Lake Getaway

During the LA Carmageddon weekend, when the 405 was closed from the 101 to the 10, I spent the weekend with friends at Lake Nacimiento

Here’s my friend, whose house we stayed at, wake surfing. I didn’t attempt to wakeboard or wake surf, but I did ride – and drive! – the wave runner.
The amazing thing I discovered during the weekend was that it is possible to have a social life and write at the same time. Also, when people realize how committed you are, they’ll get behind you. In middle and high school, being smart wasn’t always a good thing. I got made fun of a lot. I did wonder, as I packed my laptop, if I’d get heckled for bringing it. But I was among mostly medical students. If anyone knows what it’s like to work hard, and to get picked on for being smart, they do. And as luck would have it, one of the med students’ boyfriends happened to be a screenwriter. “Hey,” he said as I typed away one morning before breakfast, “You’re making me look bad.” A compliment.
Being a writer is different from being a doctor in so many ways. Often my friends have described the way they have to disassociate. Most doctors don’t talk about work. What happens in the hospital stays there. When they do, the way they talk about death gives me chills – so nonchalant it seems almost lackadaisical. But they have to, when they deal with it the way they do. Writers are on the opposite end of the spectrum: rather than detaching, we are always thinking about how things link, about how something could be turned into a story. We are always working.
And I was proud of myself for keeping to my schedule even while on vacation. While others woke early for a spin on the boat or nursed hangovers, I worked on my novel.
I first heard about Lake Nacimiento through a friend and fellow writer – a member of my LA writers’ group, in fact. He happens to have a friend with a lake house, as well. My thought: writer’s retreat?

Farm Animals and Fusing Dichroic Glass

            Continuing to write for ehow.com as a Demand Media writer, I published two more articles! The first, about how to make farm animals from wood or fabric, see here. The second, about how to fuse a dichroic glass pendant, find here.
            As a new writer, I worked with senior editors on my first three articles. I’m used to speaking with editors in person. They ask me to write or rewrite something, and I ask questions. But most of the actual editing is usually done onscreen, and away from me, anyway. I would submit something and get it back all marked up. Or I’d submit something and see it printed in the magazine, months later, with changes I didn’t have anything to do with. That’s the way it works. So seeing things changed and getting little side notes from an unseen editor actually wasn’t that weird. I still prefer knowing there’s an actual human on the other end. Guess what? There is. I actually connected with an editor by thanking the person for his/her help and, in addition to the edits and comments, the editor wrote a lovely note back:

            Good job, clean writing, minor changes, proper formatting, and a good luck! While I acknowledge myself for my talent and determination, I know what it’s like to work under nasty editors. I’m grateful for the encouragement and hope I’m lucky enough to continue working with similarly supportive editors!

Lessons from The Jokers

I was babysitting my seven-year-old cousin who is, to my joy, an avid reader, and my aunt asked me to take him to the library. One of my favorite distractions is using “big words,” for which he pauses his mischief to discover the definition.
As he browsed the young readers’ chapter-book section, I sifted through “New Fiction” and found this awesome book: Albert Cossery’s The Jokers. After Googling this NPR review on my iPhone, I decided to check it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. First published in French in 1964, the book is still relevant – and great to learn from as I revise my novel. As I read I discovered a few key literary techniques…

In this novel, Cossery drew one chapter right into the next. When I began writing the first draft of my novel, a member of my writers’ group suggested I treat each chapter as a short story. This was great advice, as it made the task easier to tackle and each chapter well-rounded in its own right. Unfortunately, it also meant I ended up with a lot of disjointed, or completely lacking, transitions. So as I revise one of the things I’m working in is linking chapter to chapter.
Cossery told the story from several different perspectives: the first seven or eight chapters were each narrated by a different character. Although I played with POV in my first draft, mostly by accident, for the second I decided to streamline. The limited perspective is working so far. However, nice to know it can be done.
Cossery’s novel was clean, read fast, had empathetic yet deeply flawed characters, and it had a message that was both political and a statement on human nature. And it hinged on the last line. This, I thought, was something only short stories were allowed to do. Not something I’m going for but again, good to know it can be done.

In order to check out my book, and my cousin’s, I got a new library card. Amazingly, the design is exactly the same as when I got my first library card, at around my cousin’s age. I have always loved libraries, and bookstores. As books go digital and stores disappear, I’m reminded of Fahrenheit 451. Fingers crossed books don’t go the way of Montag’s world – and my work lives on in the physical world as well as the digital.