Over Thanksgiving, we went to my husband’s aunt and uncle’s house for the big feast. We go every year, and even though the aunt and my mother-in-law are the only two children from their family, their posterity really is quite vast. This year there were 55 there, and two of the larger families were missing. Big families. It’s the joy.
Besides, the “pie count” was 36 this year. That’s 36 pies for 55 people. I don’t care if that’s a low ratio compared to years past. It’s still more than half a pie per person. (And if we subtracted the infants, it’d be even a better ratio.) Is it any wonder this is my favorite holiday?
Even beyond pie time, though, my favorite part of the day (maybe everyone’s) is singing time. In the late afternoon, my mother-in-law sits down at the piano. Cousin Sarah passes out binders of sheet music, and about 30 of the 55 sit on couches and the floor and sing songs about Christmas and the Savior and it’s all in shockingly good harmony (almost everyone there has been in one choir or other, and some have even pursued professional singing careers, so it’s not exactly shocking, I guess.) I’m an alto, hitting the right notes here and there, but just basking in the lovely sounds. This year two of my kids joined, pulled themselves away from the jumping castle and the TV. Son sang bass, daughter sang alto with me. Her favorite is “Do You Hear What I Hear.” Someone filmed “Candlelight Carol” this year. If I can figure out how to link it, I will. It’s a beautiful song.
The next night we had a sit-around discussion talking about what we’re thankful for. My mother-in-law said, “Music. It’s how I believe we’ve been able to raise good families who love the Lord.”
I hope next year more of my children will join the tradition. Meanwhile, I’m loving sitting at our own piano, in our own home, and singing while my oldest son plays the songs of the season.
It’s December now, so I guess I’ll just say Merry Christmas now to start the month off right. I say let’s get all this shopping done with asap so we can really enjoy the worship part of the joyous time of year.
Oh, rapture! I am so in love with the book I’m currently reading!
I think one of the best things in the world is to find a book I love so much I can’t wait to get back to it. The language, the characters, the growth that comes to them one by one as they face the situations the author creates for them…it all adds up to pure joy for me as a reader.
The book, I’m sure you’re now dying to know, is Mother Carey’s Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin (author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm). I don’t know if it’s even still in print. I’m listening to an audio recording of it via Librivox, (which is an amazing site, if you haven’t checked it out yet. Free books to download, read chapter by chapter by volunteer readers, of books from the public domain.) I plug it into my ears every morning as I go for a run (which I should term more of a “plod”)–and am rationing the story so I can make it last longer, by only listening while I’m out there in the dark and cold. This story makes the world warmer and brighter. So. Beautiful.
It’s the book upon which the Disney movie “Summer Magic” was based. You know the one–Haley Mills, Burl Ives, “The Yellow Peril.” The Ugly Bug Ball, anyone? Possibly the most delightful movie of all time, and the book? EVEN BETTER. The mother’s role in it is so lovely, so loving. It is making me want to be a better mother, and it’s just so full of wonderfulness.
Raptures. I will cease with them now, but if you are in need of more beauty and goodness and delight in your life, here’s one lovely way.
November. Where are all your writer friends? They’ve all suddenly gone stealth, AWOL, quiet.
My word count, as of November 20th: 30,210. Or so.
No time to blog. No time to clean my house. No time to make any more excuses. I’d better get back to that WIP. (When a NaNo comes along, you must whip it.)*
This is part one of a two-part post about storytelling.
Last month I had a really great opportunity to attend the Screenwriters World Conference West in L.A. in Century City. I cajoled my sister-in-law Julie into going with me at the last minute, and we polished our story pitches during the 9 hour drive through the desert. Part of the conference schedule was workshops, and the entire Saturday was something called “Pitchslam,” which was described in the registration literature as “speed dating, but with movie producers.”
Although I went with a lot of nervousness since I don’t know much, if anything, about the film industry, I was also frankly just excited to meet new people. I love it. And, luckily, so does Julie. We were a great duo and met scores of people. Super fun. She has a fabulous true-life story she’s worked into a screenplay, and I had my screen version of Big in Japan ready to foist upon the world.
Sometime I’ll blog about the variety of unexpected conversations I had with producers during Pitchslam, but today I was thinking about the keynote speech, which was given by Ed Saxon, who was one of the producers of Silence of the Lambs. At first I thought, “Ew. Yucky. I’ll work on my pitch during that,” because I am definitely not the audience for that movie.
However, his speech turned out to be the most surprising thing of the weekend, including the fact that he started with an invocation.
