Tania's Words

here is an empty shell- a resonant shadow- waiting

Archive for August, 2010

A new title and a small trip

This blog is long over due. Of course, I meant to blog. I promise, it’s not you, it’s me.

Thankfully, I am back! I am hopeful that in the coming week I’ll have more energy- lack of has been the culprit behind my blog absence.  I’ve only worked on the MS once this week as well. However, a visit with my endocrinologist yesterday led to an increase in my Synthroid dosage, as well as the promise that I should be a bit more energetic in a week or two. There is no explaining how tired I get when my thyroid levels are off.

In more exciting news, I may have found the title to my book! I know we all call it The Beach House, but that is and has always been a working title. A) I’ve hated it from the start and B) there are tons of books out there by that name already.  I am still deciding if I like the new title. An informal poll (I asked two girlfriends who have read the book), resulted in an even split. One liked it, the other didn’t get it. Still unsure, but on the right track. I can feel it!

Other happenings; Amie Borst is having another awesome contest! If you haven’t already been assaulted by my tweets, facebook updates, or general shenanigans, this is the scoop- multiple prizes, including books and Oreo cookies. But most importantly, I could win a first chapter critique and a query critique.  Heck to the ya peeps! As I’ve mentioned before, I love Amie’s blog, and recommend that you all add her to your blog rolls, follow her, general hero worship type stuff. If you haven’t listened to my advice (and really, why haven’t you? I give good advice. And I swear, those pants don’t make your ass look fat), then please do! Go on over, admire how awesome her blog is, and leave a comment (and maybe while you are there, you can mention that I sent you). Thanks!

Last in my list of news, tomorrow I am going up to the family cottage with hubby, sis-in-law, and my two adorable nieces! I am very excited. I foresee lots of sunshine, good food, and being slaughtered multiple times at phase ten.  There is no place like the cottage for a little rest, relaxation, and family game time. I am hoping to get some editing done, or at least read some more of East Of Eden, which I have been enjoying slowly for the past week or so. I’ve been so utterly exhausted, I don’t even want to read. This is rather drastic people; at least in my world.

Perhaps when I come back, I’ll even have something profound to share.  A few days at the cottage several years ago led me to write one of my favorite poems of all time. I feel very connected and in tune when I am there. It is quiet and peaceful, the air is still and filled with the sounds of the loons and trees.  Unplugged and focused on family and rest, fun and relaxation, everything has a sort of different perspective. We shall see what happens this time.

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Blogging and Social History

I’ve been steadily plugging away at the novel. I set a goal for myself of 5 pages per day. I might or might not get a Fail for that goal this week. Sunday I only got 3 pages done. I told myself to buck up, I’d just do seven on Monday. Or not. I think I got about 5 done yesterday.

Yes this blog will be a thrill a minute. Grab onto your seat reader.

Ok, so I didn’t really come here to blog about the snail pace at which I edit. My tweets, if they haven’t sent you into a coma of absolute boredom,  have been telling you this all week. I came for two reasons. First, to issue an apology, and second to share a really wonderful book I am reading with you.

Alright, let us start…with the apology. The other day, I read a great blog by Jodi Hedlund about maintaining a professional blog. After reading through this, and a few of her other blogs, I really got to thinking about my blog. What I am doing here, why I am doing it, what I hope to accomplish. In part, I blog because I always have. I journaled as a kid. When I went to college, I started LiveJournaling. After I left LiveJournal in 07, I maintained a daily blog on a website for people who were trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss.  Now the last was less a blog and more of a daily journal- not the most riveting, but at least it kept me writing.  I found, after a while, that I missed my Live Journal, but didn’t have the desire to resurrect it.  It felt more like a relic, an accounting of a different life, a different girl, in different times.  Since my Live Journal days, I’ve had a child. My father passed, and I started writing books. Big changes. I wanted a new direction.

Blogging  intended for just friends and family, a daily laundry list of activities and complaints,  joys and small triumphs,  is fine. I did it for years. That isn’t what I want here. I want something more polished. I want to have something to say,  a point to the story.  Now, I won’t claim that I always achieve this. Often, I don’t blog because I am afraid I have nothing of interest to say, nowhere to go, just useless words.  Long absences in blogging on my part have become nothing more than a symptom of self doubt and some honest lazyness. It is hard to start it back up when I’ve been gone for so long.

I do think though, that I have worried too much, and taken it too far. One thing I loved about my LiveJournal is that it was always me. Funny, quirky, angry; it was very true to who I am. Many times I find myself editing these tangents and moment of personality out of this blog because I am aiming for something more “professional”.  I’ve always envied Emily’s blogs, as they are always so well written, precise, and intelligent. But I am not Emily. I don’t write like her, and we have completely different styles. So why do I hold myself to this standard, and neuter my own voice?

