Monthly Archives: May 2013

Interpreting Fiction, songs and other creative works

I’ve a friend in a really awesome band. Her name’s Chantal and she’s in a group called the Lovebullies. She has this one song called Here Comes the Boy. This is a replica of a conversation we had once:

Me: Hey, you know that song? Here Comes the boy? What’s it about?
Chantal [pauses]: What do you think it’s about?
Me: well, I think it’s about this girl that’s in love with her best friend but her best friend is in love with this guy who treats her badly. But the first girl, the one that’s in love is like, he’ll never treat you as well as me.
Chantal: [silence]
Me: soooo, is that what it’s about?
Chantal: it’s whatever you feel it’s about.

I immediately was confused. I argued with her, “BUT WHAT’S IT ABOUT???” and she just kept saying that it was about whatever I thought it was about.

This FLOORED me. I was so befuddled. How could Chantal make this song, this art, and not want to tell me what it meant? It made me think a lot about my own writing and how when someone asks what my book is about, I want to go on and on and on and tell them EVERYTHING that EVER crossed my mind while writing.

That conversation really stuck with me. I think about it a lot when I read reviews/interpretations of songs, writing and other art. I makes me wonder what the original artist thinks of their own work.

I’ve read some essays on Jane Eyre [previously noted as my fave book ever] and how the character of Bertha Mason has MANY interpretations – she’s society’s view on sexuality in women, she’s Charlotte Bronte’s psyche trapped in the attack, she’s the representation of all women persecuted for their lifestyle.

But it makes me wonder if maybe she’s just a crazy lady in the attic. Or maybe she’s all of those things above and more including a crazy lady in the attic because Charlotte Bronte would say, like Chantal did, she’s whatever you think she is.

This also leads me to a post a saw on Tumblr and I wish I saved the link. If I recall correctly, an art class had been charged with art for the Great Gatsby. One of the pieces done showed Gatsby with no hands and the art teacher commented how this was so symbolic of him reaching for things that he lacks the tools to even grasp or touch. However, the artists in the class leaned over to one of his classmates and said something like, “Actually, I just can’t draw hands.”

So again, I wodner, when we interpret art, how much of ourselves are we projecting on the piece. Is that the function of art? To be what the interpreter wants or sees?

Joss Whedon reportedly said “All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn’t your pet — it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.” I find I think about that statement a lot. With my book coming out [June 25! Another SHAMELESS PLUG!] it makes me wonder what people will think about it and how they may interpret scenes, dialogue and characterization. Or if they’ll just read it for fun and not look any deeper. How will I react?

Obviously, I don’t have any answers, but it all makes me think about music, writing, art and how we view those things and what we attribute to them.

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The Importance of Editing

Editing – the bane of my existence. I would argue most writers hate to edit and if you’re a writer and you don’t hate editing, wanna do mine for me?

But, editing is a necessary evil and though I detest it, I try my hardest! I quite often skip words when I write, thinking I’ve typed them out when I really haven’t. I also don’t always stop for commas, apostrophes and spelling. A solid edit clears all that up.

I think my favorite example about editing is the difference between, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!”

One is a call to a grandmother, inviting them to eat. The other…. well… Grandma might not make it through dinner.

I’m blessed with several ‘beta’ readers – these are the gems in my world who fix up my stuff and tell me when I’ve missed commas, forgotten plot lines or just… made a hot mess. A good beta offers constructive criticism and doesn’t just tell you, “IT’S WONDERFUL.” In fact, a good beta will likely NOT tell you that. At least not until after they finish pointing out your mistakes so you can fix them.

I once had a beta note that I was missing an explanation scene for something. I thought it was clear, but then again, I’ve got the whole world of the story in my head. I wrote a quick little explanation scene and in all the comments I got on that story [fanfiction] the number one thing I heard was how that little scene was people’s favorite. and I wouldn’t have added it without my beta!

I had a lot of help on my book, Trial by Fire [coming out June 25 – SHAMELESS PLUG – click on the COVENCRAFT link above]. And I owe them a big ‘Thank you’ and I hope they don’t mind me calling them by name here!

