Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Let's Talk about Sex Baby! INSANITY Day 3!!!

Congratulations to Marsha Sigman for winning Monday's Interview Packet! Marsha, shoot me an email at muchlanguage (at) gmail (dot) com, with a mailing address. :)

On a joint blog, Melissa Mar, author of the Wicked Lovely Series talks about sex in Young Adult novels.

I write YA. For now. I'm just comfortable with it, and the stories I want to tell are for that audience. Plus, more than half of what I read is YA. (The rest is witty women's fiction and fantasy.) So, everything related to YA is important to me.

My first Novel, Choosing Life, starts with a sex scene. That's right. A full-on, graphic sex scene. It's not a gimmick. That's where the book needs to start. The book is all about making choices and the repecussions of sex and sexuality. I'm actually thinking about toning it down some, but I'm not cutting it. That scene stays.

There are many parents who think teen books shouldn't have sex in them. For me, that attitude is like the parents in California who got the dictionary banned because kids looked up the wrong word. If you take sex out of YA novels, you are solving the wrong problem!

I don't advocate that all YA novels need a graphic sex scene. But sex is a part of a teenager's life. Teens are often defined by whether or not they're having sex. Even if they are not, some one around them is having sex, or someone is pressuring them to have sex. There is sex somewhere in their lives, whether they like it or not. Not including sex - even as a passing mention- is just plain unrealistic. Unless it's fantasy or sci-fi, because who has time for sex when there's dragons and hydroelectroatomic space bikes?

Universally removing sex from YA novels (or only allowing your teens to read YA that doesn't involve sex in any way, because really it's the same thing) is actually removing an acceptable way of a teen learning about sex. YA authors are generally responsible. They consider what they write and how it will affect young, impressionable minds. Taking this avenue away will not stop teens from coming into contact with sex.

On the contrary, they will find other ways. And if they want to read about it, they will. As a teen, I was totally not into the sex in books thing. Sex seemed to only be in romance novels, which tended to have as much plot as a grapefruit has agility. But all of my friends managed to get their hands on Loveswept and Mills and Boon novels. Some parents were cool with it, some weren't. And some... I remember a sleepover, where a friend's mother freaked out about the book I was reading. I think it was called Boy Talk. It was about some girls who set up a hotline that teens in their area could call anonymously with their boy troubles. She thought that book was too advanced for 13 year old me. The entire time she was lecturing me, I was thinking, "If only you knew what YOUR 13 year old reads!"

And that's another point about sex in YA. Teens are decent judges of what they want. People don't read books because every body else is reading them and that will make them cool. If a teenager doesn't want to read books where sex is a major part, they won't.

What are your thoughts on the issue?

INSANITY Day 3!!!

Remember you have to be a follower and you have until 11.59 pm EST Wednesday night to enter!

Blogger's Choice Packet

Today, one lucky person will win THREE books!






To enter today, tell me your view on sex in YA. You can also throw in opinions on general censorship in YA, or inclusion/exclusion of other taboo things and topics, like cursing, suicide, drugs.

Good luck to you all!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Boyz II Men and INSANITY Day 2!!

Today, were traveling back in time with Boyz II Men.

First up, It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday, 1991, from their debut album, CooleyHighHarmony!


End of the Road, 1992. This song was number 1 on the US R&B and US charts, but also in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Australia and France, and goodness knows where else.


I'll make love to you, 1994


On Bended Knee, 1994


Water Runs Dry, 1995


And they were featured in Mariah Carey's One Sweet Day, 1995.


And onto INSANITY!

Quick recap of our rules.
1. You have to be a follower to win.
2. The post will go up on how to win sometime around 12.01 am the day of (JST- Japan Standard Time, it's so cool we have a time zone with our name on it.) and you can enter until 11.59 pm EST. By my calculations that's 37 hours.
3. You can win a maximum of two prizes for the week.

Day 2 is the Nathan Packet:
2 books repped by superagent, Nathan Bransford. If you don't know you better ask somebody!





To win today, just let me know, which agent would you love to be repped by. If you're already repped, tell me why you love your agent! Good luck everyone!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yes We Can! INSANITY DAY 1: Interview Packet!

You can head on over to Emilia's and check out her contest.

Today's post is not related to Obama. Although I thank him greatly for teaching Japan the English potential form. Makes my job a little easier. Only a teaspoon, but I'll take whatever I can get.

In the West these days, anybody can be anything. That's what they tell us as kids, and that's what the media drum into our heads. For years, the PGA Tour told us that "Anything's Possible." And Disney's been telling us for 60 years, that "When you wish upon a star your dreams come true."

And we feel entitled. These dreams and hopes floating around in the air, they should be ours. Shouldn't they?

But notice the use of the potential form.

Yes we CAN not Yes we WILL
Anything's POSSIBLE

Even Disney's revised their position,

"I remember Daddy told me
Fairy Tales can come true,
But you gotta make them happen,
It all depends on you."

Almost there, Princess and the Frog.

Everybody doesn't get their dream life just because they want it. A lot of people dream about the same things, and there's only so much room for certain dreams to come true.

So you have to work at it. And work hard.

Success = Talent + Effort + Luck

You can't do anything to control the Luck factor, but you can't deny it's there. There are B-list actors who are gorgeous and act well and work hard, and they're still on the B-list. That's because they haven't been lucky enough to score a role that will catapult them to the A-list.

You can't do much about talent either. You have it or you don't.

But you can change the amount of effort you put in, and a large enough effort can make you more skilful than people who have more natural talent. And in the social media world that we live in, effort can even cut down the Luck side of the equation.

So if you want the fairy tale, don't just dream it, WORK IT!

That's what's on my mind this Monday!

Of course, also on my mind is INSANITY Day 1.

Here's a quick reminder of the rules:
1. You have to be a follower to win.
2. You have until Monday 11.59 pm EST to enter.
3. You can win a max of 2 prizes in the week.

The Interview Packet!



Once again, many thank you's to Dianne Salerni and Linda Villarosa for agreeing to be interviewed.

To win these two awesometacular books, all you have to do is tell me what author you'd love to have a conversation with!

Good luck to all!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book buyers around the world

THIS OFFER AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE US AND CANADA!

Those words are the bane of my existence.

I get it. It might be expensive to ship stuff overseas. But sometimes I feel like, "Dude just let me pay the shipping. I really want this [insert super fantastic thing here]."

And it sucks at least just as much in the bloggosphere. Many of the agent and writer bloggers are out of the US. You might say that most of publising's in New York. Yes, most. Not all! I still can't find a UK agent blog. (If any of you guys are UK, let me know if you know any.)

Anyhow, today I want to give my international friends a heads up about something that's fantastic ESPECIALLY if you live outside the US.

As you guys know, I've been on a 3 day spree, since I didn't need to pay for my airline ticket. So yesterday I put 42 books in my Amazon cart. Yeah, I know. Anyhow, eventually I figured, since I don't drive in Japan that it might be difficult to walk home from the Post Office with 42 books, so I whittled it down to 25.

