Tag Archives: Memory

Sucker Literary Magazine Bloghop: The Writing Process

28 Apr

 

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Howdy

So my buddy Robert over at Middle Grade Ninja tagged me in this Writing Process Blog Hop. That’s the cover of his novel up there!

Here’s how it works:

Robert posts his blog about the writing process (read it here) and then tags me and a week later it’s my turn and I, in turn, tag some other writers and this crazy merry go round keeps spinning.

So here we go:

1. What am I working on?

Lots of stuff, actually.

I’m working on edits for my upcoming YA novel THIS IS SARAH which is scheduled to come out sometime in June. Here’s the blurb in case you’re curious what it’s about:

When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin’s world unravels as he is transformed from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that could change everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so, what is Colin willing to do to bring her back?

 

And as Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape that is life without her sister. Even as her parent’s fall apart, Claire is determined to keep on going. Even if it kills her.

 

THIS IS SARAH is a meditation on loss, love, and what it means to say goodbye.

 

I’m at the point right now where we’re pretty close (at least I think we are) to passing this along to the copy editor. Mary, who is my content editor at BookFish Books has been amazing – part teacher, part cheerleader, and all around awesome.

I’m also working on a poetry collection that I’m calling How To Be An American. It’s a series of poems that are based upon ideas expressed in a book entitled Culture Shock: America. The purpose of the book is to educate new immigrants about our culture and it’s filled with some absolute gems. You can read some of the poems that have already been published here.

And finally I’m working on revisions of a YA sci-fi book called PALIMPSEST which I’ve been working on FOREVER and am thankfully really close to finishing. Unfortunately it’s a complicated story (probably too complicated for my feeble brain to hold together) and it keeps getting interrupted by other projects, like SARAH.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hm. Wow. I don’t really know how to answer that.

If I’m going to talk about THIS IS SARAH, I guess the thing that makes it different is that it’s small, quiet and sad. I think a lot of YA books are really big, really loud, and really dramatic. Vampires. Monsters. Girls falling in love with their dead boyfriends (literally). The paranormal romance thing is huge.

And I’m not criticizing that – I think there is a lot of really good stuff out there dealing with paranormal romances. But SARAH is decidedly not that.

Like I said, it’s small – only about 47K words. And quiet – there are no zombies, vampires, or anything like that. No one is trying to save the world. No one has special powers. No one is related to a fairy or any other member of the fey.

It’s just about a high school age boy who trying to keep it together when the unthinkable happens. And it’s about a sixteen year old girl who has to manage without her sister.

It’s about loss.

Like I said, it’s a sad book.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Sheesh, this is even harder than the last one.

I guess because it’s the story that I want to tell at the time I start telling it.

So far, I’ve written three novels (I”m counting the sci-fi one, cause guys, it’s ALMOST done) and they are all wildly different. The first was a MG urban fantasy called Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb. I wrote that because I wanted to write something that I would have wanted to read when I was a little girl. Back then books were my world. I wanted to add a story to that amazing lexicon.

I wrote the scifi book because I wanted tell a story about memory. I have a terrible terrible memory. It’s embarrassing actually and PALIMPSEST is very much about how memory shapes your sense of identity and how without it, you can fall out of your own history. And it’s about time travel and alternate dimension and chess cause I like those three things.

And I wrote SARAH because it was a story that I wanted to tell. That sounds like a cheap explanation but it’s the truth. See, when I submitted it to BookFish and it was accepted, one of the editors said the following:

 The emotions throughout are so incredibly real that I wondered if maybe you have experienced such a horrible thing as losing someone you love in such an unresolved kind of way. I certainly hope not. If you have, I am sending you a virtual hug even though it’s not general protocol. Either way, you deserve it.

And I wrote back and said, “oh no, no, it’s just a story.”

But that is a lie.