His points were:
It’s a wonderful time to be alive. Now is the greatest time in history to be a storyteller. There are more ways to get your story out to listeners/readers/viewers than ever before. It’s great to be an American because in America we have more opportunities to be storytellers than anywhere else in the world.
He quoted the Bible many times. He talked about his darling daughters. He was incredibly upbeat.
I, frankly, was astonished. And excited. He’s right. It’s a great time to be alive and to live in America and to have families and the Bible and be a storyteller. I couldn’t agree more.
So, I am working on a rewrite of my latest novel. I’m really excited about the concept, and I have a lot of fun scenes that I’ve already written and am trying to cobble together into a coherent tapestry of story. It’s going to be so fun!
But in the meantime, I’m really struggling at page 155. There’s a 27-page scene that I wrote in the first draft and really liked, but then cut out of the second and third draft, and now in the 4th, I’m seeing that it might work well after all.
So I put it in. And I edited the heck out of it so it would fit the ways my characters have evolved since that first NaNoWriMo draft months ago. It’s got some new, zippy dialogue I love, and I think the “scenery” is really fun.
However…now that it’s in there, I’m getting uneasy about it again. It’s a good scene. BUT, I fear the little jaunt the two main characters are on might be slowing the pace. It also might contain three major clues to the three major secrets the guy is hiding from the girl. And I don’t want to reveal those yet. I guess I could go through and pull them out again, but … is it worth it?
This scene. It’s bugging me. I want to love it where it is. I wish it could fit there.
But it doesn’t.
It’s kind of like gardening. There are sometimes volunteer wildflowers that come up in the spring in the gravel part of my yard and I end up having to pull them because, while they’re pretty and nice, they just simply don’t fit with the overall look I’m trying to present.
Ha. That’s kind of a disingenuous comparison. I’m a horrible yard tender. And when wildflowers spring up (in the extremely rare event of rain), I often just let them grow, relishing the sight of any plant that isn’t made mostly of thorns.
SO–I guess therein lies my dilemma. I am a wildflower “leaver,” not a wildflower “weeder.” I like wildflowers. I like fun scenes in my book even if they don’t exactly advance the plot in the perfect way.
It’s good to have a perfectly structured story, that moves and pulls the reader along. But then again, there are stories where the joy is really in the journey. Sometimes as a reader I don’t really care exactly where the tale is leading, it’s just the ride is so fun that I’m going to read it anyway.
I’m not saying I’m that kind of a writer. (I’d love to be.) The kind that a reader will just go lah-di-dah-ing along with the writing because it’s so well done, not caring where the plot goes. But this story I’m working on has so many fun nooks and alcoves it could take, I hate to have to cut any out.
So I’m cutting it. For now. But I’m not deleting it. (Never!) I’ll just hide it away in an archive pile (my friend calls her archive pile “the slag heap”) until I get all wishy washy about that scene again and can decide whether to put it back in again.
If a book were a DVD, I could put it in as a “bonus feature,” under “deleted scenes.” With digital books, why can’t we do that, anyway?
Whew. Rant complete. (Somebody please tell me what to do.)
At the Screenwriters World Conference this past weekend I attended a class by the amazing Corey Mandell on the art of crafting a good script. He talked mostly about the importance of “integrated writing,” which is his way of saying (in novelists’ lingo) that it’s better to be a combo of a “pantser” and a “planner” than to be one or the other.
What he says is that those who are just organic about things, letting the creativity and the mind flow, without rhyme or reason, really do come up with amazing concepts, and the ideas are fresh and delightful and have fun, unexpected twists. This is a good thing. However, it’s a bad thing too because sometimes it ends up being a pacing mess.
On the other hand, outliner types end up with tightly paced, exciting scripts that have great pacing, good story lines, and meet reader’s expectations. But that may not always be good either because there’s a tendency in those scripts (he finds) to have characters who are flat or plots that don’t have enough “life” or originality.
I’ve done both kinds of books, myself, so I can testify this is the case. So. What’s the solution?
I don’t know. A combo of both, I guess. He calls it “integrated” writing, where the writer uses both techniques to come up with the best of both worlds.
Anyway, what I’m working on right now, my WIP, is a complete and total mess. I wrote it by the seat of my pants, with only a strong concept I was working from, and hoping for the best as I rolled along. I knew there were problems with it. At one point I wrote myself into a corner, laughing out loud when the words, “she saw a motorcycle at the bottom of the bay” rolled off my fingers and onto my computer screen. It was tough, but I found a way out for my characters, but basically the whole manuscript is full of a lot of those, and there’s a sheer void when it comes to pacing.