Final cost: $230
Shipping: $109
Total: $339

WHAT???

Shipping is the price of another 10 books!

And then I remember my trusty FREE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING site, The Book Depository.

They ship here and they ship to Barbados. Sometimes they're a dollar or two more expesive than Amazon. Sometimes they're cheaper. They don't have price-slashing sales as often as the guys at the big A. On occasion titles are not available. BUT they ship for free. And, since they're based in the UK, they have books you'd more readily find in Europe.

I couldn't find 2 of the titles I had on Amazon, and I had to get another in hardback instead of paperback.

Final cost: $216
Shipping: 0
Total: $216

If you love books as much as me, and you don't live in North America, you need to head on over and make sure that your country is one of the 70 they ship to for free. Because if they are, it's totally worth it to make the switch.

Don't forget on Monday, the crazy giveaways start!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Great day to be me, Fantabulous day to be you!

Hey hey!

First things first. The fantastic Laura (Elbie) interviewed me (!!!) over on her blog.

I'm an supercalifragilistic sorta mood! Yeah, I used that in a sentence. It's that good!

But what say we does this all logical-like and start at the beginning?

I don't make plans.

In general, that is. I don't really have anything personal against plans, but I just don't make 'em. Several reasons, really.

See, plans require energy. You might not think it a lot of energy, but thinking about stuff and making sure X is done and Y is done and Z is paid, and blah blah, it'a a lot to keep track of. Unless I`m really, really into something. Then I`m happy to plan it forever. Like my Masters Degree- I`ve researched just about every school in the US and the UK that offers MFAs or MA Translation or combinations of the two. But normally, I just don`t do plans.

The other thing about plans is their tendency to fall through. When I imput something into my mind, I become attached to it and I`m loathe to let it go. Take my August Writers' conference for example. First I found out Vermont is one step from impossible to get to from Japan, then I found out it clashed with my concert, then I lost my passport. Still, I hung on. Until I let go.

That's right, I'm done. Not going to the conference anymore.

It was a hard decision. So hard in fact that I've been cycling between depression and mania faster than ever before. For 2 weeks I've gone between looking at bridges as diving boards and feeling that eagles couldn't soar higher than me. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Last night, I started hyperventilating. That's when I worried. I haven't hyperventilated since I was in the military. And that was 9 years ago!

After poking around on youtube, I finally found something to cheer me up. Cartoon musical soundtracks in Italian. The quintilingual life is so good. Let me just say, some songs are somuch better in other languages. I like the Japanese "Ato Mo Sukoshi" better than I like "Almost There" from Princess and the Frog. (I've acctually only seen this movie in Japanese. I'm afraid I won't like the English as much!) Toy Story's Soundtrack is so much better in French, that I never listen to the English, even though they're on the same CD. Hercules was meant to be listened to Italian. My favourite is "Ti Vada o No" (Are you going or not?) which you might know as "I Won't Say I'm in Love."

Another fave of mine is "Dille che l'ami" (Tell her you love her) or "That's how you know" from Enchanted. (I've only seen this in Italian. I'm so weird). Oh, and "Baciala" or "Kiss the Girl" is fantastic in English, but incred in Italian. What caught my ear last night was Anastasia's soundtrack. "Cuor non dirmi no" (Heart don't tell me no) and "Quando viene Dicembre" (When December comes) or "Once Upon a December" are both excellent! And I love the Italian name of "At the Beginning", "Il Mio Vero Inizio Sei Tu" (My true beginning is you!) That's just plain sweet. Animated translations for the bigwigs tend to be good, because they're done in-house. Disney's (I know Anastasia is Fox) always capture the feel so well, and I think some work better than English.

Anyhow...

All this to say I'm happy!

I'm missing my conference, BUT

Instead I'm going to

the 2 day Jay-Z, Nas, Smashing Pumpkins, Nickelback, Keri Hilson, Jason DeRulo, Orianthi, Sum 41, A Tribe Called Quest, Taylor Swift and STE(EEK)VIE(EEK) WON(EEK)DER(EEK)
Hokkaido (northernmost Japanese island) to see friends

Since I recently discovered SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Tokyo (only due to Laura Rennert's agent page, I don't know why I didn't look it up before) I'll go to their conference when they have one.

Also since I'm also re-hooked on Italian, I'm going to go to give up fighting and go to Italy. At some point. Preferably after I have a passport.

After all that $3000 isn't going to just spend itself!

Kidding!

Sorta.

By now, you're probably wondering in the ramble mess of a post, why it's fantabulous to be you. Well, I'm pretty good at keeping the brunt of my depression off the masses, but when I'm happy? That stuff just oozes out of me. And so I'm passing the love on!

How?

GIVEAWAYS!!!

All next week, I'm giving away books! In 2's maybe even in 3's. Books get lonely too!

Here's the Plan:

Monday: The Interview Packet
Tuesday: The Nathan Packet
Wednesday: The Bloggers' Choice Packet
Thursday: The Debut Packet
Friday: New Release Packet

The rules?
1. You have to be a follower to win.
2. The post will go up on how to win sometime around 12.01 am the day of (JST- Japan Standard Time, it's so cool we have a time zone with our name on it.) and you can enter until 11.59 pm EST. By my calculations that's 37 hours.
3. You won't know how to enter until the day of, so keep your eyes open.
4. You can win a maximum of two prizes for the week.

Remember if you've got a ticket, you've got a chance! Wait no, that's the lottery.

Oh, and one last thing, I'm accepting suggestions for the Bloggers Choice Packet. Let me know what books you'd like to win.

Apologies that I'm so crazy, but it's so much fun. Maybe I'll be normal tomorrow.

Or, to quote Beauty and the Beast's Lumiere, "Zen aggen, mebbe not!"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Words fail me

I'd love to give you guys something insightful on this Write Away Wednesday, but my brain is fried. So instead I'm giving you guys a poem I wrote last July. It's quite appropriately titled, too.

WORDS FAIL ME

Words fail me
Words, which have been my friends
My companions
Fought at my side
On my side
They now have died
They subside
For all they’ve tried
They can no longer capture
What I need them to say

Words fail me
Words, which have been my playmates
Described love and friendship
Painted beauty sublime
Screamed of the depths of evils
And the heights of righteous things
Words, which have thrown back their mane and roared
Are floored
Now, when I need them most
They’ve wondered away

Words fail me
Words, which should be flowing from my lips
Have disappeared
Vanished. Where?
Into thin air
Words I need to share
To show you how much I care
My words are defeated and mute
Paling in the truth
Of the emotion I feel
Inundating my heart.
Words, please convey
Words?
Not today.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TTT- Sheryl Crow

Today on Time Travel Tuesday, we're listening to Sheryl Crow.

For some reason, I found myself singing this on the way home on Thursday. You remember. The day I was dancing in the street :)

Every day is a Winding Road from 1996



If it makes you happy, also 1996



And of course we all know The First Cut is the Deepest, 2003



Real Gone from Pixar's CARS soundtrack- 2006



A Change Would Do you Good from 1997



All I wanna do- 1994 (Like she's singing my life, folks!)