Now, please don’t think that I said “professional” to disparage Ms. Hedlund’s blog. I didn’t. I really appreciated what she had to say. And with her words in mind, I went through all my old blogs here, and edited. Most horrifying were the spelling errors. Let’s not lie. I am the worst speller, ever. Honestly. Watch my tweets- about 25% of the time, I’ll spell writing, writting. I know that this is not right, but I do it anyway. I don’t spell check as thoroughly as I should. And even when I do, I miss things. Embarrassing? You bet. Fixable? Absolutely.

So, the apology. For subjecting you to poor spelling and grammar, I apologize.  And as for the rest? Well, let’s just say I will try to be myself a little more, and worry about everything else a little less.

Now, for the amazing book I am reading! Dan’s grandmother lent me a book, A Woman in Berlin. It is the anonymous memoir of a journalist living in Berlin as the city falls to the Russian Army.  Before you go out and buy it, a warning. This book is very hard to read. Her description of the war, conditions they were living with, the fear and confusion and lack of information – all of this is disturbing. Her portrayal of what it is like to be one of many women who is the victim of mass rape- haunting.  But throughout, her voice is constant. You read her, her personality and self, in every word and line of this book.  This book moved me in so many ways.  Her strength and will serve as a vivid and honest reminder that people can rise to the most difficult of challenges and overcome them.

As a piece of social history, this book is also an excellent reminder and lesson.  Most of us, thankfully, never have and never will have to live through war. Have to experience the uncertainty that comes from living in a city with no government to run it. No water, no electricity. Ration cards that are no longer good, no radio or newspaper to tell the news. We won’t have to sit in a basement each night as our home are bombed.  War is a concept that inspires fear, sympathy, patriotism. Yet, unless we are serving in the war, we don’t know. I personally think that it is important, to be reminded and taught, about what war is really like when you are living through it.

I have a vivid memory of reading Mrs. Dalloway and feeling the horror and fear that the war inspired in Woolf’s words.  Read the words of authors who lived during WWI and you’ll see how the war completely changed the way they viewed the world and themselves.  WWI is a history lesson to us, a distant memory, overshadowed by the atrocities committed during WWII.  But for those who lived through it, it was unspeakably life altering. The way that people understood the world and how they fit into it was destroyed, and there aren’t words enough to describe how frightening or disturbing that can be.  Do you remember how you felt the morning of 9/11? I do. I felt unreal, unsure of anything. I had never imagined anything so horrible happening so close to home. I remember walking to class (I was at Michigan State in ’01), feeling like a veil had been lifted abruptly from my eyes. As though suddenly I was seeing the world for the first time. A world that wasn’t nearly as secure or safe as I had thought.  A Woman in Berlin reminded me of this.  Then again, I am one of those people who think that if we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes.  This is why I think social history is important. Because war maps and ledgers have historical value, but as a people, we can only really relate to other people through their stories, their fears, their hopes.

I guess this is one reason I love blogging, and reading  blogs. I have always liked to know other people’s stories. What they were thinking and what they went through. While it may be presumptuous to call this little blog a piece of social  history, the truth is that we all are a part of that fabric. Which threads will fade? Only time will tell. All I know is that if mine doesn’t, I’d rather it be clean and not full of spelling errors. And that it might make someone laugh.

Wanna help?

I have recently discovered the amazing online writing community  through  my new BFF, twitter. I am now able to internet stalk agents, editors, writers, and writers in training without fear of restraining orders or neck injuries sustained hefting extra duty binoculars. God I love the internet.

Although I have no hope of winning, I did just join this contest. The winner gets a free query critique (I want, I want!), chocolate and a book! Wooot….

Want to help me? Go to this blog, by Annie Borst, and become a follower (be sure to comment and let her know I sent you!). Thanks, you are awesome reader (yeah, that was a joke! Ha ha!). Even if you don’t feel like helping me out (sheesh), still go check out her blog, not only is it pretty, it is practically covered in chocolate and a lot of fun to read!

Alas, I am off. I must edit at least five pages, which kind of makes me want to die. But October 1st looms large, and lets face it, I’m obviously in a sassy mood right now. Sassy + blogging has led to injury in the past. We’ll just leave it at that.

In which she’s embarassed that she writes Chick Lit.

The other day, I read an interesting article outlining the debate over the Chick Lit Label. While the article itself was interesting, the best part, in my humble opinion, were the comments by readers. After browsing through them all, I found that I agreed with some things, and that a whole lot of it made me feel defensive and insulted.

But maybe that is because I am writing a Chick Lit novel. At least I think it is. And I’m embarrassed to admit it.