So, now I have the challenge of going back in and adding a level of organization to the MS that hasn’t been there. I wrote an outline. I set up some rules for the “world” the characters are in. I made a list of all the characters, what they look like (their appearances even change throughout the draft, I’m sorry to say), and what their motivations are. There are several plot lines going at the same time, and I think I’ve got it all lined out to how it *should* be. Ha! Now, to wrangle it into submission.
However, part of me is sad about this. I mean, it’s all fine and good to have a story that makes sense. That’s what I want, naturally. But I’m worried that if I make too many changes, force it too much into submission, I’ll squeeze some of the life out of the story.
I don’t want that!
What I want is for a magical leprechaun to come along and wave a magical hand over it, let all the scenes float up into the air and settle in their proper order, so I can see which places need fleshing out. It’d also be quite nice if the plotlines going nowhere were highlighted in one color, and the plot discrepancies were highlighted in a different color, thank you very much.
What I came up with, during a moment of frustration when I decided to quit writing and just go curl my hair, was that today might be my organizing day. I could put all the desired scenes into the right order. Then tomorrow might be a creative day, where I write up a couple of the missing chapters that I simply know need to go in. I don’t feel like I can be both on the same day. It takes to much gear switching in my head.
Sigh. There’s a lot to think about as a writer. The last novel I wrenched out of my head and forced onto paper in August and September is probably a failure at this point, despite being a lot of fun at the outset, for a lot of these same reasons–an imbalance between planning and pantsing. It’ll be a while before that one sees the light of day again, but when it does, I’m sure I’ll be wishing for a magical leprechaun again. Until then, I am going to be working hard on that organic versus organized balance that seems to elude me so regularly around here.
I’d gladly take anyone’s advice on striking this balance. Please?
Ready for a fun guest post by my good friend and fellow author Lehua Parker? Well, she’s got a new book out, ONE SHARK, NO SWIM.
It’s a sequel to her completely fun ONE BOY, NO WATER, which I reviewed here when it came out last year. She’s on a roll. And lucky Lehua got to grow up in Hawaii. A couple of years ago, after a rough reelection campaign, I begged my husband to “take me away from it all,” and we threw caution to the wind and went to Hawaii. I’d never been, and I cannot believe how glorious it was. For months after going there, I’d wake up in the morning thinking, “How can I get back there?” So, I’ve asked Lehua to give us the lowdown on what it’s like to really be living there full time, like I dream of doing. Man, there couldn’t be a landscape more different from the one where I live now than Hawaii.
Take it away, Lehua!
Lucky You Live Hawaii
Ah, Hawaii. Everybody surfs. Beautiful girls in grass skirts smile as you pass by. Coconuts fall off trees and tumble into coolers where they sprout little paper umbrellas…
Paradise? You bet. There’s a reason locals say lucky you live Hawaii. However, most people experience Hawaii on vacation. Even a trip to Costco is exciting if you’re on vacation. Here are my four top myth-understandings about Hawaii.
If you put pineapple on it, it’s Hawaiian.
Nope. Pineapples originated in Brazil, not Polynesia. Pineapple on pizza? California, just like coconut bras, tiki bars, tiki torches, and fire-knife dancing. Grass skirts? Micronesia. Those super-fast hip shaking dance moves you see at hula shows? Tahiti. Ukuleles? Portugal. Flower leis? Technically from Spanish cowboys who took the original Hawaiian idea of green leaf garlands one step further and created showy love-tokens for their sweethearts and horses.
Sadly, much of what reminds people of Hawaii was invented by Hollywood and Trader Vic’s.
Hawaiian civic groups are understandably tired of I got lei’d in Hawaii shot glasses, tiki god ashtrays, and plastic placemats with nonsensical Your Hawaiian Name Here! translations. (One of my favorites: Katherine = Kakalina, which really means gasoline. Most don’t even make that much sense.) Fortunately, big grassroots campaigns are gaining momentum to set the record straight. Many hotels now have mandatory Hawaiian culture classes for their employees and hold free workshops for tourists—all in an effort to bring the real Hawaii back to the vacation experience. Which brings me to—
If you live in Hawaii, you’re Hawaiian.