And finally, another of my personal faves, Strong Enough- 1994



Happy Listening!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting back to basics

Yesterday I went to JHS Basketball championships for my 4 town area. It was pretty good. The teams were better than I expected (although they couldn't have held a candle to the U15 team from my school days). To top it off, I actual learned a lesson during the boys final.

Kunohe Junior High was playing in dark. They had STYLE! They were doing all these fancy layups and crossovers and fakes and stuff. BUT they missed the hoop a lot. I can't remember if they scored a single free throw all game long. And on more than one occasion they faked themselves and dribbled the ball on their own feet and kicked it out of bounds.

Hukuoka (Fukuoka- depending on where you come from) Junior High played in light. When it came to style, Hukuoka couldn't even touch Kunohe. BUT they dribbled well. AND they passed the ball around. AND their shots sunk.

The result? Kunohe played a SEXY game- like they should have been in the NBA. But, Hukuoka won.

Why? Because before you try to look sexy, you have to master the basics.

And that's not just applicable to basketball. It's relevant to life. And of course, to writing. Basics first, style after.

Are you worried about your writing style? Your voice? Physical characteristics of your characters? Complex twists and turns of your plots? Well, that's great, but there are some other things you should take care of first.

Plot- Before you get into the complicated plot twists, maybe you should worry about a basic plot which rises and falls in all the right places. And which doesn't have holes the size of Rhode Island. Because, let's face it- Rhode Island might be tiny for a state, but it'd be a monster of a plot hole.

Characters- Worried about the MC's characteristics, maybe you should first consider the big things. What's your character's motivation? What is he or she conflicted about? What's his/her realtionship with the family? (I write YA.) If you've thought these things through and reflected them accurately, then you'll have a well-built character, and it won't matter so much whether he/she prefers Pepsi or Coke.

Words- You want to tell your story in the most eloquent terms possible. But is your grammar on point? How's your subject-verb agreement? Are your sentences so long that you lose track of the subject?

Make your own list. What are the basics you need to take care of? Master them!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that style isn't important. By all means, decorate. Paint the little house that is your novel as brightly or darkly as you wish. All I'm sayin is that it's easier and a ton more sensible to build the house before you paint it.

Just sayin.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Journey Support and more contest love

The blogosphere is overflowing with contests! Check out Lisa Descrocher's giveaway.

I recently received the Journey Support Award from Jon Paul. Admittedly it's been over a week, but I wanted to post it when I got a chance to give it its own dedicated post.



To tell you the truth, blog awards were starting to become like email chains. The first and second are cute, but then... I mean, it's nice to receive all the love, and some of them are quite fun. But after a while you get the feeling that they're a bit, well pointless, like those emails that you have to feel in 40 random facts about yourself (would you rather be eaten by a bear or burnt alive?) that don't change anything in the grand schem of things.

The Journey Support Award is not that award.

There aren't any requirements attached to it. You receive it for helping someone along in the blogosphere and in turn you give it to those who've helped you. There've so many people who've helped me in making this blog what it is, and helped to become the writer I am, which is, still a work in progress. Thank you for your Support, I couldn't have made this journey without you.

Marsha Sigman- for her thoughts. This was one of the first writing blogs I stumbled across. I don't even remember how. But I'm glad I did. Marsha, like me, is unpublished and unagented. What makes her blog invaluable to me is her thoughts. Writing is more about what you think and feel ad how you say it, as opposed to other feels where you're an expert based on credentials. Can I guarantee that you'll love her blog? Nope. But I can guarantee that when she's published I'll be buying 20 of her books. Thank you, Marsha.

Jon Paul- I try not to do the pass the award back thing. But I've learned so much from Jon Paul. And, he's responsible for the only short story I've ever put online. We've got a lot in common. I dabbled in the military back in the day too. And every once in a while, I have to remind myself that it would be stalkerish to just show up in Sicily. Thank you, Jon Paul.

Laura (Elbie)- I've only known Laura a few months. She's my critique partner. I feel like I hit the jackpot with her. We both write the same sort of YA. I mean not everybody grew up in a world where their biggest problems were evil cheerleaders and bully jocks. And outside our writing, we're still a lot alike. I consider myself fortunate to have found not just a critique partner, but a friend. Thank you, Laura.

E.J.- What can I say about E.J? He's the organiser of the Weekly Critique group and the full MS critique group that I'm a part of. He's the whole reason I even know Laura. We also share a love of movies. His nuggets of advice are golden, even though he's a baby in this publishing maze. Just like me. Thank you, E.J.

Tawna- Superhero who solves problems that even Chianti can't solve. Hardly a week goes by when I don't quote something or the other from Tawna. I just love the feel of her blog. 1 part risque, 1 part humour, 1 part brilliance. She makes me laugh out loud, most days. And on the others, I feel like I've learned something so essential I wonder how I got by without it. Her blog is like coffee. You either love it and swear by it, or you can't stand the stuff. When I grow up, I want to be like Tawna. Thank you, Tawna.

Last but definitely not least, YA Highway. I don't usually recommend things. Different strokes for different folks and all that jazz. But whether or not you're a YA writer, you should definitely check out the Field Trip Fridays. This group of YA writers sweep up and down the blogosphere bringing you the best in contests, publishing, writing, reading and random. In between the Fridays, they bring you author and agent interviews, a feature on the queries which landed them their agents and why they worked and pertinent thoughts and questions. They've taught me so much. Thank you, YA Highway.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Japan does it bigger!

You don't know what it means to be a minority til you've lived in Japan. Admittedly, Barbados is 94% black, so I didn't grow up a minority. But, I did get a taste of it when I lived in Connecticut for two years. Still, it's nothing compared to Japan. Japan is over 99% Japanese. Of the 1% who weren't born here, .6 combine for the Chinese and South Korean immigrants. There are about 5000 people on my program (JET). I'd guess there are another 5000 who are employed as English teachers in private contracts or by private companies. Let's imagine there are 20,000 non-Asian foreigners here (outside the US Military). In a population of 128 million, hat would make us 0.0156%. If that's not a minority, I don't know what is!

As a black female, I'm an even bigger minority. I think I'm the only one in my prefecture, 15,278 sq km (5898 sq m), an area the size of Connecticut! From time to time, I'll experience some outright discrimination, but not often. Most of the time, people react in pure shock. As .0156% of the population and the only black female for miles and miles, I am undoubtedly the strangest thing most people will see in a day. (I can't decide if I'm stranger than Naked Guy or Pantsless Guy- I have to give you those stories sometime. lol)

A lot of the time, it's not fun being such a minority. But there's always a perk in being an undesired superlative. If you're the worst at something, you can take comfort in knowing you can't go any further down. By the same token, I can't be any stranger. You have no idea what a comfort that is to someone who loves to skip down the main road singing Disney songs and dancing. When I do that here, I'm just the foreigner. If I did that in the West, I'd be the crazy girl!

