Tag Archives: writing

On Anything-ism in Fiction, and Hypocrites

It cracks me up when people criticize fiction because it doesn’t present modern Western ideas about social matters in what’s considered a forward-thinking way. It is fiction. If you want to write fiction that seeks to reform someone’s thinking, do that. If you want to read fiction that changes and transforms the world, go, you. But to criticize the product of someone’s work and imagination because you disapprove of the theme is laughable to me, and small-minded. It’s saying, “Of course, you should be creative. Just don’t do it THAT way because it’s backward and icky and you’re horrible. Also, it hurts my feelings.”

Rrrright. So, see, criticizing George R. R. Martin because Game of Thrones is violent and sadistic, and, at times, sexist, is kind of stupid. Anyone who doesn’t like those thinOneOfThoseDaysgs ought to be forewarned and not read the books, unless you enjoy the inner turmoil that results from reading graphic everything vile, but you’d be missing out on so
me killer intrigue and world building (which I always admire in a plot, but the latter
is not in academic vogue at the moment). The same goes for any other matters addre
ssed in the books. They aren’t about changing society, and if the series makes you think, yay. But it’s fantasy, which kind of means anything goes, and often does.

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. But don’t insist that artists/musicians/authors change what they do because it grates on your sense of social outrage. I saw someone attack Emilia Clarke because she defended GoT against critics who call it sexist. Ironically, some of the comments coming from detractors were, frankly, sexist. Can’t have it both ways.

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Rhythm: Use it In Your Prose, Not Just Poetry

I quite clearly remember the lecture in my Writing for Communications course. The teacher was a brilliant man, a writer with the Miami Herald, someone who I held in enormous esteem. I wanted to ace his class more than any other class during the last two years of college. His writing was beautiful, like poetry, even when he wrote about heartbreak and chaos. It drew you in. It had its own rhythm.

Ah. There you go. Poetry.

The course was required of all Mass Comm majors. The first day of class, someone said that she worried about her writing because, while she could write poetry, she couldn’t write prose.

I think the term my favorite teacher used in reply was: bullshit.

He then proceeded to explain that someone who wrote “just the facts” and didn’t know how to dance with words, moving them around so they drew in the reader, was a hack. That’s the difference between someone who takes notes and a writer, he said. A writer learns how to make the most of rhythm and its pauses, its stretches, the way the words sound even on paper. A good writer makes words flow. A good writer doesn’t lose folks in the flotsam and jetsam.

I’m still working on it.

In the years since I graduated, I stopped writing poetry. I started writing copy. Then teaching… and now I’m back to trying poetry in an attempt to make my writing more easy on the eye. Scratch that: I want to make it more interesting, more compelling.

I’m trying to make it a beat to follow. I’m relearning all those lessons he taught back in the day. It’s not as easy as it seems.

I could start by listening to music, the way I used to. I could write away from the sounds of my children and their games and squabbles, but I wouldn’t want to. I’ll have to find some way to get it back.

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Z-A Challenge — Why it Scares Me a Little

determination...

image by txpotato

I really, honestly, am not excited about doing this challenge… at least, not right now. But here’s a secret: that makes me determined to do it. Z-A, I’m going to be blogging another month’s worth of flotsam and jetsam from my writing and my life, and it’s going to be very difficult.

I have to tell you, I have some major problems writing sometimes — putting myself out there, I mean. It’s a challenge in more ways than one for me to do this blogging exercise.

I’m incredibly insecure about my ability to communicate. I second guess everything I say. I can think of a hundred reasons not to do this, and only one reason I should… but that one reason is so powerful I can’t back down. I’m doing the blog challenge NOT to get subscribers, or to increase awareness of my blog or writing. I’m doing it because if I can finish it, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something that’s not easy, and not convenient.

I’m doing it because I’m scared to do it. And I refuse to let it beat me.

Some days, I honestly would rather not pick up this computer. There are times that the thought of interacting with others, even digitally, terrifies me. When I put my heart out there, it opens me up for criticism, which I’ve never been able to deal with very well.

But last week, I was reminded why it’s important to do and say things that I feel strongly about, even if they aren’t popular: because if I don’t, their voices are the only ones being heard. So, as much as I will admit right here that I’d rather have dental work than commit to another challenge, I’m doing it anyhow. Even if no one read another blog post I wrote, I will know I didn’t let self-doubt and difficulty master me.

See you at “A”.

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Going, Going, Gone: Why I Gave Up Facebook Games for Lent

Growing up Catholic, I learned the importance of sacrifice in our lives around this time of year. We prayed, went to Confession and attended Church regularly, and everyone spent a significant amount of time trying to think of something we could sacrifice for Lent.

As we grew, many of us used our Lenten promise as a sort of second New Year’s resolution: something we really meant to do, but needed those few extra months to harden our resolve in order to stick with it. Little sacrifices don’t hurt very much, and it’s easy to convince yourself it’s something meaningful.

Since I became a mother, I’ve returned to the important lessons of my youth, and the reason we celebrate Lent, which is the traditional observation of the 40 days before Easter in the Catholic Church, and observed by a number of Christian followers.

