Archive | May, 2012

Inspiration Snack Time

29 May

Just a little mid-afternoon inspiration snack. Eat up!

via Nadja


Via Poras Chaudhary

Via Bookpatrol

Via Scott Irvine

Via Treenquick

Via Mental Floss

And finally because I can’t seem to get enough of people with animal heads here is an utterly beautiful video by Stefan Nadelman for Ramona Falls “I Say Fever.”

Happy Snacking!

Happy Towel Day

25 May

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish!

Today is Towel Day, folks!

The day we all stop for a moment, grab our towels and reflect on the genius that was Douglas Adams. If you’ve never read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy get thee to the library immediately. It’s funny Sci-fi! I know, you think that’s an oxymoron but I promise you it isn’t.

Why towels? Because as the Guide tells us:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have.Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

So grab your towel and thank someone for all the fish.

I also happened to love the film they made, though I hear many did not. Their loss.  Let’s trip the Light Fantastic, baby, just you and me.

If there’s anything around here more important than my ego, I want it caught and shot now!

Here’s to books!

24 May

I was hanging out with my oldest friend in the world (literally, from the cradle) and we were having one of those conversations where we talk about the years between us and our childhood growing up together, and how growing up together has effected our adult artistic life. So on the subject of books I mentioned Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and the effect that it had on us and how reading it changed me when he admitted a startling fact. It went something like this:

Me: “Our entire childhood was changed by that book. I mean, if we hadn’t read that book we never would have created our own imaginary land.

Him: “Well, yeah but I never read it.”

Me: (stopping on the street): “What do you mean you never read it?”

Him: “You read it, Ally. You told me what happened. I never read those books. That was you.”

It wasn’t much later that another old friend of mine, commented on my clearly annoying habit of recounting books to my friends.

So it got me thinking about the books that stuck and how there are authors who change your life. So here’s a few:

I’m not sure exactly the first time I read Bridge to Terabithia because I read it so many times afterwards that it became ingrained in the very fibers and DNA of my imagination. As I said, shortly after finishing it my old friend and I crafted together our very own world, Fanteris, complete with entry points, creatures, witches (though I’m quite sure we got those from Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which, but more on that later), and journals to document it all. We were Kings and Queens of our land.  None of that would have happened without Jess and Leslie.

The story behind the story, in case you didn’t know is that Ms. Paterson’s son lost his best friend in a freak accident and to deal with his grief as well as her own she created this book.

This is the specific edition that I wore to pieces. It was part of a box set, which I still own.

Oh, Mr. Lewis. Where do I begin? I was probably seven when I read this book the first time. Every closet door I have opened since then, I’ve held my breath for just a moment because hey, what if? If Lev Grossman can build an entire series out of the meager hope that Narnia is real, well, then I can hope so too.

I watched the British cartoon they made hundreds of times and cried every time Aslan was dragged to the Stone Table.  I had the whole set and I read them over and over and over again till I had to tape some pages back in. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the Last Battle, my unhappiness was really about Narnia being over. The story was true because I believed it was true.

And then, of course the inevitable happened. I got older and the light went off and I said, “Wait what? Aslan is Jesus and for a while the whole thing came apart. And I was angry and felt betrayed and vowed to never wish for Narnia again. But of course, then I got even older and I got over it. The truth is I will always separate that story, that land, that magic from whatever allegory it was. Because when I was a child, I believed in Aslan, the lion, the warrior, not Aslan the stand-in for Jesus. And finally, and maybe most importantly C.S. Lewis was the first one who made me want to be a writer. I wanted to craft a land, people it, and live in it.

(I’m not gonna touch The Problem of Susan. I’ll save that for another post.)

And that brings us to Meg. Meg Murray was my favorite character ever created. She wasn’t fearless. She wasn’t spunky. She was neither Anastasia nor Pippi Longstockings. She was awkward and shy and lacked confidence (though she’s smart as hell)  in her family full of geniuses. She was ME (minus the family full of geniuses – no offense guys, I love you!).

Plus there was Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which who to this day I still find fascinating and clearly stole, renamed the Wandering Witches and peopled my imaginary world with.  Plus the book opens with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Perfection. Even now I try to throw the word tesseract into at least once conversation a day (no, it doesn’t work well, but thanks for asking).

Plus time travel, centaurs, the man with the red eyes, the black thing, telepathy, alternate universes. Need I go on?? It’s sci-fi and fantasy with a healthy dose of realism and chock full of people who I understood.

There are ton of other books I could add, like Watership Down, whose heft intimidated me in my old one-room library back in my small town. I had watched the movie so many times but the book itself seemed massive when I was eight. I could include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Jungle Book, Just so Stories, Pippi Longstocking, Are You there God, It’s Me Margaret, Everything by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.

But this post is already too long.

So here’s to books. Here’s the changing lives one page at time. Here’s to parents who encourage reading, who take their pushy daughter to the library every weekend, (yeah, I’m looking at you, Mom). Here’s to librarians who keep it up (against massive budget cuts, mind you). And here’s to authors who thought up these stories, crafted them, believed in them against doubt  and shared them.

Here’s to books! Long live books!

Keep believing, Keep pretending

17 May

image via skullswap

Yesterday was the sad twenty-second anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. That seems impossible partly because I remember whole days in 1990.

But also because that means we’ve been slogging around this earth without the creativity of Mr. Henson for twenty-two years! Imagine what he would have come up with by now.