In completely unrelated matters, America is legendary for fast food. That, however, does not mean that the rest of the world does not know how to pack a ridiculous amount of calories and grease into a meal. Especially Japan. Japan is never to be outdone.

When I first came, Macdonalds was selling the Mega Mac. Are you familiar with the Big Mac? From top to bottom: Bread, burger, bread, burger, bread, some lettuce and tomato tossed in for posterity. The Mega Mac is the same thing. Except, everywhere you have a burger in the Big Mac, the Mega Mac has two! I have a really bad habit of HAVING to try all the ridiculous foods (Strawberry Melon Chocolate Chip Bread for example), so of course I had to have a Mega Mac.

The thing was ridiculous to the point of being impossible to eat. I practically had to unhinge my jaw. And I can fit a whole orange in my mouth. Plus, no one seemed to have thought about the feasibility of two burgers seperated only by ketchup. Imagine four burgers all going in different directions, ketchup squirting everywhere.



But the Mega Mac is apparently not as ridiculous as it can get. Introducing the Tower Cheese Burger from Loteria (fast food chain). It starts out as a regular cheese burger for 160 yen (about $1.60 USD). You can add burgers to it for 100 yen. Up to a 10 burger max! 10 burgers seperated by cheese. And yes, I have proof!



Also, here's Iwate Swan, instalment 15. Today Roger goes to a bunkasai, School Culture Festival. At bunkasai, the kids exhibit things they've made/done and usual there's a stage show at some point.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Listen to the voices and Write on Con

I've already told you about the free online Writers Conference, writeoncon, but I've only just had a chance to really check it out. In a word, it's AWESOMESAUCE!!!

It's hosted by 6 cool MG/YA authors, and they've managed to gather some incredible contributors. Most of the live events will be held in the evenings, so don't worry about missing work. And you can get transcripts of events if you miss them. Also the creators have contests on their blogs to celebrate. August 10-12, mark it on your calendars!

---

Today I went to pay my keitai (cellphone) bill, which I really hate to do, because the only time I ever pass a conbini is in the bus on Thursdays. I either have to get off the bus two stops early or walk the 20 minutes to Lawson and back. In case you wonder what a combini is, it's one of the many weird Japanese takes on English words. It comes from the word convenience- and is, in essence, a convenience store. But it's so much more convenient than a Western convenience store. Most (if not all) are open 24 hours. They sell bentou (boxed lunches) and ramen and liquor and anything else you might need at 3 am at a party. You can also pay your bills at the combini. There are many different chains, include Seven Eleven. My town only has two. Lawson and Mini Stop. And Lawson has an awesome grease-soaked fried chicken (the L-chickie). Sorry to be a stereotypical balck person, but it's like kryptonite for me.

Anyhow that's so not the point.

So I was walking back from Lawson, and I started daydreaming. What else is there for a writer to do on a 20 minute walk. And I started thinking about my latest novel endeavour. It made me so happy that I danced half the way home. The last 8 minutes was uphill into the sun, and that sapped all my energy, so I just walked. lol.

I'm supposed to be going to a conference in August. I need to submit 25 pages by July 1. So I reread WIP1 and WIP2. ACK! It's all crap!!!! Well, maybe not. But it made me miserable enough that I decided to write a whole new novel instead.

The result??? FANTABARACIOUS!!! ( Good moods and being a writer are a bad combination for English lexicon :)

It feels so right. I feel strongly about a lot of things and I want to teach people with my books. But I feel like my first two tries were too heavy. Tawna Fenske once said that people who like her blog will like her novels. And the people who are offended by her risque wit on her blog, probably wouldn't like her novels either. I want my novels to be like that.

But the first two WIPs were way too heavy. They felt kind of like documentary material. There's nothing wrong with documentaries. I just don't like stuff to feel like one when it isn't. Entertainment is supposed to entertain and all that jazz.

WIP3, a mere 1500 words in, is light and breezy and fun, and so easy to write. It's a little lighter than my blog, but it still bears a message. Hopefully I'll find a happy medium soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Against the rules- The Rick Riordan edition

Y'all know about me and 'rules'. If you don't know feel free to check out the Terry Pratchett edition here.

I think we all agreed back then that the rules exist for a reason.

BUT

If you're good and you have good reasons, those rules can be broken.

Since I like breaking rules so much, I've made it a mission of mine to bring you examples of rules well-broken every time I see them.

Today we'll be using THE SEA OF MONSTERS, book 2 of the Percy Jackson series as our example. We've already examined today's rule in the Terry Pratchett edition, but it can't hurt to see another example.
Especially since there's a million places telling you how to follow the rules and only a handful telling you how to break them.

RULE: Don't start a book with a dream.

REASON: Readers feel betrayed. They're just starting to know a character and his situation.

Riordan:

My nightmare started like this.

WHY IT WORKS:

That is actually the first line of the book. There are several reasons why it works for Riordan.

Firstly, this is part two of a series. Dreams have already been shown to be visions of what is happening somewhere else at the same time or visions of things to come.

Secondly, the major issue with dreams, is that the audience thinks they're real, and feels betrayed when they aren't. Riordan states it up front. This is a dream.

Thirdly, dreams are a major part of this novel. Percy keeps getting glimpses of things which he can't hope to understand until he finds himself closer to - or even in- the exact situation the dream describes. Trying to fit the pieces together gives the story an extra element of suspense as well. Starting out with a dream actually helps set the tone for the rest of the novel.

Considering both this and Pratchett, I'd say dreams as visions, can work well.

PS- Remember how I'm supposed to be going to a conference in August? (I say "supposed to" because it seems I've eaten my passport!) Well you can too! Check out the free online Write On Con.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cross genre mixes

Every oncei n a while, two music greats from completely different backgrounds and genres will team up. The result? Absoulute bliss! I think the most well-known of these pairings have involved a rapper/chanter on one end. Maybe that's because rap/hip-hop/reggae are genres prone to duets/featured artistes. Or maybe it feels that way because rap/hip-hop/reggae is so far removed from pretty much all the other genres.

Either way, here are three of my fave cross genre collabs.

Over and Over- Nelly feat. Tim McGraw. 2003.



Numb/Encore- Jay-Z and Linkin Park. 2004.



Stan- Eminem featuring Dido. 2000.



Love Like This- Natasha Bedingfield featuring Sean Kingston. 2007.


Bittersweet- Kanye West and John Mayer. 2006. (not an official video) Also there's an F-bomb in there, so if you're sensitive to that, or listening in a sensitive enviroment, be warned!


How about you? Fave collabs, cross-genre or otherwise?

The roller coaster

The awesome bloggers on the Highway (YA Highway, of course, is there any other highway worth mentioning?) are giving away more books! Swoop by and check it out.

Welcome to roller coaster known as Claire Dawn! Please make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and that your arms and legs are inside the ride. Ready??? Let's go!

