Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bless Me, Readers, For I Have Sold Out

I have a confession to make.

I've been avoiding this for months, but my guilt is reaching the saturation point, and I have to just come clean and and hope you'll all still respect me in the morning (and yes, I know I'm mixing metaphors, but I'm in extremis, and I think there is a link, albeit a murky shame-y needing absolution-y sort of link, between one-night stands and confession):

I got an e-reader.

Well, sort of.

Ok, let me take a step back, here, and explain.

I didn't actually intend to get an e-reader. I actually intended to get - and did get - a tablet, because I've been whining about how everyone else has one and I want one and it's not fair how come all those kids get to have iPads and all I have is this crummy laptop, and so on, for years, until finally my partner pointed out that Verizon was having some kind of super special where you could get a free tablet if you upgraded your phone.

One upgraded phone later, and I was the owner of a shiny new Verizon Ellipsis 7-inch tablet. "Small but mighty," I thought, and happily started using it for absolutely everything. I unfortunately soon realized why the Ellipsis was free; I'll spare you the boring rant and just say that you certainly get what you pay for, and I paid nothing.

To make a long story short, I found that the Ellipsis works best when it's on airplane mode and not connected to any network whatsoever, and the only things to do when it's in airplane mode are play games and read books.

So, I downloaded the OverDrive Media Console and hooked it up to my library account, and the rest, as they say, is history.

By now, I know many of you are raising your eyebrows, wondering what on earth the problem with all of this is. I know; lots of people use e-readers, all the time. I now have to confess that up until this past January, when I bought my partner a Kobo for her birthday, that I thought of all of these people as techno-sellouts. Oh, I never said anything like that out loud; I kept my snobby old-fashioned views to myself; but in my heart of hearts I was proud to still be reading only physical books. Real books, I thought, for a real reader, one who supports independent stores and independent authors and, just, everything independent. A reader who values the smell and the feel of the pages, the pleasure of flipping back and forth through the book at leisure, the satisfaction of holding an old friend in your hands year after year for your annual reread. I would never give in, I told myself, and I even believed it.

In other words, I was being pretentious and rather illogical, and I realized my own fallacy the minute I started downloading books.

It's just so easy. It's instant gratification. All I have to do is think, "Gee, I'd like to read Americanah today," and within minutes I have it right in front of me, without ever having to get dressed. It's every writer's dream: get everything you want without needing to speak to another soul or even leave the house. As a result, I've read a ton of books, far more than usual, and I'm loving every second of it.

I do miss having an actual book to hold, though. I miss seeing how far along I am, and flipping easily back to reread a passage (something that's just annoying on my e-reader); I miss seeing the spines of new and old books lined up on my shelves; I miss being able to pass a new favorite off to a friend without having to figure out how to hack a computer.

However, I went on vacation last week (it was marvelous) and I didn't have to go through my usual agony of deciding which books to pack: I just slipped my trusty Ellipsis into my purse, confident that I could decide later, at any time, and that the whole electronic world was at my fingertips.

I surrender, everybody. I see why you've all been converted. You were right, all along.

I'll still miss my books, though.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Updates and Snippets

Before I start, just a quick scheduling thing: I'm going to be on vacation next week, soaking up the last dying rays of summer (depressing, isn't it?), far away from my computer. I'll be back to posting and visiting the last week of August.

As I mentioned last week, I'm taking a non-fiction class on writing personal essays, so I'm a little bit swamped with making mistakes muddling through working on my assignments right now. I'm also still trying to get things done on my WIP (the fiction sort), so I decided that for today's post, I'd tag myself in a cool blog hop and talking about what I'm working on!

Hmm, what's that? I can't tag myself in a blog hop? Oh well. Too late now!

1. Fiction: Despite some people's doubts, I really am still working on my novel. I have proof, too. Very heavy, large, and intimidating proof:

It's the big textbook-looking one, set next to a normal book for comparison purposes (which yes, is on my To Be Read list). And just so you can get the full effect, here's a cropped side view (and no, I don't have abnormally giant hands. It really is that big):

I felt the need to show you these pictures, you see, to validate the rather extreme feelings of intimidation and dread that strike me whenever I open this damn tome and start reading. It's a tad bit overwhelming. Unfortunately, it's also necessary, because I have no freaking idea what I'm doing with my South American lifetime yet, and I need as much information as I can get.

I, erm, haven't gotten very far yet. Ahem. I might still be skimming through the Introduction. In my defense, it's 26 pages long.