And herein lies my problem with this label. Aside from the insulting name (I don’t call other women Chicks, and don’t want to be called one),  defining just what is or isn’t Chick Lit is rather murky. Some of the readers seemed to think bodice rippers fit the bill. Others commented that Chick Lit follows a fromula- 20 something woman living in New York who’s shopping/Diet Coke/ manwhore addiction leads her astray. But she’s really funny,  and has great shoes. Even more readers felt that Chick Lit consists of bad writing, written by women, for women (ouch). Light, fluffy, nonsense- all words I’ve seen ascribed to Chick Lit.

Well, the truth is that none of these describe my book. No bodices get ripped. My heroine lives in Michigan, doesn’t particularly care for shoes or shopping.  She’s not funny, at least not intentionally.  Is this book light, fluffy, mind numbing drivel? God, I really hope not.

This is the a struggle I’ve had since I began this book. I didn’t write the story with the intention of writing Chick Lit. I honestly just wanted to write a fiction book; and this happened to be the story that came out of me. I don’t mind that is is written by a woman (wouldn’t that be hilarious), for women.  And I can’t help if the closest genre I can find to fit it into is Chick Lit. I do, however, resent the idea because it is Chick Lit  it must be crap.

I’ll admit, I will read anything. I’ve been known to read the labels on bath products when bored enough. And I’ve read my share of terrible books, badly written or with just terrible plots, unlikeable characters. Books that make you cringe with embarrassment, or, very rarely (for me that is), put them down, unable to finish.

But in that little hodgepodge of reading licentiousness, there are some true gems. I might read a lot of Nora Roberts, and as yet, this hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for Steinbeck (let me just say that I’m not lumping her into the above mentioned group. I named her only because she was one of the names thrown out by a commenter in response to the article).  Am I aspiring to high fiction? No. Not because I wouldn’t love that- but it’s just not what came out. Do I think there are probably hundreds, thousands of better written, more beautifully executed books than mine? Of course.

Ok, lets take a little break so I can stop feeling defensive

The truth is, that I read  a lot of the authors named by the readers of this article. Weiner, Giffin, Weisberger– I’ve read and loved their books.  Even amongst those three, there are huge differences. Weiner’s books may be funny, but when I read  Certain Girls , I cried so hard, my  husband actually took it away from me. I would never call that book “light” or “fluffy”.

I resent the idea that just because something isn’t Hemingway, or Woolf, it must be rubbish; that it must contain juvenile or lazy writing, crappy story telling. I like to think of them as different. And maybe one is better than another, but at the end of the day, I bet you that Nora Roberts is laughing her way to the bank. Nora Roberts is hugely successful for a reason.  Easily accessible stories people can relate to, or want to relate too, that help us escape our own lives for just a bit aren’t a crime. I might have a personal book spectrum, a way that I internally evaluate the books that I read. While I might put Nora on one end, and Hemingway at the other, with some Weiner thrown in the middle, you won’t find me calling any of it crap. They all are serving a purpose and a function in a reading world.

Yeah, my book isn’t even in the same solar system as The God of Small Things.  Sometimes, you want to read something that beautifully written, that moving. But that book is also dark, at times painful, and in my case, life changing. But I can’t always take that. Sometimes, I just want a happy ending. I don’t mind putting a little more love and positivity into the world.

Maybe I just have a low tolerance for snobbery. Do I need to know that you are so much smarter than us peons who think that romance novels are enjoyable?  Than the thousands of women who laughed out loud when reading the Devil Wears Prada? I’ve never understood people who need to build themselves up by proving how much smarter they are, how much better or just more deserving.  I know I’m smart, I don’t need to prove it to anyone else to know it. It has never bothered me that there are plenty of people in the world, in my life, who are smarter.  Hence, I’ve never felt the need to join the elitist ranks of readers who will look at you with a knowing, mocking grin as you thumb your way through the newest Julie Garwood.

I don’t know if my book is funny, or fluffy, badly written, or just crap. It just is. It came out of me this way, and I would never, ever wish that it hadn’t.  It would have been nice to write the next great American novel. But writing something that may potentially bring a smile to another persons face, help them get through a rough time, or just give them a little vacation from the real world? Pretty awesome. And if it never does any of that for anyone else, at least it did for me.

Coming to grips with BoringLifeItis

Would this be an epic blog fail, or just a minor blog fail? I think I suffer from boringlifeitis. Which isn’t meant to imply that my life is actually boring. More, it is meant to imply that whenever I contemplate blogging again, I talk myself out of it, thinking I have nothing of interest to say.

Regardless, I think it is important to write, and write often.  I’ve been blogging for years (if you haven’t been, here is my old blog), and most of it has happened when absolutely nothing of vital interest was going on in my life.  And to be honest, I love my old blogs- I find them funny and insightful. Or, at least, an interesting chronicle of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and how I felt about things at various times in my life.

That sounded kind of self centered.  Oh well, I’ll go with it.

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