Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just Words

As a writer I'm hyperaware of the power of words. Even one word, carefully chosen, can elevate or destroy, inspire passion, evoke hate, crush a soul.

I have a ten-year old boy. He's a nice kid, but even nice kids (sometimes especially nice kids) have to come up with a way to protect themselves from the harsh world of the playground. Words are becoming his weapons of defense. They aren't curse words, but they are hurtful--retard, moron, idiot. I correct him. I get angry. I try to think of creative ways to show the damage these words can cause. Just when I think he gets it, I hear a group of his friends talking while playing hockey. "That's so gay," one of them says. The rest laugh. I realize I'm fighting a battle I'll probably lose.

This issue was tackled so effectively on the show Glee this week. The father of the gay character defended his son after another boy used the word "faggy." The boy didn't mean the harm the word caused, and was shocked by the father's reaction. In an incredibly moving speech, the dad effectively explained the pain, the cumulative pain of a word often used so casually. I went back and forth on whether or not to show this to my son, and ultimately didn't because he'd be watching it out of context.

I guess my job is to connect these words to the pain they cause. The lady down the block has a son with Down's syndrome. We wave hello in the morning on our walk to school. Should ask my son if he'd call this man a retard? My husband's cousin brings his partner to family parties. Would it be appropriate to use the word fag? To call out someone for being "so gay" in front of Jon and Ed?

This seems a little mean, I know. He's ten. But then he's eleven, and then comes junior high and high school where the words (and the cruelty) become much, much worse.

Many of you have kids. Any ideas on how to handle this? I welcome your words of advice!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I need to watch it again. And I'm not that smart when it comes to this stuff. And I watched through the haze of a migraine...OK, enough excuses, here's what I thought...

I don't see the ending as a cop-out at all. If Jack had woken up in Kate's arms with little freaky Aaron toddling about, now that would have sucked. What I saw last night was a daring commentary on time, life/death, and the power of love. I have way more questions than answers, but I'd rather focus on the conclusion, because I think there actually was one.

Time is fluid and bendable and not linear. What happened on the Island actually happened, whether you think the losties were dead or alive when the events occurred. We know our losties weren't in the light, so they hadn't let go of things like anger and fear and revenge (before Locke goes into the church, he "forgives" Ben, and Ben's reaction reinforces this). Was the island actually purgatory, as people have predicted from the start of the series? No, because heaven and hell and earth exist in time, in all time, and not as actual places but as a part of the total life experience of every human being (which is why Jacob and Richard are so happy to be re-entered into natural life--in protecting the light they are robbed of ever participating--which is why Hurley is in the church at the end--he changed the rules).

What is this light? When Jack enters the vestibule, he sees symbols of a variety of faiths, but ultimately what is in that church is about love and basic connections in our lives that bring love to the world. This sounds cheesy, I know. But it isn't. Not when the show spent six years basically showing us the redemptive power of love.

I think this is beautiful.

But I still have questions...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Freaky Friday

Random bits of randomness:

1. Lost season finale. Goodbye, Sawyer. And all those other people.

2. Crown Vics: I'm seeing these guys tonight. What should I wear? I think flowers should be involved. In my hair? Cleavage?

3. Alexa's Etsy shop. My friend Alexa opened a cute vintage shop on Etsy. Stop by and have a look!

4. According to my 7 year old, my new name is Bergen Lergen Irgen Shwergen. Maybe I'll take it as a pen name. I could write Swedish mysteries. How does The Girl with the Lingonberry Tattoo sound?

5. Big controversy last week? Gay guys playing straight. Newsweek published an interesting article insinuating male gay actors shouldn't play hetero characters. Understandably, people freaked, because the logical assumption from Ramin Setoodah's article is straight men can bury their sexuality to play gay men, but the opposite is rarely true. I'm not sure if that's exactly what's being said, but I do disagree with one of the examples the article uses: Jonathan Groff on Glee. Openly gay Jonathan plays Jesse St. James (Um...yeah), Rachel's mildly hetero boyfriend and former rival. Setoodah calls Groff "distracting" because of his "theater queen" posturing. Um, I strongly disagree. Jesse St. James replaced Puck in my heart after this very sex-ay dance number with Rachel. The video is crap--Fox cracks down on such things--but tell me you don't get all tingly watching these two. What do you guys think?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Method Writing

Supposedly Daniel Day Lewis is a total method actor, immersing himself so fully in his roles he'll only answer to his character name, even if it's his wife calling. (Wonder how much fun she had when he was working on Gangs of New York.) Method acting always seemed a bit extreme to me, until now. Because I'm experiencing method writing. Uh-huh.

Right now I'm going through my second novel trying to make sure my current MC (Roisin)sounds nothing like the MC from my first novel (Trudie). I had a hard time shaking Trudie--she's funny and sarcastic and full of sass. I was a lot more fun to be around when writing about her world. Roisin is introverted and contemplative--and about halfway through writing this second novel all I wanted to do was hole up in my bedroom and ignore the world. I can see the point where Roisin seeped in; at around Chapter 15 she lost any trace of Trudie-ness.