All my posts for the past week have started, "Well, today kinda sucked..." or something to that effect. Seriously, it was life was trying to gang up on me or something. Generally, I'm a pretty happy go lucky person. But when I'm down, I'm way down. And it feels like the world is out to get me even when nothing's actually happened. This time, in case you wonder, stuff has actually happened. Having to choose between an awesome 2 day concert and my writing conference; trying to figure out how the heck to get to middle of nowhere, Vermont, from Japan (impossible on most airlines, expensive as hell on the one that can swing it); and now, the crowning jewel, I can't find my passport! Oh waily, waily!

Today I'm not going to drown you all in my miseries- believe me I'm good at that- but I am going to try to enlighten you a bit about the reasons behind it all. I suppose it would depend on what school of thought you subscribe to. As a Sagittarius and an ENFP, either could be the cause. But today, I'll be giving you some info on being Bipolar aka Manic-Depressive. ( I was diagnosed Bipolar 9 years ago.)

I could go on about chemical imbalances and a bunch of scientific stuff, but it's easiest to think of it as a pendulum. On one side of the swing, you've got depression, on the other mania, and normal life in between.

Everybody knows what depression is. Extreme sadness for an extended period of time, and often without reason. Mania is less well known. Simply put it's the opposite. Extreme happy feelings. Unlike depression though, mania doesn't have to be an extend period of time. It's often a shorter period with more extreme feelings.

I'm sure someone somewhere is asking, so, happy feelings, what's wrong with that? It's like being high really- although I've never been high on anything my brain didn't do to me on it's own, but then who needs drugs when your brain can you make you higher?- you're invincible. As one site I read puts it, you don't think you're invincible, you KNOW you are. The problem with this is that you're really not.

Sometimes I feel like the mania's more dangerous than the depression. With the depression, you might curl up in a ball in your bed and not go to work. You might think about suicide, but the energy required to kill yourself, might just be too much energy for you to find. In depression you overthink and overfeel everything.

Not so with mania. You don't think. You just feel and do. Things do not have consequences. Or at the very least, the consequences are so much smaller than you. It's not like they can hurt you. I think mania probably kills more people than depression, but it's not like it's at all measurable. If soemone gets AIDS from having careless sex and it kills them, that's measured as an AIDS death, not a mania death.

After the mania, comes the crash. A little bit of "What the hell was I thinking? And how the hell am I still alive with all the crap I just did?"

Manic-depression can be controlled with meds. I, however, don't do meds. Maybe that'll kill me some day. I think the meds would have killed me faster. See, there are a couple of different variations of bipolar. Some lean towards depression with few or mild cases of mania. That's not me. I've never been told which kind of bipolar I am, but I'm completely convinced I'm a rapid cycling bipolar. I go back and forth between depression and mania, although I personally tend to lean towards mania.

The difficulty in medicating Bipolar Disorder is this: you're trying to get the body to do two opposite things. Depression on its own? You want to make a person happier. Mania on its own? You want to try to take away a little happiness. Bipolar? You're trying to both at the same time. The reason I quit my meds is because they couldn't get the mania taken care of. For two years they tried different combos of different things and each time, they'd get rid of the depression, and only make the mania worse.

I was beginning to feel like I could jump into the Grand Canyon and survive!

Today? Definitely not a manic day. Not a depressed day either, really. But the depression is coming. I've been at this too long not to know.

Anyhoos, here ends today's lesson. Hope you learned a thing or two, cuz that's what's on my mind this Monday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Safe, Sweet and Super-hi-tech

Wen's got some giveaways going on. All this book love is making me SMAIRU! (how Japanese kids say Smile!)

Guess who's just got back from a work drinking party! Woo hoo! lol! I'm not drunk guys, I'm just playing it up. Although, if I were drunk, you'd never be able to tell. I post so much madness without the help of alcohol. *Ponders for a moment if I'd make more sense drunk*

Today's Far Out Friday is a set of randoms.

I was kind of late for my enkai (work drinking party). Well I wasn't really late. If I'd been sure where the place was, I would have been on time. They gave me a paper with the name of the place at school on Tuesday. (It's JHS and I'm only there Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) The teacher who gave it to me- one of the few that actually lives in town, we live on the border of a decent size city and pretty much all the teachers at JHS live in that city, it's only like a 15 minute drive to school anyhow- tried to explain where it was. I asked her if it was the sushi joint near the Board of Education. She said it was nearer to my house. It was near Kozenji Shrine. My district's name is Kozenji.

So I walk over to the shrine in the area. Lo and behold it's not named Kozenji. I know enough kanji to tell that the name starts with "Ya". Probably. Darn kanji. Why on Earth would one thing have more than one pronunciation??? I guess that's what happens when you steal someone else's writing system and transpose it into your language.

Then I see two of my 6th grade (11 year old) students. I ask them what the name of the shrine is. Yasaka. (Yay! I was right about the Ya.)

Me: Do you know where Kozenji Shrine is?
Girl 1: No, we don't.
Me: It's kool. Never mind.
Girl 2: Wait! It's Claire-Sensei!

Um!!! Who did you think it was? I'm the only black female for 100 miles or so! AND you see me for 45 minutes every week!

Anyhow, I wonder down to the main road, and turn back towards my house. If it's in Kozenji, it has to be somewhere in that direction. So I ask and old man.

Me: Do you know where Kozenji Shrine is?
OM: Kozenji Shrine?
Me: Yes
OM: There is no Kozenji Shrine. There's a Kozenji Temple.
Me: Okay, where's that?
OM: I'll take you
[This would have totally been my cue to run away screaming in the rest of the world. Here, no biggie. Japanese people, especially the rural ones are just nice like that. It's even safe to leave your house unlocked. Everybody does. But, be forewarned, the entranceway (genkan) is considered public property. So if you leave your door unlocked, and your neighbours come to ask you something, they'll just open the door and shout your name, rather than knocking. Which is pretty much the only reason I lock my door.
This town has only had one murder in recent history, too. It was in my first year here. Three old dudes were sitting around drinking. Old dude number 1 got up and went home. Old dude #2 beat old dude #3 to death with an axe handle. Apparently when they were young, old dude 2 used to own a shop, and old dude 3 (I think he was yakuza) used to come in the shop and take stuff without paying. So old dude 2 waited 40 years or so for his chance and took revenge.
Since I'm not yakuza, nor do I owe anybody anything, so I figure I'm safe. That's not to say something couldn't happen. But in my town, there doesn't seem to be any animosity towards foreigners. Seriously, if you think there's animosity in Arizona, you should try living in Japan. You don't leave home without your gaijin -foreigner- card. If a cop asks for it and you don't have it, BIG TROUBLE. And that's the nicest of it. But like I said, my town is laid back and sweet.
Anhyow I hop into the car.

Me: I'm going to the sushi place.
OM: Oh, that is by the shrine. Yasaka Shrine.

It's like two minutes away, but the old guy drives me anyway, and I duck when we pass the two students who I asked for directions. I get out of the car and apologise and thank him profusely bowing all the while.