Last year, I gave up Starbucks coffee. It was a very, very long 40 days. Still, I didn’t feel like I was doing it for the right reasons. This year, I vowed to pray over it. I considered what was one of my most precious commodities: time. How was I using my time? What should I be doing differently?

Aside from writing, I was spending much of my time playing games on Facebook. Hours each day, when my work was done and I wanted to relax and block everything out, I’d turn on my computer and plant virtual wheat or slay the vampiric hordes, or tend my fairy garden. It was a great way to pass the time… usually relaxing, often exciting. But it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my Lent.

What I wanted to do was spend the time I’d otherwise spend “getting away from it all”, once the kids were in bed and my laundry was done, thinking about what was important and being thankful for what I had.

So I made an announcement to the hundreds of Facebook friends with whom I play these games: Don’t send me gifts or game requests. I’m blocking the games. I’m ignoring the posts. I’m using my time for other things.

After a few weeks, I discovered I did not really miss it much.  I realized I placed way too much importance in pixels on a screen.  And, more than that, I realized that I was listening to myself, thinking more about what was really meaningful, and I was more reflective about my day.  It made me think more about real sacrifice, and about how anything I could do would be a drop in the bucket in comparison.  It made me grateful that I have time to kill at all, and a comfortable way to do it, if I so choose.  It made me a little ashamed, too.  Those minutes I will never get back again, and I honestly could not tell you what I gained from it.  Much better to paint something, or write a letter, or read a book.  Pray, even.

Giving up Facebook games was healthy, even.  Good for the soul.

And, maybe, Sister Mary Liberata would be proud of me.

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Fabio — Thank You For The Burgers

Fabio took me out on a lunch date.  Well, my husband went with us.  It’s true.  And also not nearly as weird as that sounds.

Many of my friends giggled over this.  It’s certainly not one of those things you hear about every day. Never had I owned a calendar or book with his likeness on it, and never in my life had I read a romance novel.  Still haven’t (well, a little bit of romance can be a good thing, when done right).  I just don’t roll that way.  But I am here to set the record straight. There’s more to Fabio, the king of romance, than people think, and probably very few people besides me will ever know.  The big man with big hair and a very big group of admirers had not a bit of pull with me until I learned his secret:  he’s actually a very kind, very real person, and a handsome one at that, once you look past the cover model and the silliness that surrounds the hype.

I know this because I’ve met him and spent hours talking with him.

How did this happen?  I won an award for — guess what? — an essay.  The contest was sponsored by Lipton Foods, who carried Fabio as a spokesmodel of sorts in their “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” campaign.  My essay, a 300-word piece, actually had nothing at all to do with Mr. Hair but had everything to do with “why my significant other is more romantic than Fabio”.  I am not making this up: it was the subject of the essay.  Lipton foods flew my husband and me, plus ten other finalists and their significant others, out to Los Angeles, where we were given gorgeous diamond tennis bracelets on live TV and waited to see who would win the big prize.

I won, which means I got to keep the enormous 2-carat diamond white gold ring, patterned after the sapphire ring Princess Diana owned.  This also meant that I appeared on a few talk shows and news programs, and was one of two star attractions at a wonderful dinner with Fabio, object of desire of women everywhere (and, no doubt, a few men).  My husband got more attention from me, because, frankly, Fabio was being something of a jerk.  Why?  People were falling all over him, fawning over him, and generally making enormous asses of themselves.

Fabio and me, circa 1998. His hair is so much better than mine.

Initially, I was not impressed with my newest celebrity friend.  He talked about himself non-stop, asked few questions about me and my husband, and t0ld some rather ribald jokes, for which I chided him.  Quite soundly, and without humor, I should add, as I don’t do “diplomacy” very well.  That’s what I think changed everything; I don’t think he was used to that.  It seemed to amuse him and surprise him equally.  From there on, he shed some of the L.A. mask that seemed to hang about everyone in the town, and we were able to see a very different person.

I’m here to tell you that Fabio is actually a very nice guy.  He’s insightful, sweet, and, I suspect, more likely to care what other people are about than what they think about him.

After a day of being powdered, chauffeured around, and reminded of my gratitude to Lipton foods, I was treated to lunch by Fabio, the Very Nice Guy.  Guess where he wanted to go?  Not a fancy downtown eatery… we stopped at a sweet burger joint with a view of everything, and where we were the only patrons, and we ordered as much fattening junk as we could stomach.  We laughed, I told stories about teaching, and my hubby and I listened to Fabio’s adventures with motorbikes and sea diving.

I was, frankly, sorry to see him leave.  After two days of craziness, we had finally “met” the man with whom I’d been appearing all over the country on televisions and in newspapers.  I liked this guy, much better than the dude who made adult women swoon and screech as he flipped his bleached hair out of his eyes.  As we dropped him off at his home, Fabio leaned in, gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and instructed my husband, “Take care of her.  She’s a special woman.”

At that point, I understood that Fabio really is the king of romance, and not for the reason everyone assumes.  He’s a gentleman and a sweetheart, just the sort of person any woman could love.   He still can’t hold a candle to my husband, who, after all, was the knight who rode on a horse into the school where we taught, dressed in full armor, to propose to me in front of the entire student body.  But Fabio’s a smart guy.  I’m sure he picked up some ideas.

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