shouldn't be typecast as the sweetheart or the rebel, but simply individuals with strengths and weaknesses. 

Example: Katniss-Gale-Peeta from THE HUNGER GAMES series depict an interesting love triangle. The characters are all complex in their own ways and I can't characterize one guy as being the polka dancer and the other as the motorcycle rider.

What else makes a love triangle interesting? Can you think of other love triangles in books, in TV, or movies? 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fess Up Friday: I'm Giddy Over The Hunger Games Movie

The Hunger Games movie opens in theaters today, and I'm dragging my husband with me to the theater tomorrow to see it.  I have been looking forward to this since... forever.

I was debating with myself as to whether I should attend tomorrow's showing in costume or gear, like I sometimes did for the Harry Potter movies, but I decided to pass. I don't have the time or resources to put together a "girl on fire" ensemble. 

So far, the movie reviews have been positive. But I need to see it for myself before I make any judgment.  I've seen lots of movies based on amazing books with great reviews only to be totally disappointed by the movie. 

Is anyone else planning to see The Hunger Games movie? If you've seen it, feel free to comment on what you thought of it!

Update: The movie lived up to its hype. By the time we got into the theater, all the seats in the main area were taken so my husband and I ended up in the seats in the rows up against the screen. So I sat with my neck titled back for over two hours. And yes, it was worth it.

The romantic in me will leave you with one of my favorite scenes in the movie, the one where Peeta confesses he has a crush on Katniss.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Author Interview with Adam Gidwitz

While I liked fairy tales as a little girl, as I grew into my ‘tween years, I became less interested in the the stock princes and princesses and their easy happily ever afters. In Adam Gidwitz’s A TALE DARK & GRIMM (Puffin), a collection of fairy tales for middle grade readers, the “happily ever after” for the complex Hansel and Gretel came with a hefty price. Only after much bloodshed, heartache, disappointment, and isolation did the two protagonists shed their innocence to become more adept at handling the challenges the world dealt them.  The darker nature of the stories allowed me, the adult reader, to interpret the well-told stories in more than one way. 

Adam Gidwitz was born in San Francisco and raised in Baltimore. On his web site bio, he writes that he spent his middle school years living in the principal’s office. He attended college in New York City to study English literature. A part-time teacher in Brooklyn, Adam had initially started A TALE DARK & GRIMM by sharing his adaptations of Grimm’s fairy tales with his students, and it just took off from there.

Do you have any childhood memories of growing up in Baltimore or even San Francisco you would like to share? Anything that could come out of a Grimm fairy tale?                          Oh, so many! Lord, my childhood was NOT like a Dickens novel, like other novelists. No, mine was a Grimm fairy tale. I had nose bleeds lot. So when I describe the color, smell, and taste of blood in A TALE DARK & GRIMM, it is from constant, intimate experience. I was constantly walking around with blood pouring down my face. I've never told anyone that before. Now I'm wondering if I should have.

How did you choose Hansel and Gretel to be the stars of your story?                                            Well, to be very honest, when I first started writing the book, they weren't in it at all. The kids were named Wolfgang and Eva. You can imagine how many kids would have read that book. But as I wrote the book, and as the theme of terrible parents started to take shape, I realized that who had more terrible parents than Hansel and Gretel? Their parents, after all, just ran out of cash, and so decided to abandon their children in the woods? That is a worse betrayal than any other in fairy tales, I think. So they became the perfect heroes for this book about the grimmest parents in the history of literature.

I like how your book shares lessons without being preachy, such as the warning of a predator’s charm or the threat of governing powers. (And correct me if these weren’t your intended lessons…hehe). Did you start with the lessons in mind first, or the stories?         
There are no morals in Grimm fairy tales. No one believes me when I say this, but I insist it. Rather, fairy tales tell a story that children recognize and can feel deep empathy with. When writing the chapter Brother and Sister, in which Hansel violates the rule of the forest, takes more than he needs, and consequently turns into a wild beast, I was not at all intending to write an environmental parable (though Greenpeace does deposit $5.15 in my bank account twice annually). Rather, I was trying to tell a story about a boy who had feelings and impulses that he could not control. There's no moral there--I'm not saying, "Control your impulses." I'm saying, "Have you ever felt this way? I have." In the end, the only lesson that fairy tales teach is, "Life will be painful. But you will triumph, somehow, someday."