The enkai itself was pretty cool. It wasn't the whole school staff as usual. It was just to welcome the trainee teacher. I don't know if I was invited as part of the 3rd year staff - not that I actually do anything with the 3rd year staff, I just happen to sit at their block of tables, or because he was training as an English teacher. We won't even get started on the fact that he's only at my school for 3 weeks and he only has a week left. But any excuse for an enkai.

Conversation was fun. The Vice Principal had the gall to rag on Koreans for their language being difficult. I almost choked on a cucumber slice! Then he said that Koreans always sound like they're arguing but Japanese people always sound sweet. Which is so true. I'm at the point where the minute I start speaking Japanese, my voice rises an octave. That's just how it's done.

Then we got into the different accents of Japan. I related the story of my recent meeting with some of the coordinators of my programme in Tokyo. They demonstrated the difference in a Tokyo accent and an Okayama one. Tokyo says 'arigatOU' and Okayama says 'aRIgatou'. Sounds like nothing big, but the Jpeeps think it's hilarious.

All of this stemmed from the "Claire-sensei, what are you going to do when you finish JET?" I said, I wanted to go live in a Spanish-speaking country. I told them I read Spanish newspapers every day, but I can't say the last time I read an English language one. (But who needs newspapers when I've got facebook and you guys? MUAH! KISSIES!) That's how I'm feeling this week. If they ask me next week, there'll probably be a different answer. (I'm also toying with being a UN volunteer, or going to do my MFA.) But I don't worry about it too much yet, since I'm here 'til at least August 2011 and maybe I'll stay another year after that.

So where's the hi-tech to this story? First let me issue the usual disclaimer: Japan goes from extreme to extreme. For example: Japan may well be the only country in the whole world where people still use glue to secure an envelope!

But the ultimate dichotomy in technology is in toilets. I've never been so interested in toilets 'til I came here. Either the toilet is a hole in the ground. OR it can sing to you and hide embarassing noises from the neighbours!


Some buttons on a typical Japanese-Western toilet.

Anyhow, my hardware store got new cash registers. They work like drink machines do. The cashier puts in money and money comes out. Maybe they've got these in other countries but it's the first I've seen of them.

Speaking of vending machines they have beer (and cigarette) vending machines here! Unfortunately we can't use them, because they don't process foreigner ID's. :(

And to wrap up today's random, the 13th episode of Iwate Swan, where he also randomly mentions toilets!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Easy as 1,2,3, or not...

Yesterday started out great. Or at least I was great. Happy, happy, happy! High as a kite. On life, of course. And it seemed that life was throwing every curveball it could find in an attempt to bring me down.

The last straw- which put me in a pretty foul mood for a couple hours- was when my neighbours/colleagues called to have a meeting about the night's Adult English Class. Generally, I'm all for spontaneity. But some things, if done spontaneously are more stress than they're worth. Knowing this, I told them on Monday what my plan was. I thought we were sorted. Apparently they didn't. On top of all that, when I told them I couldn't come right now because I was doing a workout, one of them had the gall to scoff!

As I said it really pissed me off. Just about every terminal hereditary disease runs in my family. There are 2 or 3 types of cancer that could off me before 40, and another that could get me by 50. At 28, I'm a year older (I think) than when my mother developed hypertension and not too far off when my father got diabetes. So my workouts are important to me. I'm not giving the Grim Reaper any ammunition.

I was angry, yet again, that someone couldn't see my side. You know this bugs me. I mean how many times have I posted about it?

This morning I woke up in a better mood. My head was clearer, and I thought the situation through.

It occurred to me that my neighbour could have felt exactly the same way. "We have this lesson to do, and instead of planning it, she's jumping around in her back room!"

And then I saw the other side of the coin.

The irony.

I'd been ranting to myself about others not being able to get me, when half the time I wasn't attempting to get them either. Incidentally, I'm actually good at seeing other people's points of view. It's just that I have to stop and remind myself to look for them. Before I run them over, that is. Cuz stuff isn't useful when it's in the rear view mirror. Unless you're in reverse.

Today's lesson?

Some things come naturally. Some things we have to work at. And we should work at them.

That goes for everything in life. Just beccause you're the world's best accountant, doesn't mean you can hide in papers and numbers and never develop social skills. Being a fantastic people person doesn't mean you shouldn't learn how to use a computer.

The skills we have to work at may never be as good as the ones that come naturally. And on rare occasions, we might do them so well, that we can fool the world it's something we enjoy. But whatever level we reach, there are always benefits to taking a moment to think about it, and developping our 'weaker' sides.

And no, I don't know who died and made me Socrates. Except maybe Socrates (or Plato, or Aristotle).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Better not be the best!

It's another Wednesday. You know what that means: Time for another Write Way Wednesday!

(On a complete aside, I have to choose between the 2 day concert I've been thinking about- Jay Z, Nas, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Nickelback, Smashing Pumpkins and bout 30 others- and being early for my writer's conference. What would you do?)

At some point, I think, every writer dreams about selling innumerable copies of their book. Usually in our minds, that's equated with the New York Times Bestseller List. But it occured to me this weekend that maybe I don't want to make the NYTB.

What???? Is Claire crazy???? Wait, we already knew she was crazy, but- not THAT crazy!

Hear me out.

I haven't watched it in a while, but American Idol is a fantastic way to demonstrate seemingly every point I ever want to make.

Season 5- The winner was Taylor Hicks- a big favourite throughout the season. So much so, that he was never in the bottom 3. Post American Idol: One number 1 hit, and not much else. That same season, Chris Daughtry came 4th. Post-Idol, he went on to form the band, Daughtry, have four number 1's and several other hits, and cause an overall greater impact on the music industry.

Season 3- maybe my favourite season. The winner? Fantasia Barrino. But the biggest name to come out of this season? Jennifer Hudson, who only made it to seventh. Fantasia, with all those vocals, failed to impress post-Idol. J-Hud hit number one a few times, and she won an Oscar, and went onto join the Who's Who of celebrityhood.

Another example I want to draw is popularity. We all know some people who are well-liked. They have 1000 friends on facebook. They're invited to every party. Everyone has their phone number. But if they really need to talk about something, or need a shoulder to lean on, they find out quickly that those facebook friends are nothing more than statistics.

And then there are other people who can count their friends on their fingers. They spend most of their weekends with those friends. They go through stuff together. They know them better than they know themselves.

Lessons I've learned:

1. The audience can be wrong. Dead wrong. Anytime you have John Q Public judging, anything goes. That's because John Q Public includes John Q Idiot and John Q Biased. Being a bestseller does not mean a book is worth the paper it was printed on. Not being a bestseller doesn't mean it isn't.

2. At the top, you HAVE to be awesome. That's a lot of pressure. Back in my school days, there was a guy who lived 2 doors over who I used to study with. I studied pretty hard and he was kinda "whatever". His philosophy? Everyone expected me to pass, so when I did pass it would be no big deal. But everyone expected him to fail, so when he passed, they'd be ecstatic. Think on it. In a weird sorta way it makes sense.