Unlike New Yorker or Californian, Hawaiian refers to a Polynesian race. To be Hawaiian you have to have Hawaiian blood, meaning ancestors that were living in the islands prior to Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778. In Hawaii you’ll hear kama‘aina, meaning of the land, used to refer to Hawaii residents, but even this word isn’t quite right unless your family has deep roots here. Locals, islanders, or simply from Hawaii are all more accurate descriptions. Keep this in mind if you hear ex-pat islanders in Idaho call someone local. Hint: they aren’t saying he’s from Boise.
Oh, and Hawaii is the only state where everyone is a minority—no one race or nationality is anywhere close to 50% of the population. Most islanders are a mixture—having five or more nationalities isn’t uncommon. Speaking of nationalities—
You need a passport to visit Hawaii.
But only if you’re not a US citizen since Hawaii is the 50th State. That means it’s as much a part of the United States as Kansas, except it’s surrounded by ocean and separated from the American continent by a few thousand miles.
We speak English, use American money, have indoor plumbing, movie theaters, and yes, Costcos. You don’t need special vaccinations, water purification tablets, voltage adaptors, or snakebite anti-venom to visit. Pack lightly. If you do forget something and really need it, don’t worry; you can buy it here, even though most people think—
Going to Hawaii is like stepping back to a simpler time.
Because vacationers dream of Hawaii as an idyllic backwater paradise, it knocks people’s socks off to learn that by the mid-1800s Hawaii had the highest literacy rate in the world, the first newspapers west of the Rockies, and that Iolani Palace, the home of Hawaii’s monarchs, had telephones and electricity before the White House in Washington, DC.
It was good to be the King.
The city of Honolulu, which melts seamlessly into the tourist mecca of Waikiki, is the 10th largest city in the United States. On the isle of Oahu, Hawaii’s largest population center, islanders spend on average more than two hours a day in stop and go traffic, ranking Honolulu the third worse commute in North America, just behind Los Angeles and Vancouver.
You can imagine the shock this causes honeymooners from Nebraska who are expecting grass huts nestled near waterfalls.
The good news is if your perfect Hawaiian vacation depends on grass huts and waterfalls, we do have a few of those around. For around $130 tour buses will pick you up from your Waikiki hotel and take you to an authentic reenactment village. Just don’t expect the locals posing for your photos as you try your hand at pounding poi, weaving lauhala mats, or hula to actually live there. Most are islanders, not Hawaiians, and your once-in-a-lifetime Kodak moment is probably their second job after a two hour commute.
But they’ll try their darndest to make it special. We get the power of vacations, too.
Hurricanes, active volcanos, earthquakes, tsunamis, and traffic jams aside, we still think we’re lucky we live Hawaii.
Because we are.
Great stuff! Lehua’s point about needing a passport reminds me of when I heard a beauty pageant contestant answer the question of “Place You’d Most Like to Visit” with the response: “I’d like to go to Hawaii because I’ve never been outside the United States.” Ah, perfect. Reminds me of Super Daisy.
As you can see, this lady knows her island stuff. She’s woven it so authentically into her novels, which if you haven’t read them by now, are Middle Grade contemporary fantasies set in Hawaii, and are just great for boys because they center on a boy who finds out he’s different, not just because he’s allergic to water, but because he’s … something we should be afraid to go back in the water because of.
You’ll love them.
ONE SHARK, NO SWIM is available for order now online and will be in bookstores any second. Lehua also has a super informative blog about Hawaii and Hawaiian life and great tips on writing, etc. She’s great. Enjoy the books! And, seriously, let’s all go to Hawaii. Soon.
HERE’s A BUNCH OF COOL STUFF ABOUT LEHUA. KEEP READING!
Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. In addition to writing award-winning short fiction, poetry, and plays, she is the author of the Pacific literature MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga published by Jolly Fish Press. One Boy, No Water and One Shark, No Swim are available now. Book 3, One Fight, No Fist will be published in 2014.
So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.
Connect with Lehua Parker
Blog & Free Short Stories: http://www.lehuaparker.com/
All things Niuhi Shark Saga: http://www.niuhisharksaga.com/
One Boy, No Water
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One Shark, No Swim:
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Blurb for One Boy, No Water
11 year old Alexander Kaonakai Westin—Zader for short—is allergic to water. One drop on his skin sears like white-hot lava. Too bad a lifetime of carrying an umbrella and staying away from the beach isn’t the answer, especially when his popular almost twin brother Jay looks destined to become the next Hawaiian surfing sensation.