Because even though I didn’t have Colin or Claire’s specific experience, I’ve lost people that I have loved and I’ve struggled with how to move on. I’m an extremely sensitive person and everyone says that it’s great because when you’re like this you experience happiness and joy on such a grand scale. True. But you also heal at a glacial pace. Writing this was cathartic. I packed a lot of my leftover emotions into a suitcase and I handed it to Colin. And when Colin picked up that suitcase and walked away with it I felt lighter. Ultimately I think that’s one of the reasons to write anything, right?

 

4. How does my writing process work?

It’s messy, actually.

Part of the reason that PALIMPSEST is taking as long as it is is because I have this bad habit of coming up with an idea, not thinking it through, writing like a maniac in my excitement about the story idea and then realizing 150K words later that the book is really about A and not B. Then I revise for half a decade. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

That said I think I’m starting to learn. SARAH was the last long piece I wrote and it started as a novella and then morphed into a novel and the total amount of time actually writing was close to a month and a half which is really fast (for me).

That said, I wasn’t doing any world-building like I did with the other two so that might have helped.

On a more logistical level, I write every day (minus the weekends cause, Hi, I want a life) from 5 am to 7:30 am. Then I take a two hour walk and think about whether I just wasted the morning writing stuff I’m going to delete the next day.

On the good days, the answer is nope.

Okay so now it’s time to pass this along to Patrice Cadwell and Mary Waibel.

 

photo

 

I currently study Political Science and English with a concentration in Creative Writing at Wellesley College and recently won the SCBWI Student Writer Scholarship thanks to one of my manuscripts, ALEX DE VEGA AND PANDORA’S BOX (MG Sci-Fi Thriller). I also blog about writing and books for MG, YA, and NA audiences at whimsicallyours.com (which has over 1,200 subscribers). I have been published in various college publications as well as Lambda Literary and DiversifYA.

Mary Waibel Author Photo

 

Mary is the author of THE PRINCESS OF VALENDRIA series- a set of fractured fairytale fantasies.Quest of the Hart, Charmed Memories, and Different Kind of Knight (releasing winter 2013/14) from MuseItUpPublishing.

 

Looking forward to hearing how their process works!

And thanks again to Robert for the invite!

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

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The Next Big Thing

24 Oct

Here’s some of the plot to the Chess Book which has taken over one of the walls in my writing closet.

Hey kids! I got tagged in a blog hop. My first ever! Woot!

Renata Barcelos tagged me in the Next Big Thing which is a chance for writers to talk about what they’re working on next. I’ve got two in the pot right now, the second book in the Lizzy Speare series which I’m calling Lizzy Speare and the Hall of Hecate (maybe) and the book I talk about below. Ready? Allons-y! (that’s French for “Let’s go” for those of you who don’t watch Doctor Who…or speak French.)

What is the working title of your book?

The Chess Book or the Kings Game or Gambit’s Defense or Perpetual Check. I really can’t decide. At this point I just refer to it as the Chess Book.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was home in my apartment in Brooklyn one day and someone slipped a menu under the door. I looked up just in time to see it slide across the floor and for a split second I thought “what if it was an invitation” and then “what if it was an invitation for someone else and not me” and it sort of spiraled from there. Funny thing, that moment doesn’t even happen in the book. Inspiration is a strange beast.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult/Science Fiction/Romance/Mystery maybe? I don’t know. The character’s are teens and, to quote The Doctor, some weird “wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff” goes down.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha! That’s a good one. I have no idea who would play Kate cause I’m terrible with younger actors but I would pick Evan Peters from American Horror Story for the main male character. In fact, minus the blond hair, he’s VERY Evan Peters, only less, you know, murder-y.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Never trust your memory.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Well if my agent likes it (fingers crossed) it’ll be repped and subbed. If not, I would definitely put it out myself.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About 7 months or so. But it’s a looong book (currently at 150K words). Revising has taken close to 2 years but I was also working on other things at the time. Ahem…making excuses’ much?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Wow. I have no idea. Literally none. Clearly, I broke my first rule about good writing being all about reading.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The menu story above. Oh, and my main character is named Kate because of Linda Buckley-Archer’s book Gideon the Cutpurse which really deserves more attention in the States than it gets. It’s a fantastic three book series and one of the main character’s is named Kate. After reading it, I knew I would use that name, just as an homage to such a beautifully written character. She was unforgettable and I guess it’s just my way of saying thanks to Ms. Buckley-Archer. *Sniffle.*

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Let’s play word association. I’ll say one word and you say whatever comes to mind.