What are some challenges of writing spinoffs or adaptations of well-known stories?                                                                                                          
You've got to write something worth writing. There are a lot of adaptations of fairy tales out there these days. Half of them are great, and the other half feel like the author (or screenwriter) just wanted an easily recognizable story to hook people. This second half doesn't really get fairy tales--what they're about, what they're style is. I don't like the name of fairy tales to be invoked in vain.

Was the present narrator of the story intended to soothe young readers or audiences, especially when the story took a bloody or violent turn? 
Sometimes soothe, sometimes frighten. When I first told a fairy tale to children, I interjected to explain, to calm when I thought the tension in the room was too strong and some little kid was going to burst into tears, and also to ramp up the tension when I could feel the kids starting to sit back in the chairs. The narrator is another way to reach out of the text and try to get the reader to feel what I'm going for in a given passage.

In your opinion, what elements of a story bring a fairy tale from picture book into middle grade and even young adult territory? That's a really good question. I'm not sure, but I have a few guesses. The most obvious is length. I really thought that this book would be a picture book when I first submitted Faithful Johannes to my agent. She hooked me up with the brilliant Julie Strauss Gabel, my editor at Penguin, who took one look at it and said, "Uh, no." First of all, it was too long, and no one wants to read a wordy picture book. They just don't inspire the way a text-restricted fairy tale does (and by "inspire" I mean "sell" of course). The other element that makes a fairy tale inappropriate for a picture book is the content, obviously. Not because five year olds can't take the real Grimm fairy tales-quite the contrary, five year olds need the real Grimm fairy tales the most-but because their parents can't.

Who were your favorite authors to read growing up?                                     
My favorite author is Roald Dahl. Was as a kid. Is now. His combination of hilarity and feeling and fright is what I aspire to. I wish, hope, dream, aspire, and doubt I will ever reach the level that Roald Dahl reached in his hilarious darkness. But I can keep trying, and I will.

Any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
IN A GLASS GRIMMLY. This August. If you thought my first book was inappropriate for children, you ain't seen nothin' yet... IN A GLASS GRIMMLY concerns a little boy named Jack and a little girl named Jill, who are sent on a quest to find the legendary Seeing Glass. If they find it, they will be rewarded with admiration and love. If they don't, they will die. I will tell you no more than that they do, indeed, die. Maybe. IN A GLASS GRIMMLY weaves together fairy tales from Grimm, Andersen, and the English tradition--and even some Mother Goose nursery rhymes to reconstruct the true story of those legendary hill-climbers. It is funny (I hope), scary (I'm certain), and bloody (of course). I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Does Being "Quiet" Make You a Better Writer?


J.K. Rowling, Barbara Walters, and George Orwell are just a few of the many famous introverts who have written books.

Growing up, I've sometimes found that those who don't know me well would describe me as being "quiet." People who know me a little better would say otherwise. I find that the label of being "quiet" can come with negative connotations. If you're "quiet," people might assume you are also  timid, anti-social, unconfident, slow, boring, or even untrustworthy. While I don't deny that I can be more introverted in certain environments, I don't feel the negative adjectives applied to "quiet" people apply to me, or even to most "quiet" people I know.

Notice how I'm writing "quiet" with quotation marks around the word? I'm doing this because I believe people who are "quiet" in one environment can be more vocally expressive in other environments. I don't know people who are "quiet" 100% of the time. Speaking for myself, I might be more mellow when  I'm making chit-chat with my child's pediatrician but when I am on the phone with my best friend, I blurt out whatever comes to me. 

I don't usually blurt out whatever comes to me when I'm in a roomful of strangers. So while I'm being "quiet" in a new environment, I might be taking mental notes as I listen, observe, and take in the scenery. In other words, being "quiet" allows me to do what good writers should do. 

So do "quiet" people make better writers because of their insights? Honestly, I can't say if being "quiet" necessarily makes me a better writer but when I am being "quiet" for writerly purposes, I find I can take in authentic streams of dialogue, pick up on the subtle nuances of others' behavior, and uncover below-the-surface dynamics among people's relationships. Not only do these skills help me in my writing,  they also sharpen my ability to understand and interpret what's going on in my environment. 