But avoiding water is just the tip of Zader’s troubles. Eating raw seafood and rare meat gives him strange dreams about a young girl in a red cape and nightmares about a man with too many teeth. There’s also the school bullies who want to make Zader their personal punching bag, the pressure of getting into Ridgemont Academy, and the mysterious yearly presents from his birth family that nobody talks about.
It’s enough to drive Zader crazy, especially when he suspects old Uncle Kahana and ‘Ilima know a secret that explains his unusual biological quirks. After all, they were the ones who found him newborn and abandoned on a reef and brought him to the Westins to adopt. Uncle Kahana swears Zader is ‘ohana—family—by blood as well as adoption. Too bad he’s not saying more.
When Jay quits surfing after a shark scare, Zader decides it’s time to stop hiding in the shadows and start searching for answers.
Growing up adopted in Hawai‘i just got a little weirder.
Blurb for One Shark, No Swim
There’s something bugging adopted Zader Westin, something more troubling than his water allergies where one drop on his skin burns like hot lava. It’s bigger than his new obsession with knives, designing the new murals for the pavilion with Mr. Halpert, or dealing with Char Siu’s Lauele Girlz scotch tape makeover. Zader can’t stop thinking about a dream, the dream that might not have been a dream where Lē‘ia called him brother then jumped into the ocean and turned into a shark.
Zader’s got a lot of questions, not the least being why he’s hungry all the time, restless at night, and why he feels a constant itch on the back of his neck. It’s making him feel like teri chicken on a pūpū platter, but Zader doesn’t want to think about chicken, not with his growing compulsion to slip it down his throat—raw.
With Jay busy at surf camp and Uncle Kahana pretending nothing’s happening, Zader’s left alone to figure things out, including why someone—something—is stalking him before it’s too late.
Summer in Lauele Town, Hawaii just got a little more interesting.
Oh, my heck! This thing came up so fast! I had no clue how fast a group of six writing women could work up a whole concept, weave it together, and put it into motion. But voila! I’m really excited to be part of something this amazing and fun. Six novellas, all clean, all by women I think are great writers. So lucky to have been asked to be involved.
Today is the “cover reveal” over at Kathy’s site, “I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.” Totally loving the covers for these!
And…Karey White, one of the authors and spearheaders of the project has put together this:
The prizes are really great. Again, as Sam Rockwell’s character “Guy” says on Galaxy Quest, “I’m just jazzed to be part of the show.”
I guess, actually, you can be “part of the show” too. ! Thanks, friends!
I’m reading a novel for a friend. I’m just at the beginning of it right now, but I can tell the main character is going to be compelling. I’m only on page nine, and already I feel the girl’s aching and am anxious for her success and her opportunity to overcome adversity and find happiness.
That’s a successful beginning.
As soon as I finish editing for this friend, I’ve got an editing project to do myself. Hrrmmm. I’d actually rather edit someone else’s work. My own is so difficult. It’s hard to see how to cobble the chapters together in a sensible arc, to get rid of story lines that are no longer relevant, characters who have changed too much to be of service, and to make sure the story has that elusive thing: heart.
When I edit, I’ll do a few passes. Here they are:
A plot edit, to make sure the plot is there and solid. This is the most important edit, and it has to be done first because unless it’s there, I’m just doubling up on work later. Plot needs to have conflict, rising tension, rising stakes, and decisions for the characters to make.
Then I’ll do a pacing edit, to put the right crises at the right places.
Then I do a character edit, to make sure the characters a) stay in character, but that b) they also change in the right ways. I think that’s where putting “heart” in the story takes place.
Then I’ll do a dialogue edit, watching to see that the characters always sound like themselves, and that they sound unique from each other.
Then, last of all I do a line edit. That is for the grammar and punctuation, etc. This is best done reading aloud, for me. It’s amazing what sounds different than it looks on paper! Another option that I’ve tried and found really effective, is going from the last of the document and reading sentence by sentence from the end. This keeps my eyes from that “glazing over” I tend to get when I’ve come to the end of the editing process after reading my MS for what feels like the zillionth time. It’s a good way to see it afresh.
At some point in here, I also recommend giving it to a beta reader. Usually I try to find a beta reader before the line edit. That’s because often a beta reader will make suggestions for improving plot or character, which can sometimes change big chunks of text, so it’s not necessary to do those nitpicky things before a revamping.
Now, I’ve taken enough of a brain break and I’m headed back to editing my friend’s novel.
Ooh, and there’s a lot of screaming in the other room. Yikes. Gotta go. Motherhood is so exciting!