1. Time Travel

2. Chess

3. Stolen Memories

4. New Love

5. Street kids

6. Lies

7. Heartbreak

8. Doppelganger

9. Cockney Accents

10. Underground Resistance Movements

So now…what say you?

I tagged a couple other friends of mine Jen McConnel and Patrice Caldwell so they can play, too. So go check out their answers next Wednesday!

How Happy is the Blameless Vestal’s Lot. The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

29 Jun

Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders  – Nietzsche

I forget things.

This morning I forgot my keys when I left for work. I kissed my husband goodbye at the door, and then had second goodbye at the window (it’s a silly thing – don’t ask) and then headed up the street, Michael Kiwanuka in my headphones when I realized that I didn’t have my keys. I ran back to the apartment but the window was closed. I had to frantically ring the doorbell, startling my husband, probably inducing a heart attack in my cat, just to get back in.

I forgot the comics I wanted to bring to read today.

Once I forgot my father’s birthday. Poor guy.

One of my  first memories involves attempting to fashion fairy wings out of wire hangers and paper in the hallway of my childhood home. But I had to be nearly six then. That can’t be right, can it? Most first memories begin at 3 or 4. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of the kitchen reenacting my kindergarten (or was it first grade?) recital for my Grandfather. Drum sticks tapping out a pattern. A song about a pussy willow.

I see pictures of myself, from holidays or parties and I think, Yes! I remember. But I don’t. I just know this picture of the tow-headed little girl. Not the moment the picture was taken.

I forgot what people from high school look like. It’s a vanishing. First the faces go, then the names. I stare at the pictures in my old yearbook and there’s just….nothing.

I forgot people from college…also whole events in college. I have to be reminded of these things by others:

“Remember, junior year? After the Ani show?” And I nod. Sure. Sure. That was great, I say, but there’s nothing there. I smile and nod. I fake it. I laugh when I’m supposed to – praying for a spark of recognition, something to pull it all into focus.

Since formal schooling ended, things have gotten stranger. I can’t track years. I have to count back to remember when we moved into our current apartment.  Count back to grad school. If I graduated grad school in 2006…wait, was it 2006? When did I travel the country? 2007? When did I  move back to Brooklyn? 2008?

My husband knows how old my parents are before I do.

The last time the doctor asked my age, I forgot it. Panicking, I gave the wrong number. I corrected myself about ten minutes later. He cocked an eyebrow, tilted his head. I wondered if he thought I needed a CAT scan.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about memory too and I wonder if that makes it worse. I spend time trying to fill the blanks, pouring them full of energy and hope and need. Color and song and smell. Anything that might craft a memory.

I write stories about it. I have characters who’ve had their memories stolen. Replaced with false ones. Characters who keep finding themselves in the same situation, unable to recall the last time they were there or what happened. Unable to recall the people they once loved and would have died for.

Their lives, stolen.

Swaths of blank canvass.

I imagine a great cold ocean filled with partial memories bobbing just below the surface. Snippets of stories, flashes of color, individual moments of time:

The summer of my 14th year
The first time I saw fireworks
The last baseball game I went to
Last night’s dream
Love, even.
Kisses, maybe.

I think of them all bobbing out there, just out of reach.
And what about today? This year? When will it vanish? How much time has to go by before it’s lost in that sea too.

All those moments, the seconds, the minutes, the days that craft a life.  That tell the story of a single person, all of it…just floating.

It’s beautiful, really, like an unwinding of sorts.

Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

In the end, we’ll all just meet in Montauk.

“Joely, what if you stayed this time.”
“I walked out the door…there’s no memory left.”

Inspiration Snack Time

29 May

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

via Nadja

Via PWAH

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!

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!

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