3. On Idol, there's some emphasis on being able to perform in several genres. (That's completely irrelevant, really. Nobody would ask Dolly Parton to rap!) It means that the eventual winner is someone who sings well across several genres. That person may not be the best singer. Nor may they be better in their individual genre than other singers are in theirs. Chris Daughtry is a better rocker than Taylor Hicks is a popper. ( I love making words up.)

Anyhow, the writer equivalent of this is that the megabestsellers are often kind of generic. I feel like I'd have to mute myself to the point of irreconisability to be a megabestseller.

I am a Christian, Black, Caribbean Female. I've been in the military. I speak 5 languages. And I live in Japan. That set of things influences my life every day. I can't see how it wouldn't influence my books. I don't want to tone my perspectives so far down you have to use a microscope to see them.

4. Finally, is the case of quality over quantity. There is something to be said for the die-hard fan. Taylor Hicks of Season 5 has probably had better overall success, but Country singer Kellie Pickler or Gospel singer Mandisa probably have more fans with their albums on consta-repeat.

If you were stranded on a desert island, and you only had one book, what book would you want it to be? Would it be a megabestseller? Or might it possibly be a book by a little known author you just stumbled upon, and just loved the way they told their story, and wished the characters were real, and when they were hurting you wanted to hug them, and you wanted to go places with them, and play the games they played, and so on and so forth.

I want my book to be that book. The book you'd have with you on the desert island. The book that you love so much, it ranks above some family members. Your husband or wife could divorce you and you'd be happy as long as they didn't take my book.

Okay, maybe not that last one.

I've had a weird day, (I was on a high and the whole world seemed hellbent on killing it.) so forgive me if my post is also a little weird (and rambling).

What think you? Is being a bestseller all it's chalked up to be?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Janet- Time Travel Tuesday

Recently, I got bored with my workouts. (I get bored with everything!) So I decided to start dancing for exercise. (This decision was greatly influenced by the 4 Bring It On -yes 4!!!- movies and pretty much every other English language dance movie which I've been watching over and over for the last month. With a few musicals sprinkled in for good measure.)

And when you decide you're going to dance, while drowning yourself in dance movies. It's only a matter of time before you end up on youtube. And if it's awesome dance vids you're craving, you'll eventually end up on Janet Jackson.

The woman is 3 and a half decades of dance awesome!

The Pleasure Principle in 1986 pretty much set the bar for all female dance vids to come.


And then she took it up again with Rhtym Nation in 1989


Together Again 1997


All for you- from 2000


Also, what many people might not realise is that Janet starred in 3 films which debuted at #1: Poetic Justice (which I rewatched last week), Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and Why Did I get Married? Pretty good, for someone who doesn't profess to be an actress!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Spoonful of Sugar

"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way!" Mary Poppins.


I'd like to say thank you to each and everyone of my 51 followers.

You guys know I try not to put too much stock in the number of people that follow me. A blog's worth is not measured by the number of people who follow it. Just like a book's worth isn't measured by the number of people who buy it. Nor is a person's worth measured by the number of people in his or her crowd on Saturday nights.

These things are easier to say than to believe. To really believe.

You can know with all your heart that having 1 follower or having 100 doesn't change the quality of your blog. Still that doesn't stop you from drooling enviously when you see other blogs with 600 followers. For writers, we all aspire to be bestsellers- or at least most of us do. But I think I'd rather sell 500 books to people who absolutely love my book, and quote it every day, than be one of a million bestsellers.

Of course I say that now...

Why is it so much harder to take your own advice, swallow your own medicine, if you will?

What things do you say, that you have a hard time listening to?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fave first lines?

It's near impossible to keep up with contests these days. There's so much out there for reader/writers to win! Amy Holder is giving away SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK by Sydney Salter. And Michelle Hodkin is giving out some cool ARCs over on her blog.

All you need is your favourite first line.

The first line that stands out most in my mind, and the only one I can quote offhand is:

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother, Jem, got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

I actually almost forgot to write that this is from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. That book is such a literary influence, I forget the possibility that people haven't read it.

Two new favourites:

"Baby," groaned the guy- Ted? Tad? -something like that - and crushed his lips against the side of her neck, shoving her face against the wall of the toilet stall.

from Jennifer Weiner's IN HER SHOES and

Early in the spring of 1750, in the village of Juffure, four days up-river from the coast of The Gambia, West Africa, a man-child was born to Omoro and Binta Kinte.

I'd think this line would be even more obvious that the TKAM opener, but just in case you don't know, it's from Alex Haley's ROOTS.

What's your fave first line?

Friday, June 4, 2010

A New PM and Pure Sport!

Here's my review of INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER by Julie Halpern.

We've got a new Prime Minister in Japan, Naoto Kan (which would be Kan Naoto if you said it in Japanese). I've lived in Japan for 22 months. This is my 4th!!! Prime Minister! Crazy, huh? I'm kind of sorry what went down with Hatoyama, because I thought he was so cool! At least the DPJ is still in power.

Still, I find it very ironic. The land where everything else takes so long to change, and the Prime Ministers change like seasons.

Meanwhile, on the local scene, my schools have been having their sports for the last three weeks. At JHS, it's calle Taiikusai- Physical Fitness Festival (why is everything so much longer in English?) and at elementary it's Undoukai (Movement Meet). Here are a few pics!


JHS 1st years demonstrating kendo.


White team doing Thriller


Red team dance


Presentation of prizes. I think you got trophies for the dance and the kendo demos, and you got the purple flag for winning the sports overall.


At the end of sports both teams hand over the flags to the Principal. The two team captains happened to be the two class clowns when I first came. (They were first years back then.) I was shocked to see the one on the right cry. It's their last JHS sports, and it's always emotional.


The Taiikusai is officially over, but the 3rd years lead the school in a song. Every year, the whole 3rd year bawls at this point.


My Japanese Teacher or English (JTE) was the head of the White team. Guess which team won!


I lurve the White team's flag. My kiddies make me so proud!


The opening parade at my tiny elementary. Note the Heil Hitler salute!!!


The elemetaries and kindergartens hang strings of flags at their sports. The second from the left is Brazil, as is the second from the right. lol!


The red and white things that are hanging are called teruterubozu, and you hang them to wish for good weather when it looks like it's going to rain.


The White team in the Cheer-off


Red team had cool red gloves


There's only one first year. They made him run a race holding hands with the principal! :)


Then they made all the guests race with bicycle rims. From left to right: Tiny School Principal, The Superintendent of the Board of Education (the BIG boss), and the JHS Principal.


In the Kumitaisou,


kids show off their (ridiculous amount of) strength and flexibility


Kids in their yukata, getting ready to beat the taiko drums


The PTA had a mukade (centipede) relay. Look carefully, their feet are tied together.


The majority of the teaching staff.

And in this weeks instalment of Iwate Swan, it's Halloween!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Writers' Blok and Responsibility

This has been a round for a little while, but I'm posting it cuz I love it and some of you writer types may not have seen it.



Jackson Pearce's novel, SISTERS RED is out in June.