2. Non-Fiction: This is actually going surprisingly well. I'm afraid to post about it, because I am ludicrously (and yet, for a writer, typically) superstitious about talking about potential success. It's all very Jewish Shtetl Evil Eye-ish of me, but I worry that if I say things are good, they will suddenly take a turn for the very much worse.

I'm going to get over that, though, and say that my hope that writing personal essays would come naturally to me is so far turning out to be true. This is really early to be saying it (cough Evil Eye cough), since I have yet to move past the rough draft stage of anything, but thus far the stories are pouring out of me quickly and easily. I've twice written an entire rough draft of a 2,000-ish word essay (yup, still having brevity problems) in a couple of hours. A couple of hours. Which is NOT NORMAL for me.

This is in stark contrast to my pace when I'm writing fiction. I'm sure that's at least partially because I plot and research and character-develop everything to death in my novels, which I don't have to do for non-fiction. That is a pleasure.

(And no, pantsers, that doesn't mean I'm suddenly joining your team.)

I can't post any snippets from those rough drafts yet, because of many, many reasons, but I can post a little snippety thing I wrote for my homework this week. The assignment was to write an "Apology Epistle", based on this gorgeous little piece, beginning with the words "I'm sorry." It was supposed to be about 250 words, and guess what???  Mine clocks in at 257. Score one point for brevity!!!

Here it is. Feedback is welcome, but be very gentle, please - this is definitely a rough draft.

I’m sorry I didn't go out with you that night. I can imagine so clearly how it would have been: the snow sparkling in starlight, the brilliant white hiding the gray, the yellow, the black: the true character of the city, which we all saw bared for the first time that night, still cloaked in darkness and flecks of light. Walking home through the naked streets, laughing past the shadows in the corners, their menace unnoticed and ignored. The air like knives on our wine-protected skin, their blades unfelt until. Until. Then the figures like more shadows coalescing into a gang of teenagers, staining the white sparkling night, demanding with clumsy gestures our wallets, our money, our phones. Refusal, laughter; their faces so young and so foolish; our minds still shielded in warmth and soaked in booze; then the dark sinking chasm of the gun. 
I imagine that I would have stopped you. I would have taken your arm, looked in your eyes, and the question hovering on your lips would have fallen, unvoiced, to the filthy snow. Then we would have lost wallets, money, phones; gained bruises and cuts and yes, the gash under Ethan’s eye; but we would have walked away uncaring because we would also have your life.
Instead, I stayed home, and worked on the play I was writing for you and with you and because of you, and slept with innocence through the terrible night and awoke to a gray dawn, still unaware, still thinking I had nothing to be sorry for. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Insecure Writers: Extra Specially Insecure Non-Fiction

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! For those who don't remember, it's an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

Hello ISWG-ers! I'm sorry I missed you last time. Don't worry, I've saved up my anxieties, and to make up for it, I am going to be extra insecure for you this month. Isn't that exciting??

Truthfully, I hesitated about posting this today. Mostly, it felt so new that I wasn't sure I was ready to share it with all the Internets. Then I remembered that I really only know a few people online, and felt better about it!

So, here's the deal: I'm taking a Grub Street class on writing...non-fiction.

Yes, that's right: I'm trying to learn how write about real events and people. I'm sure all you non-fiction writers out there are shrugging, wondering what the big deal is, but trust me: when you're used to making up an entire world of people, it feels very naked and scary to suddenly just talk about yourself. I can't hide behind my characters or my plot, or, to be a little fairer in how I present this, express myself via a situation that I myself have created. Instead, I have only me: my thoughts, my experiences. Where do I start? What story do I even tell?

Then, too, there's the sheer terror of being a beginner. I hate being a beginner. I'm so much happier being the comfortable expert. As a beginner, I fumble and make mistakes and do stupid things, and then I have to learn from all of that and forgive myself for it and really, it's exhausting.

And finally...I'm taking this class, not for fun, but because I'm hoping it will help me on my road to publication. I need some writing credits, friends, and you only get those by writing things and submitting them. Funny how that works, huh? I thought for a while that I would write and submit short stories...but they don't come naturally to me. First of all, as you know, I have a brevity problem. Second, when I create fiction, my mind naturally bends towards intricate ideas that require a longer format. This isn't to say that I can't write short stories, just that I don't have a natural bend towards them.

If I had tons of free time, I'd learn how to write them, anyway. But given the constraints most of us have, of day job plus family plus friends plus social media plus writing a novel, I have very little time. So I figured I should try for something that seems to come more naturally to me: and hence the reason I'm taking a class on writing personal essays.

So there you go, a nice insecure package wrapped up in an anxious bow. Yep, that's the kind of gift I give on this blog.

What about you? Are you trying something new, and feeling insecure about it?