Does this happen to you guys? Do you adopt the traits of the characters you've grown so close to? Or am I creeping you out?

Soon I'll leave Roisin and head into my new novel, told from four perspectives--2 male, 2 female. And it's about sex. So for four to six months will I be schizo? And a perv? Hmmm...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

From the Vault

I'm totally living vicariously through Kody Keplinger, who recently blogged about her plans to spend the summer living and working in NYC. She'll be working hard, but I've already romanticized her experience, probably because I spent my summer after freshman year earning minimum wage in a dusty old film library in rural Illinois, lonely, poor, and BORED.

I wanted to be a writer, but didn't know how to go about actually becoming one. The whole "butt-in-seat" concept was a little beyond me, so instead of writing I decided to do some reading. Our university's library reflected its strong drama department and housed rows and rows of plays. My plan was this: I'd choose a letter of the alphabet and read every playwright in it. I wanted to learn to write good dialogue, and figured this was the best way.

I randomly selected the letter S. Perfect, I thought. Shakespeare, Strindberg...uh...Simon. Yeah, I started my great reading experience with Simon, Neil. I read 15 of his plays that summer, and never got to Macbeth or Miss Julie.

From those plays, not-so-funny me learned how to be funny on the page. I learned rhythm. I learned timing. I learned so much about language and how to make words do what you want them to. It was an education, and Neil Simon taught me more than any professor in my subsequent creative writing courses.

I loved every play that man wrote, but I did have my favorites. They were:

1. Barefoot in the Park (Recently on Broadway starring Amanda Peet.)

2. The Odd Couple

3. Simon's autobiographical trilogy: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Lost in Yonkers

Check out your local theater--chances are you'll find one of Neil Simon's plays being produced. Or add the film versions to your netflix queue. Not only are Robert Redford and Jane Fonda hilarious in Barefoot in the Park, but the fashions are to die for! Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

My sista

Happiest of birthdays to my sister, Joyce. It feels odd to type her name because I haven't called her anything but "dork" in twenty-five years. And she calls me "freakshow."

I don't know how people without sisters survive. She's my psychiatrist, fashion consultant, emergency babysitter, health advisor...and best friend.

I recently had the great pleasure of watching my sister walk across a stage and receive her degree from one of the most prestigious nursing schools in the country. Summa cum laude. Uh-huh. When the Dean handed her the diploma, I thought, this girl has no idea how fantastic she is. So I'm telling her now.

Hey, dork. You rule. And are awesome. Happy birthday!

Love, Freakshow

Friday, May 14, 2010

Freaky Friday

Here goes:

1. So I'm driving home from work last night at around midnight, barely able to prop my eyes open, and all of a sudden this woman on the radio is singing, I'm a cougar, you're a cougar, too! Raaawwr! is "The premiere online dating service that pairs women in their prime with younger men and ends the double standard." Wha? Should I feel empowered (I am cougar, hear me roar!) or skeezed out? I'm going with the skeeze. Ewww...

2. Book rec: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I've got to admit I didn't like it at first, and I wondered how I was going to tell the person who gave it to me that it just wasn't my thing. I stuck with it, though, and by around 100 pages in I knew there was no way I was putting it down. This is a really great novel, folks; it's surprisingly deep and philosophical. Run to your local bookstore. Seriously.

3. I need squee lessons. Not that I have anything in particular to squee about at the moment, but if I did, I'd flounder in squee-less silence. I'm just not a person who makes noise. I don't scream at concerts or cheer at sporting events and, though I'm a teacher and can project when I have to, people are always asking me to speak up IRL. Is a squee a yelp? A high-pitched scream? I have no idea. Guess I'll have to ask Lisa and Laura.

4. Mother Nature is ticked at me for my utter lameness. I have not turned over my garden yet. I know. I am zone five, so I can still get my plants in, but lame, lame, lame.

5. My friend K.V. is stuck in the hospital on this gorgeous day. That totally sucks, K. I'll have to bring you some Dove dark and National Enquirers to pass the time. Hope you're on the mend!

Have a fantabulous weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From the Vault

Most of us know Buddy Holly from that Weezer song (Oooh-weee-Oooh, I look just like Buddy Holly...) or as the inspiration for The Day the Music Died, the end-of-the-night song college bars played when they wanted us to get the hell out. My mom works for a store that sells costumes at Halloween and Buddy Holly glasses are filed under "nerdwear." Here's a shot of Buddy without his glasses:

This doesn't scream nerdy to me. And neither does his music. Listen to some. It's sexy and modern and lyrically perfect. Try Well...All Right, an ode to the dawning confidence of the young. Or the tale of a woman who can't walk away (or the man whose ego can't imagine she will), That'll Be the Day . How about listening to a snippet of Maybe, Baby--hear something familiar? According to Paul McCartney, Holly was the primary influence on the Beatles during the early years. In fact, besides being a play on words (beat-less), "The Beatles" was a slightly amended version of "The Crickets," the name of Buddy Holly's band. Click here to watch Paul sing his version of Peggy Sue. Now tell me Holly's music isn't sexy.

Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in 1959 at twenty-freaking-two. Yep, 22. Just six months before his death, he fell in love with a record company receptionist. Buddy proposed to Maria Elena the day they met, married her two months later, and composed this song to celebrate, recorded in her presence. Enjoy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Dessen!

As reported in Persnickety Snark, and confirmed via Twitter by Sarah Dessen herself:

From Publisher's Weekly:

Deals: Week of 5/10/10: "Hayes Buys ‘Cut and Run’
Agent Leigh Feldman, of Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman, sold a new YA novel by Sarah Dessen to Viking Children’s Books. Regina Hayes bought world rights to Cut and Run, about a high school senior who, after her parents’ divorce, has taken up the practice of assuming a new identity in each of the four towns she’s lived in. Dessen, according to Penguin, has sold more than four million copies of her nine previous titles, which include the New York Times bestsellers Along for the Ride and Lock & Key. Cut and Run is scheduled for May 2011."

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love Sarah Dessen's work. All of her books are deeply heartfelt coming of age stories, but this title looks like Dessen's return to some darker material, which is exciting. Like Elizabeth Scott and Deb Caletti, Sarah Dessen is quite gifted at creating realistic, relatable characters and I can't wait to see what she does with this fabulous idea.

(BTW, If you aren't reading Persnickety Snark on a regular basis, then you are really missing out. Adele over at PS interviews great writers, writes honest book reviews, and offers a unique take on YA in general. Check her out!)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Freaky Friday

OK, technically it's Saturday, but life got in the way...

1. I took the plunge last week and bought a Macbook Pro. Then I went a leeetle bit crazy and installed Scrivener. BEST DECISION EVER. Suddenly I'm organized. No more post-its flying all over my bedroom, no more trying to decipher restaurant napkins with hastily scribbled notes--I can type them onto the corkboard. At least in theory. I'm still learning.

2. This week's episode of the Real Housewives of NYC put the "reality" in reality television. During a particularly nasty exchange Alex tells Jill, and I don't know if I'll get this exactly right, "I live in Brooklyn, and I'm trying to get by in this horrible economy!" Good for you, Alex. In Jill's world giving a $4,000 never-worn designer dress to a homeless charity makes one a good person. Jill's delusions are epic.

3. True Blood minisodes. So fun. This is HBO marketing expertise at its best. Click here for Eric and here for Jessica.

4. My To-Be-Read pile is stellar. The Carrie Diaries, Before I Fall, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and the 10th Sookie Stackhouse book. This should keep me happy until June!

5. Last, but definitely not least, happiest of Mother's Days to all the mamas!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

All the Young Dudes

I've written a bunch of chapters for my third book, though I'm still putting the finishing touches on my second. I know, I know, not too smart, but sometimes characters just won't shut up and a person just has to get writing.

My third novel is a story told from--OMG, what the hell am I thinking--four different perspectives. I've got three of the voices down, but the fourth is really kicking my derriere. Kevin is a really guyish guy--the kind of guy I never hung around with in high school, the kind of guy who wouldn't have wanted to hang with me if I asked. He's not a jerk, just so different from me, and I didn't want to fall into the trap of making a 17 year old boy sound like a thirty-something woman masquerading as one.

So what does a writer do when she's having a little trouble? She reads. A lot. And I've had the pleasure of reading these great narratives told--very realistically--from a teenage guy's point of view:

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
King of the Screw-Ups by K. L. Going
Anything by John Green

Got any to add? I need all inspiration I can get...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From the Vault

(OK, in an effort to give this blog a little rhythm and consistency, I've decided every Tuesday will be a "From the Vault" day, that is, a short essay on a movie, book, song, etc., from the past that has continuing influence. Some of the stuff will be pretty old, as in, before most of us found our way to this planet.)

I learned yesterday that Lynn Redgrave* died. She wasn't as famous as some of the other people in her family, or as outspoken, but Lynn's work was wonderful, particularly in Georgy Girl (1966).

Plain, sloppily dressed Georgy is what my mom would rather impolitely refer to as big-boned. She lives in a flat in swinging London, which actually is still working class drab, though you do kind of expect John, Paul, George, and Ringo to careen around a corner with a pack of girls in hot pursuit. Her roommate is the stylish Meredith, who happens to be pregnant by her boyfriend, Jos.

Georgy is the perpetual third wheel who suddenly gets the boy, then finds she really doesn't need the boy, thank you very much. And whether you read this as early feminism or Georgy's inability to form a relationship, it's interesting, and mildly shocking, and definitely stays with you.

Check out this trailer for the movie to get a feel for what Georgy is all about.

I love that there are book clubs popping up all over, but I think movie clubs are just as fun. Georgy Girl is one of those films you could talk to your girlfriends about for hours. Check it out!

*Lynn lost her job on the television series House Calls because, a breast-feeding mom at the time, she was fired when she brought her child to the set. Lynn sued and lost, but this makes her instantly cool in my book.