Last night my husband’s response to my lament about no one picking up the mantel was that Pixar has put out some good things and I agree – to an extent. But Pixar’s creations aren’t huggable now are they?

He just…thought differently. Created differently – took what was essentially a marketing and advertising tool and managed to change the way we teach kids as well as kids themselves.

In other news, I’m deep in the mud and slog of novel revision right now. This is me:

Stupid Swamp!

I am both Atreyu and Artax, simultaneously. I’ve got some plot problems, holes if you will, or as I like to call them giant craters into which all known logic falls. So I’m trying to hammer them out.

My techie friends, well really my one pro-tech friend has repeatedly offered Scrivener as a way to solve all my problems, but I just can’t seem to do it. I don’t know what it is about me. I’m not, contrary to popular opinion, a Luddite. I just feel strange using a program for things that my own stupid brain should be able to track. You know, like the damn plot that I created in this stupid brain.

So instead I’m getting index cards and tapping them up on my writing wall to track what happens when, why and how. Possibly I need a blackboard. I read somewhere that Rebecca Stead, who wrote “When You Reach Me” (which is fantastic and if you haven’t read it, please get thee to the library) used a blackboard to keep all the time travel stuff in place but of course, now I can’t find that quote. But I found this quote instead. It is her answer to the question “Has it gotten any easier, writing?”

“Uhmm, noo, it hasn’t gotten any easier. I do have faith more, that I can make my work better. You’re inevitably disappointed by what’s on the page, because you have some idea that just seems good enough that you want to start writing it, but then when it starts getting down there on the page it’s inevitably a disappointment.’ Rebecca laughs….‘It’s not what was in here,’ she says, indicating her head, ‘and you almost feel like you’re killing it by putting it down, but what you learn is that you have to keep pushing past that stage and then learn how to lift your story up as high as you can. So now, I’m still disappointed by what’s there, but I’m better at thinking “well let’s just move on, it’s time to start pulling it up now,” so I get a little less stuck.”

You can read the whole thing here at BookWitch.

Okay…back to work. Time to start pulling up.

Interview with MR Branwen

10 May

So if you aren’t familiar with Slush Pile and you are capable of writing or reading, you should remedy that as soon as humanly possible. It’s a great mag, she’s a great editor and here she gives great advice:

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Why I Rejected Your Submission

A lovely little snippet to whet your appetite:

“If you want to be an excellent writer, you must read a lot, and you must read almost exclusively good writing — preferably writing that has a bit of distance from your own day and age. Because whatever you put into your brain is what will be coming out on the page. What you read affects your vocabulary, your syntax, your internal dialogue. I would go so far as to say it affects the way you interpret the world.”

Slushpile was kind enough to publish one of my story Tentacles not too long ago. They always put out excellent issues and I’m honored to have been included.

Read it. Ingest it. Osmosis it if you have to. Then send her some of your best stuff.

I Keep My Rhymes In My Little Black Book

5 May

It’s called Gratitude.

RIP MCA August 5, 1964 – May 4, 2012

Rest in Peace Adam Yauch.

I’m pretty sure if you went to high school anytime between 1990 and 1999 that the Beastie Boys helped craft the soundtrack to your life.

The Beastie Boys were musical pioneers, without a doubt. They were a ground breaking trio who changed the way people viewed rap. And Adam Yauch, MCA, was also a director, a visionary and a humanitarian.

I remember the first time I saw the Fight for Your Right video. When I was assigned a claymation video to make in AV class, I argued till I was blue in the face that it had to be recreation of that video.  And it was.

I remember driving around that little town I felt trapped in, up and down the same old roads, listening to the Beastie Boys. Their tapes were always in my glove compartment. I remember winding it back and forth to check, wait, what did he say? What was that lyric? To learn it. To memorize it.

I remember being caked from head to toe in mud at Lollapalloza with my sister and her boyfriend. The Beasties came on stage and the entire place went nuts. It is probably my favorite concert memory. We were all there, soaked, muddy, reeling from the death of Kurt Cobain, and there they were onstage, having the time of their life. And with them so did we. We were renewed. We were a part of something great.

I graduated high school in 1995. My specialty was making mix tapes for people. I made them for everyone. It was my way of communicating all the things I couldn’t say. That’s what music does. Mix tapes meant something in a way that playlists never will. You had to sit there and listen to each song you put on. There was no pointing and clicking. It was a process. An experience. There was thought and feeling that went into it. And I don’t think I made a single mix tape that didn’t have a Beastie Boys song on it. Ill Communication was the soundtrack to my life at one point. I think, maybe it was for all of us.

When Hot Sauce Committee Part II came out, it was like time traveling. There was a homecoming to it. When MCA wasn’t there for the induction at the rock n roll hall of fame, I knew it wasn’t good.

For a book that I’m working on, I have been spending a lot of time remembering 1994. And that includes listening to the music I was listening to then. The music that changed me. That shaped me. That did the talking for me.

So thanks Adam. Thanks for the  rhymes. Thanks for the songs that loop in my head. Thanks for being a real life superstar. You will be missed.

I go on till the crack of dawn. Mowing down MCs like I’m mowin the lawn

What do you think that world owes you.

What’s gonna set you free?

Look inside and you’ll see. When you’ve got so much to say, it’s called Gratitude. And that’s right.

This one is for Jay

2 May

Much thanks to Stephen at Dead Snakes for publishing The Day After the Anniversary of Your Death.

And it’s for Jay…who does the best Beatles impersonations in the world.

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