Do you think being "quiet" makes you a better writer?

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Won Some Awards!

Recently, I've been given some blogger awards by two fellow writers. I am honored to accept the The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award and The Versatile Blogger award from Akoss at Nye Louwon-My Spirit AND the Kreativ Blogger Award from Amber at amberafterglow. To claim the awards, I'm supposed to share seven interesting facts about myself. So here they are:

1. I love fruit salad. Anytime I'm at a party and there's fruit salad, you can bet I'd help myself to cup of it....or two.

2. When I was a child, I had on a funny wig and cape for Halloween one year. Not happy I still wouldn't know what  to respond if people asked what I was supposed to be, I took a big empty cereal box, stabbed some plastic knives into it, and called myself a cereal killer.

3. I can never answer a question about which three things I'd bring with me to a desert island because I'm rather high maintenance when it comes to travel. I'd often end up packing a bunch of things I never use or wear on my trips. And it's that one time when I don't pack something, like my bottle of echinacea or that cotton candy lip gloss with the glitter, that I end up needing it.

4. I can name all fifty states in the United States in alphabetical order and by memory.

5. The sound of silence irritates me while I'm at work. When things get too quiet, I want to yell, "Can someone turn it UP, sheesh!"  I do my best writing when there's music or light noise in the long as the "light noise" isn't a screaming child.

6. Unlike most people, I find gargoyles totally adorable. The way these creatures hunch over with their snarling expressions make me think they just need a pat on the head and a bowl of warm milk. One of my favorite things in my house is this heavy stone gargoyle the owner of an Italian restaurant once gave me.

7. I don't like clutter. But you'd never know that if you ever visited my work space at home.

I need to tag seven more bloggers. So the lucky seven I'm bestowing these three honors to are:

Charlotte at Charlotte Illustrations
Jennifer at Jennifer Baker-Henry
Honey at Stories to Share
Jon at
Mark at Aloha! Mark Koopmans says hi from HI
S.P. at S.P Bowers
Kevin at Graphophobia
To the folks I tagged, I look forward to reading seven fun facts about yourself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CNN article: Author Had Learned to Read in His 90s

I just stumbled across this article about a man named James Henry who didn't learn how to read or write until he was in his 90s. For most of his life, he hid his illiteracy from others.  One day, James' granddaughter read to him a story about a man who learned to read and write in his late 90s. Inspired by this story, James realized it wasn't too late for him to learn how to do those things.  Getting support from family members and a tutor, he learned to read and write. In fact, he ended up writing a book about his life. How cool is that.  

Click here to read about James Henry's journey, as told in his own words, from being illiterate to being an author. You can also check out the news clip below.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rachael Harrie's Second Campaigner Challenge (for the Fourth Campaign)

I'm back for Rachel Harrie's Second Campaigner Challenge of her Fourth Campaign. There are a number of ways a writer could enter this challenge and this is what I chose to do: Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts.  The dystopian theme reflects a genre I don't currently write in. Although the task I chose didn't come with a word count limit, I challenged myself further by making this five-sentence flash fiction piece 200 words.

You can read all the entries by clicking here. Feel free to “like” my story on Rachael’s Linky List- I am #35. 
Weeks after the nuclear thundershower of meteorites hit, Aiden and Evelyn cuddled beneath the remainder of the bridge, their backs against a column left standing, and they realized it wasn’t so bad having a gash on a leg and a torrent of muddy water rain down on one of their heads.

Thunder sounded in the black sky before signs came for the two sole survivors: lightning flashed, its design twisted like fluorescent wire so it looked like a star or cross, and then a seagull cawed three times, commanding new life. 
“I can’t imagine children surviving here,” Aiden said, holding Evelyn’s smooth hand as he surveyed the barren landscape, its greenery and livestock and people all gone.
“This morning, I dreamt of a boy with your eyes playing on a bridge overlooking clean water,” Evelyn whispered in his ear.
Fortunately, the two came from good gene pools so though he was a mathlete, and she, a star gymnast, their kisses easily escalated into the release of tension they kept bottled up inside since the day the first meteorite, resembling a frosted pear, plummeted from the sky onto their biology teacher’s spoon, his limbs and body bursting into smithereens seconds later.