Friday Writing Inspiration: Anthony Trollope Writing Quote

Anthony Trollope Writing Quote

One of my favorite authors, and now, one of my favorite quotes. I'm not sure why Anthony Trollope never gets taught in school. He's a British serial novelist who is, in my opinion, absolutely brilliant. His stories are so captivating and enjoyable, yet still very well-written, like a high-class old-time soap opera. But of course, Dickens get all the praise and attention when it comes to serial novelists. I actually only found out about Trollope through a bookseller in Williamsburg's recommendation. I owe to him a better lit education than I ever received from a college professor.

Anyway, anyone who's read Trollope (and please, read Trollope! Start with He Knew He Was Right. Plus, than you can watch the BBC miniseries.) knows that his writing appears effortless. His books are thousands of pages, and I've yet to come across so much as a turn of phrase that's awkward.  It's refreshing to know that what appear so easy for him, was actually quite labored.

So here's to lots of work--and lots of beautiful writing!

Happy Friday!


Friday Writing Inspiration: Jack London Writing Quote

Jack London Writing QuoteThat's definitely me this weekend, hiking around the frightening wilderness of my mind, club in hand and desperately trying to turn my novel idea into a full novel (coming up on the 1/3 done point!). Now that I've dramatically discussed my writing process, hope you can glean some inspiration from this awesome quote! Happy Friday and happy writing!


Friday Writing Inspiration: Nature and All Its Wonders

Mt. Shasta, Northern California I'm a day late for my usual "Friday Writing Inspiration" post, but in lieu of posting a writing quote that gets me (and hopefully you) inspired, on this lovely holiday weekend, since I'm in glorious Mt. Shasta, where one of my good friends from New York, Blaire, grew up, I thought it a bit more fitting to post something from here. Above is the view from the living room at her parents' house, where Thomas and I are staying until tomorrow. We've spent the last two days eating good food outside, participating in the town's Fourth-of-July festivities (only in NoCal would the town fun run include belly dancers), swimming across lakes, discovering underwater trees, drinking watermelon beer on a barge, and playing games with her whole family.

Today, we're off to do rock climbing, a long bike ride to a brewery, a drive up to the mountain, and possibly indulge in some waterfall action. Needless to say, in the midst of all the activities, I'm not getting much writing done. But that's okay. It's good to have a mini sabbatical from my morning routine of exploring the inner workings of my crazy head (writing a novel), and to be with the mountains and the trees and the leaves and the sky and remember why we all write in the first place--to capture just a hint of the beauty and the struggle and the truth of the world around us.

Since I usually share a quote, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorites from Emerson.

“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship."

Happy holiday weekend, and happy writing.


Happy Monday! It's the perfect time to share a new interview!

Sleepy Monday GIF

Hi friends and readers. It's Monday, and I'm up early to get in some writing on my new novel before work, so while I think about actually getting up to make the coffee and get going, I thought I'd share an interview I did with Dayla of Confessions of a Book Addict on Friday, as part of her series, Interview Fridays. Dayla, who reviewed The After Girls awhile ago, is as thoughtful an interviewer as she is a reviewer. I pasted a few of her questions below (including one that addresses my next project), but click through to see the full post. Also, regarding the GIF above. That's just Monday fun.

1. Grief is a major theme in The After Girls. What do you think is the hardest stage of grief that your characters have to overcome? 

“Acceptance is the hardest, especially when someone dies so young and unexpectedly, like inThe After Girls.

Going back to your old life without someone you love is tough—for Ella, it was returning to work, especially since she surrounded herself with Astrid’s family, and trying to maintain her relationship with her boyfriend, Ben, when she knew he didn’t understand what she was going through.

For Sydney, it was trying to be her usual self, to party and play music and flirt with boys, when she was really consumed with guilt and grief.”

2. Have you encountered loss? If so, how do you think your experience with grief affected your writing?

“I actually lost a friend to cancer about halfway through writing The After Girls. She was only 26. It certainly made everything I was writing more real and important to me. It wasn’t just a story I was making up anymore. It was something I was working through myself. I knew that the book had to be true to the grieving process, and at least for me, I think it is.”

3. How important, in your opinion, is it for writers to let their characters overcome their problems through trial and error, rather than simple solutions?

“So important!

I detest convenient solutions, and while I’m sure I’ve been guilty of them, I try to avoid them. Ella and Sydney are far from perfect. They argue with each other and their boy interests, they distance themselves from their parents, they’re irresponsible, insensitive, and so consumed in their grief that they often don’t make the right choices. Most of the time, when I’m upset, I don’t make the right choice, either. It takes all of us a few tries to get it right.

Who wants to read about perfect characters?”

