Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sorting: Ravenclaw!

I will be going to London and Edinburgh on a Harry Potter study abroad program with Emalee this summer through Southern Utah University. A special sorting ceremony was held last week with the quite lovely American Sorting Hat, spiders and all. As predicted, both of us are in Ravenclaw. But I was wrong about the close seconds, which were the exact opposite of my guesses: my test score put me one point off from Gryffindor, and Emalee was almost a Hufflepuff! :)

I figured it would be the other way around for sure. She's the brave one who mountain bikes and dangles off cliffs, not me. But of course, the hat knows what it's doing. And, I scored higher in the Slytherin column than she did, bwah-ha-ha-ha. I'm pretty proud of that. Fun, fun, and the best part is that Em and I are in the same House and will be sharing a room.

This should be an exciting, inspirational adventure for us...except for the flying part. Personally, I'd rather apparate.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood, award-winning author of The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and many, many other novels, spoke at the Grace A. Tanner Lecture at Southern Utah University today. I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions last night, too. She is a talented, spunky, and amazing lady with a great sense of humor. Below are my notes:

 * When asked about her writing process, Margaret said she first starts writing with the original idea. "It might be a line, image, or piece of conversation." Not until after she has explored and developed the story does she try to plan the plot. "You can't make a structure in the abstract...Plotting emerges from characters and what these people are to one another."

*  "The best detective stories give you a chance, but not an obvious one."

* On writing the first draft: "It's the rolling mirage. I write the beginning and start revising and adding to that until I'm done."

* About her publishers: "I never tell them ahead of time what I'm writing about because they would just think I'm crazy."

* When asked, "Where do you live?" Margaret replied, "Do I live? That's the question."

* "I take infinite pains with my covers. I have no contractual say, but I have a lot of say. It is the front door of the book."

* Margaret does "at least six drafts with the text before the editor sees it. I'm picky. That doesn't mean that all of the words are different. I'm moving stuff around and building stuff out."

* She told a story of riding on a train in Ireland: "I was listening to four Irish women who didn't know I was me, discussing my books. It was fun. One of them said the last one was too long."

* Her take on Las Vegas and Elvis impersonators: "However, I can tell you that there are many of those roaming the streets...and many other things as well."

* About all the awards she has won: "There is a running commentary in my house about which of those would make the best murder weapon. Some of them are very pointy."

* On the zombie craze: "There are other monstrous things you can turn into in literature where you get superpowers instead of subpowers." "No sooner has a new monster peaked, but we have to make it cuddly." (Talking about sexy zombies in the latest movies.)

* On apocalypse in the Bible: "People do come out of their graves. That's supposed to be a good thing. I'll leave you to judge."

* Discussing potatomancy as a divination method: "Maybe it would be a good cure for writer's block. After days of gazing at a sliced potato, your manuscript may begin to look more attractive."

* In 1955, the only place to get published was the high school newspaper with no pseudonym, knowing that your parents, teachers, and friends would read it. "So where were you going to put your throbbing vampire romance?"

* At the beginning of her writing career: "The most electrifying experience was selling a poem to people I didn't know."

* "If you're not all in, then you probably shouldn't be writing it."

Friday, March 22, 2013

End of an Era

Top: the last piece of Caramel Tiger Cake
Bottom: me, Emalee, & Erin with Ally Condie

In February, the Pub Club, our little critique group consisting of myself, my daughter Emalee, and our good friend, the amazing, talented, and hilarious Erin Shakespear got together for the last time. The end of an era was unexpectedly marked by the simultaneous end of Caramel Tiger Cake at the Pastry Pub. The scrumptious cake that came to symbolize the Pub Club was discontinued on the very night of our final meeting and the last piece went to us. Talk about closure! "All good things must come to an end," as the saying goes.


But as per a longstanding pact, Caramel Tiger Cake will live on in each of our first published novels. That should give us renewed motivation to finish those drafts. We owe it to the cake.

On March 1, the three of us met up again at Braun's Books in Cedar City for Ally Condie's book signing. She drew a big crowd, as you can imagine. Afterward, we were invited to an informal Q&A at her sister's house. Ally talked about how she researched and developed the plague for Reached. She also touched on her writing process and the role the editor played in bringing out the best in her.

A few highlights:
  • Ally is both a plotter and a pantser: "I discover a lot of the story as I go."
  • Her solution to writer's block: "I always have a back burner project, another novel I'm writing...I go and play with that."
  • If that doesn't work, she uses reverse psychology on herself. "I tell myself I'm taking a week off" and that makes her want to write again.
  • Ally gets writing ideas as she's falling asleep, and: "Showering is really good for epiphanies." (Running, clears her mind.)
  •  Her editor asks tough, thought-provoking questions during revision. "My editor put me through my paces and I pushed myself really hard."
  •  "There's no politics in the [Matched] story. It's about choice and how we screw up when we have it, but we should still have it."
And there you have it.