Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yay I win!

Which is something that doesn't happen very often.  I won a contest over at Magical Words ( for a signed copy of How to Write Magical Words.  I'm excited!

I'm also finishing my novel--Hell Mary--tonight for the Suduvu contest.  If I say it out loud (that is, write it on a blog) it will happen.  I'll get the thing submitted tonight and let it go. Next week I'll start on the synopsis and query letters for it, too, and start sending those out.  It scares me to put it out there, but what makes me more worried is my lack of enthusiasm for the book right now.  I read it and I think "yeah, this is pretty good, but maybe it is crap."  People have told me that they like it. People have told me it is good.  People who are not morons, whose opinions I value, etc.  So I think I'm just done with it for a while. It is time to send it out because any more revisions are small, and feel like they aren't doing anything. I think this just means that I need to send it out, see if it can fly in the world and move on to something else.

Ooh!  What's that over there? A new shiny!! Hooray!!!

So, I think I'm going to start work on another novel that started out as a story that I thought up randomly for a romance/erotica e-press.  Now I'm going to see how far it goes and see if it is a novel, or if it is a story, or if it is nothing at all.  I like my main character and the opening dilemma.  Now let's just see if I like her for long enough to write a whole book about her.

And then there is the stack of grading that is staring at me accusingly.  And the editing that I need to get done, and will get done, tomorrow--and I might start on it later tonight.  We'll see.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jet Lag is Painful

Having arrived back home from England, I promptly got a migraine which kept me sleeping it off for far too many hours. This explains why I am up at 5:00am.  This does not adequately explain why I have infomercials on. Nor does it explain the infomercials themselves. The first was for a baby-food maker. I don't object to one making one's own baby food. But the women were weirdly excited about what amounted to, really, a blender with a happy face on it. And the woman with the fake baby that she was bouncing in her arms was creepy.  Now they've moved on (presumably for the post baby crowd) to body shapers. In these infomercials, fat women explain how they hate their jiggly fat, and thin women put on body shapers. It's odd. And vaguely offensive. Watching a thin woman pretend to struggle fastening her jeans is sad. And so, I must conclude that mothers who have insecurities about what they are feeding their small children and how they themselves look are up late watching A&E, because these wouldn't be on if they didn't sell.

I think I'll stop before I have a mild feminist freak out about hiding post-baby bodies because they are ugly.

Like I said, jet lag is painful.  Someone ought to start a telethon.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A small touch of Fish before I head for the Island

Class having ended early--as it was barely all my students could do to contain themselves for the 35 minutes we sat there, in their last class of the day, on the last day before Spring Break--I returned to my office to figure out what I should do with myself until it was time to depart.  The students with whom I am carpooling are to arrive at 4:00. At that time we shall decide whether or not to buy tickets for a play before we go.

A small problem in my Internet program required me to restart my computer, so tooling through meaningless (or meaningful) web pages was out.  So what to do?

Ah! But I got a package in my mailbox today! An exciting even as I didn't remembered buying anything lately.  It was a desk copy of a book I ordered, to see if I wanted to use it in my Freshmen Composition classes, or perhaps in my Advanced Grammar class.  How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Mr. Stanley Fish. 

Mr. Fish is prolific in the literary criticism world, and I am familiar with his work. He is often witty, often sharp, and (though not for either of those) not my favorite of authors.  And yet, the idea behind the book is a brilliant one.  For lovers of words, we don't usually love them for their meaning or sounds alone, but rather the contexts in which we've seen them dance and sing.  For lovers of books, we are well aware that without the bits, there'd be no whole.

And yet, I have consistently forgotten about the sentence. That middling level building block between clauses and phrases and paragraphs. That essence of meaning and, as Fish points out, pleasure.  There is delight in a truly good sentence, and the ones in his Introduction do not disappoint. A smattering of the ones he mentions:

Eli Wallach as the head bandit in The Magnificent Seven: "If God didn't want them sheared, he wouldn't have made them sheep" (5).

An anonymous fourth grader on the appearance of a mysterious box at school: "I was already on the second floor when I heard about the box" (5).

John Updike on Ted Williams hitting a home run in his last at bat in Fenway Park: "It was in the books while it was still in the sky" (9).

And my favorite, Joan Crawford on why she dressed like she was on her way to a premier every time she left her house: "If you want to see the girl next door, go next door" (4).

Fish spends some time explaining why these are great without destroying them (a talent in any kind of literary criticism), and I won't go into it here.  He brings the chapter to its last point by suggesting the following:
"[...] the practice of analyzing and imitating sentences is also the practice of learning how to read them with an informed appreciation. Here's the formula: Sentence craft equals sentence comprehension equals sentence appreciation" (11).  For anyone who writes anything and wants it to be beyond simply the competent conveyance of information, this should be a mantra.  He ends the chapter with a gesture to chapter two, in which he seeks answers to the "what is a sentence" question.

And so I will go back to reading it, until life begins its frantic movement again and I don't have time to sit and luxuriate in the artistry that is the sentence.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Short morning post of triumph...

This will be a short post because I've got to get to my day job and do day-job things like hold office hours and grade the (slightly smaller) mountain of papers I have.

I finished my edits on Hell Mary, my novel, last night.  I did detailed line edits and took notes and made plans.  (Small confession: not the last chapter, which I realized I need to totally rewrite. Again. So I guess I did make a plan. It said: "completely rewrite with...")  It was a good feeling, but a scary one, too.  I enjoy it when I read it, which is good because if I don't like it, who else will?  But, on the other hand, I'm feeling very much ready to be done with it.  Ready to send it out in the world and see if it will fly. All those metaphors.  I'd like to get to actually making the changes tomorrow, but with other stuff (that day job again) I just don't know if I can.  And then Friday starts the Big Trip (a Study Abroad trip to London). So no work on the novel for a week, until I get back.

But, all the grumbling aside. I finished it, and I feel like it looks good. Like the plot arc works, and the parts work.  Most of the editing will be deck-chair arranging, so if massive edits and overhauls are needed, I don't see them at this moment. Maybe I will someday.

So, on more edit, and it's off to the Suvudu contest it goes.  And then out go the query letters. Which is a whole other challenge.  (I went through about fifteen different words until I got to the relatively neutral "challenge.")