The foreigner population of my town (i.e. 4 people, well really the English-speakers, because there are mountains of Chinese) got to talking last night. All 4 of us are religious and have deep morals, and lots of thoughts about society. So from time to time, we discuss things in a way that would make Socrates sit up and smile.

Last night on the table, the moral responsibility og the author. It started, as many a recent literary argument, with Twilight.

W, the social worker of the group, said Edward was a poster child for spousal abuse. Twilight, she believed, extols the wrong values in a man and in a relationship, and puts this caricature on display for pre-teens as the ideal man.

S, the ABSOLUTE moralist, said it was the responsibility of the author to present truth in their words and to consider all the repercussions of their work.

P, ever the libertarian and the sole male, thought that while some of the responsibility of raising children was the parent's; that society was too quick to let others off the hook. It should be everyone's duty to consider the things they directed towards children and teens.

As an artist, I argued that it was unreasonable to expect an artist to be responsible for every reaction his or her work invoked.

Back to the Twilight example. Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon. From what little I know about Mormon life, there is nothing wrong with a woman educating herself and then staying home to take care of the children, while the huzzers brings home the moolah. The flip side of the coin is that there is also nothing wrong with the husband being responsible for everything that does not concern the home, and the wife being submissive to him.

In fact, not only is this not wrong. It's an ideal. And not just for a couple Mormon women. For many women of many religions. And once upon a time, that ideal was widely believed, even in the secular Westen culture. Back then supporting your husband didn't mean you had the personality of a canteloupe's toe. Nor did it equate to him being an abuser waiting to happen.

So if as a writer, I write something that reflects my ideals - ideals which are NOT OUTRAGEOUS, and were once revered in this very society- and someone takes something else from it, is that my fault?

It's a thin line for me. I don't believe I'm responsible for every reaction my words cause. But on the other hand, I do believe I have a responsibility to use my writing to open people's minds. I've travelled a lot, seen a lot, lived in 3 very different countries, met oodles of people. My strength IS these experiences and I mean to share them. I'm not just trying to convince anyone of my views with my writing either. I've less respect for someone who "believes" the same thing I do for no reason at all, than for someone who has carefully considered all the information and come to a different conclusion. So that's what I do with my writing, present the options. Hopefully in a creative way you've never seen, which makes you consider things you've never considered.

BUT

That's MY writing. I don't think that it's everybody's responsibility to open your mind. Some people were meant to write books which make you laugh so hard, you think you're having an aneurism. Some were meant to write books that would take your mind off your problems. Some were meant to write plots so convoluted that you feel like you could tackle LAPD's unsolved case file when you're done. And every writer should strive to ensure that a reader comes away from their reading with a net positive. They're not in a worse position than where they started for having read the book.

And what about you? What's your social moral responsibility as a writer? Consider the possibilty effects of what you're writing, think about what you want people to come away with, let your true colours shine and above all,

Write YOUR book.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

SS Me (Time Travel Tuesdays)

Check out this contest for readers and writers. Win books or a critique!

I usually post a musical blast from the past on Tuesdays. But it's called time travel and I figured, whatever, as long as it's not now, that fits the bill. So in continuation of yesterday's post, I give you Secondary School Me.


Here I am with two of my best friends. Can you guess which one is me?

As I metioned yesterday, my "clique" didn't fit the stereotypes. And neither did I. I was very oblivious to peer pressure. At 13, I got myself a bad reputation. I was walking on a public road with a 19 year old guy (who later became my boyfriend). It was the two of us, another girlfriend of mine and two of his male friends. Somehow that simple act of walking on a public road (maybe holding hands- I forget) turned into "OMG! She's sleeping with that old guy!" (I never did sleep with him- in case you wondered, but clearly that didn't matter.) I stopped caring what people were saying. Because obviously the truth had no role in it.

I lived for me.

In school I hung out with who I wanted to, people who made laugh and who I had fun with. I played the sport I wanted to- field hockey, not cool by any stretch of the imagination, but the one I enjoyed nonetheless. In Sixth form, I chose the subjects I wanted to do- Computer, Management and French- even though the teachers were like, "What are you going to do with that combination?" (teach English in Japan would not have been my reply.) I went to the movies I wanted to see. "But sixteen year olds don't watch animated Disney movies on the big screen!" Well, you know what? I do!

For a long time, I thought everyone was this way, just living for themselves. Apart from the people who were obvious examples. The "popular" kids. Because they had to live up to expectations to be popular.

This is who I am. And only after years of clashing with people over it, did I realise, people do have a lot of value for the opinions of others!

I care about whether or not I've done the right thing. Others worry about whether or not people know they haven't.

I care about being healthy. Others worry about looking good.

I care about enjoying my life. Others worry about pleasing those around them. (I know that sometimes this is a bad thing in me.)

I care about travelling the path I feel God intended for me to be on. Others worry about doing the sensible thing.

I keep myself happy. I watch the movies I like and read the books I like- even if they're intended for 12 year olds. I hang out where I feel like, do what I feel like with my free time, live where I want to, study what I want to...

And I've been that way since 13. I've been through a ton of changes, but I've come full circle and I could be twins with 13 year old me (except for 80 pounds gained- UGH).

This is a big part of the reason the two novels I've "completed" are YA. I don't feel like the person I was in school is well represented in YA. Seems like only fantasy novel MC's can be confident. I beg to differ! That was just not who I was.

THIS
is who I am. And who I was!

Who were you in high school? Who are you now?

The in crowd

That's what's on my mind this Monday. (It's still Monday in California:) I just finished INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER by Julie Halpern. The book was very much about seeking out where you belong in high school. Are you one of the nerds? Should you roll with the punks? Or do you have what it takes to be one of the cool kids.

I see this a lot in books and on tv, but that's just not how it was for me and it's often difficult for me to relate. I did have my group of friends in school and most of us are still close now, ten years after secondary school. (For those of you not educated in the British system, secondary school is like Hogwarts. You start at 11, at 16 you have major regional exams, at 18 you have another set. But you can leave school at 16, and of the 22 government secondary schools on my island, only 4 go to 18 anyhow.)

In Barbados we don't go to secondary school by zone, but rather by the scores we get in an exam we take at 11. So students are all at around the same level and we're from all over the island. I went to the top high school, HC. So even the non-nerds were brilliant.

At first, I hung out with the people I knew. I came from a small school, and in my first year, there were only 3 people from my primary school at HC, and neither of them had been great friends of mine. I ended up sitting next to a girl I'd gone to lessons with, and being friends with her. And also with a boy who had gone to my primary school until about 7 and then changed schools. Then I became involved in Girl Guides (= British Girl Scouts) and my clique was the Guides and Boy Scouts. But we didn't have a "thing". When we hung out, what we talked about had nothing to do with Guides or Scouts and we were not identified with being Guides or Scouts- except that we hung out at the Scout Hut.

We just were. Is it that rare? For secondary/high school students to just be? Without a label? We just hung out? And over the years, we kind of became popular for it. We didn't have entrance requirements: you didn't need to be this pretty, or this smart, or this rich. You just needed to be!

What clique did you subscribe to? What was your "thing" in high school?