4. I love that you explore the many different sides of grief. Which kind of grieving process was the most difficult to write?

“Ella’s process was definitely the most difficult. Sydney was easy—I sent her off to parties and band practices and let her be her amazingly self-destructive self. Ella delved more deeply into her own mind, and at times, her grief pushed her so far that she almost lost touch with reality. Her conflicts were much more internal than external. Crawling into her head was tough, but it was so rewarding.”

5. Teen suicide is a huge and unfortunate theme in contemporary society, so I think it was very important that you touched on it and how it affects the people left over. What other themes that are popular in society would you consider for future novels?

“Racism, sexism, classism and homophobia.

It sounds heavy (and I hate novels that are overly moralistic), but from a teen perspective, I think those issues can be explored really well, and they don’t have to feel like cliched PSAs.

Teens understand feeling like you have to change yourself to fit in—they understand being labeled.

My next project is going to look very closely at a girl who wants desperately to be a star both in her school and town. But as she gets closer and closer to the most popular guy in high school (one from the most well-to-do family in her Southern town), she’s going to realize that labels, status, and the groups we divide ourselves into are not as important as she once thought.”

Read the full interview here. See the review here.

Why it's cool to support art

At a get-together last night, the topic of intellectual property came up, and, in a digital age where everything can be transmitted and downloaded and bit-torrented, what should be paid for and what should not. I’ve had this conversation lots of times and regular downloaders usually bring up a couple of points—Point One, that either the money you pay goes straight to the record label/production company/publisher/newspaper and not the actual artist/crew/journalist. And Point Two, that as an artist, you shouldn’t be in it for the money. If you’re a real artist, you don’t even care about money, you care about sharing your work with the world.

Point One is tricky, as in certain industries this is a more valid point. I will say I used to think the same thing about TV shows and movies and then met my boyfriend, who worked in the film business, and explained that proceeds from DVD sales go straight to the crew’s healthcare funds.

But it’s Point Two that really gets me. Because most artists don’t want to be paid so they can get rich and own a yacht (or even a big house). We know that there are much better ways to make money than through art. Most artists want to be paid because they want to keep making art.

Put another way, making art costs money. Finding supporters offsets some of those costs. Get enough supporters, and you can continue to make more art. And that’s good news for the people who enjoy said art. And the artist.

There are some amazing artists who truly don’t want anything in exchange for their work—and more power to them for finding a hobby that they love to share with the world—or for having the financial means to give away the things that they make. But just because someone’s an artist, just because they love what they do and would and will continue to do it even without being paid, it shouldn’t be expected. Just like you wouldn’t expect a chef to feed you for free just because she’s passionate about cooking.

So speaking of supporting awesome creators, I have to give a shout out to a good friend and amazing journalist, Blaire Briody. This summer, she’s heading to North Dakota to cover the oil boom (basically the modern-day gold rush), and get a first-hand account of a fascinating story that is not being covered anywhere else. She’s raising money on Fairstreet.com to fund this project—and without the funding, the project simply won’t happen. Not a dime is going to a media mogul or a newspaper with vested interests—everything goes to allowing awesome, independent and honest journalism to happen. Which I think we can all agree we need more of.

You can learn more about the project and make a donation here.

Little Free Library Love

Little Free LIbrary A little something to make a book-lover's Monday. I just found out about Little Free Library, an organization that aims to build tiny libraries all around the country--and the world. Not only are the little libraries adorable (they look like oversized birdhouses), but they act as a community book exchange, providing free books to anyone who wants them. Yay literacy!

Here's a link to their site and their photo stream on Flickr of the different libraries that have been built. Unfortunately, I no longer live in NYC, or else I would check out all of the awesome ones going up this week. Thanks to the wonderful Thomas for the tip.

Happy Monday!

Loving this today: Dove on why you're prettier than you think

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk] New installment from Dove's Real Beauty campaign. It's so important to remember this when we try to judge ourselves. And as YA writers, it's so important to keep in mind that what we write adds to this ongoing conversation. Here's to characters that learn to trust and love themselves (even if they struggle, as every girl does).

How cool it is to see a movie from your childhood in the theater

One thing I gotta hand to technology. The revival of the movies of my youth. Yes, it's just so they can make a buck by releasing them in 3-D and yes, sometimes 3-D just gives me a headache, but still. Last year, my former roommates and I sung aloud to Beauty and the Beast in the theater. A few weeks later, a group of my friends dressed up for the Titanic re-release (that's us, below).

And last night, to top everything else--Jurassic Park. 3-D. IMAX. It doesn't get much better than that.

I watched Jurassic Park at a birthday party of one of my best friend's as a kid. I remember that we all had to ask our moms permission because it was rated PG-13, and we must have been 8 or 9. I remember that we watched it in the dark of the basement on what seemed like a really big screen at the time and played with nerf guns afterwards.

The movie was beautiful in 3-D--I was literally jumping out of my seat. The John Williams score was just as beautiful as I remembered--it took me back to my friend's basement birthday in seconds. There was a refreshing lack of CGI--and what was used was used well. But more than that, it was the story. So imaginative, so exciting that even when you know how much is going to go wrong, you find yourself wishing, in that childlike way, that there was a way to keep the park open. That there was a way for people to see dinosaurs, because what, really, is cooler than that?

My new manuscript relies heavily on the characters' childhood memories for its narrative. Though it's set when the two main characters are 17 and 18, it has frequent trips back to when they were just 8 or 9. The After Girls even includes a few memories from this time. It's an impressionable age, when you're learning to think for yourself, when you're learning all about the world, but you still haven't lost any sense of wonder and amusement and imagination. It's really fun to write about--and it's great fun to relive at the movies--even if the ticket does cost $17.50.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8zlUUrFK-M?rel=0]

Oh, also, here's the score. Just listen and tell me it's not the greatest music ever composed.

Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) on life

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson Last Friday, I had the pleasure of seeing Nick Offerman, the actor who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, do stand-up, though it really shouldn't be called stand-up--more a long speech about life peppered with musical numbers and general hilarity.

From what I gathered his personality doesn't deter much from his meat-loving, government-hating, woodworking character on the show. But he's a good bit less angry and a lot more heartfelt. And his show was, as well. After a host of comedians like Seth MacFarlane and Daniel Tosh, it was also refreshing to see a comedian who was pro-women, pro-equality, pro-gay, etc. He didn't have to tell a rape joke. He didn't have to make fun of minorities. Or those in this country who don't have equal rights. And he managed to be funnier than all the hacks who rely on those sorts of things and then defend themselves in the name of comedy when what they're saying isn't even all that funny.

Among his advice for living was to go outside, spend less time on your iPhone, work with your hands, have romantic love and say please and thank you. He told some raunchy jokes but none were at the expense of women--in fact, most were just about how passionately he loves his wife of 13 years.

It was a gut-splitting show, and above all, inspiring, not just for life but for writing. It was a reminder to say and write what you think and believe. Into everything. Because if you don't use your opportunities to speak to people for that, than what's the point?

If you ever get a chance to see him, definitely go.

The One-Chapter Curse

Some writers write really fast. Some write really slow. Jack Kerouac apparently took just weeks to write On the Road while most people take years. I've never done NaNoWriMo--I tried once and I ended up making it like two days--but I do know people who it's worked for. Just not me. I guess I fall somewhere in the medium-paced category of writers--my problem is what I'm deeming the one-chapter curse.

It also has to do with my least favorite aspect of writing--plotting.

I'm currently working on writing something new, but I keep getting stuck after the first chapter. It's not necessarily even the first chapter, just a chapter. Sometimes I have an idea--pretty formed--sometimes I just have a first line, and I build the character from there: "She was the kind of girl who cared about firsts." That was one that came to me recently, as I was organizing my jewelry box and came across one half of the first pair of earrings my boyfriend ever bought me. I feel bad that I lost one of them, and how I'm bad about preserving things like that, and then the line came to me, and all-of-a-sudden there is a love triangle and two teenage best friends, and I'm writing again, and it's great.

But then I get somewhere between about three and ten pages, and it just kind of halts. I just don't know how to get to the next scene. I get the character, I get why they're upset, why they're happy, maybe even a little bit about what they want, but I don't know what they'll do next.

There are a lot of writers who are plot-masters, and a lot of them take a lot of flak for not being literary and being too commercial. Especially genre, like mystery and crime thrillers and all that. But in defense of plot-heavy works, plotting is really hard. I can make up characters all day, and I hope I can make them feel real. I can describe a setting, and I actually really enjoy writing dialogue, just jotting down what I imagine two people would say if they were talking.


It's something that for me, I can't sit down and think up--it kind of just has to come. Sometimes, I'm feeling especially frustrated, and I do silly things like look up plot generators. Here's one (you have to pretend to be a 6th grader to get it to work). After a few spins, I have this: "Write a letter to a sunburned spider monkey who finds an undiscovered island."

I know writers who have the opposite problem, who have fully-formed plots but trouble getting them down, building the world, etc. I guess we just all have our strengths and weaknesses. And I suppose if I keep on writing (not about spider monkeys), the characters will eventually do something. The whole story will come, as it always has before. That's how Joyce Carol Oates does it, and she's written a LOT.

Needless to say, any advice on plotting would be much appreciated.

Above: Jack Kerouac via Poetry Scores.