CHANTAL – I gave you an 80000+ manuscript and then asked for it back in less than a week, with edits and you did it graciously and without complaint and made it a better book! THANK YOU. I appreciate it so much. [Even though you’ve been jealous of me since we were kids ;)]

DONNA – the care and consideration you showed while reading my novel was heartwarming and humbling. I can’t believe the things you noticed and how much thought and effort you put into it. God bless you and your mother’s grammar lessons!

ASHLEIGH – bb, I expected the fastest turnaround from you [as I’m familiar with your reading speed ;)] and you did not disappoint! I think you got back to me, like, 24 hrs after I sent you the proof? THAT’S FRIENDSHIP, GURL!

The F Word – Fanfiction

Ah yes, the ‘other’ F-word – FANFICTION.

Yes, I write fanfic. No, I won’t tell you my fandom name 😉 [Although I knew a person on fandom that could figure out who people were based on their word usage and writing style – truly an amazing talent!]

I’ve been debating this long and hard over the last couple of days and I really struggled with what to say/do about my fanfic. I’m really  proud of the stories I’ve written – some more than others but I think that’s pretty routine for most authors. Fanfic got me interested in writing again at a time where I had just… lost the joy of it. I started dreading writing and that had NEVER happened to me before. And fanfic really helped me get over that.

I started writing fanfic when I was in highschool, but I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. it wasn’t until 2009 when I joined LiveJournal that I realized what I’d been doing and that I had this…. epiphany that THERE WERE OTHER PEOPLE OUT THERE THAT LIKED TO DO THE SAME THING.

I’ve had SUCH fun writing fanfic! It’s like playing with someone else’s dressup box. I’m WELL AWARE that there are authors out there that turn their nose down on it or disparage it but I’ve got to be honest – some of the BEST writing I’ve EVER READ has been fanfic. There’s so much HEART in so many of the stories. People really do write for the love of the characters, for the love of the story and even when that writing is rough or raw, it can be gorgeous simply because of the emotion behind it.

My own fanfic taught me a lot about characterization, pacing and what people responded to. I was surprised at times when a story I considered to be ho-hum would be noted as a favorite by readers. Similarly, I was equally surprised when I story I LOVED and thought was some of my best work was received with lackluster response.

At any rate, it made me THINK a lot about my writing. It gave me the chance to experiment. Also, reading some of the works out there really helped me LEARN.

And! Let me just put this out there – if anyone ever reads my Covencraft series and is inspired to write fanfic on it:

Sam W - too precious for this world

I may eventually release my fandom name but for now, you’ll have to see if you can find me! I’m still out there and I’m still writing.

Hey, Koukla!

So, what the heck is a Koukla?

Well, I was always told it means ‘doll’ in Greek. My dad was Greek and when we would go visit family or friends, it was how they always referred to us girls [me and my sisters]. But, from traveling around Greece on some vacations with family, I noticed that it’s pretty much used for ALL women. Like when I was on a bus with my [then] 75 year old aunt and three old[er] ladies [also in their 70s] stared dancing up and down the aisle to some Greek songs that everyone knew the words to but me. My aunt cheered, “Bravo, Koulkes, Bravo” [plural of Koukla].

They bowed for us, doing a little curtsey and waving tissues like cloth handkerchiefs.

If I’m in Greece and I hear, “Ella! Koukla!” [Here! Doll!] I’m most likely to turn and look to make sure someone is not calling me. Whereas at home if someone yelled out, “Yo! Dollface!” I would mostly likely turn around to glare at them.

It’s not derogatory like you might think. It’s kind of a term of endearment or a more charming kind of way to call for someone. I certainly NEVER thought of it as sexist or… mean spirited in anyway. On the contrary, it makes me think of family and friends and just a general… camaraderie with the wold in general when I hear it.

So, any woman you know can be a koukla [except for my God-Sister Lynne, who my aunt refers to as The Koukla – you can hear the capitals. I’m not sure how Lynne got this honorific, but I do know that when Thea asks, “Tell me, how is The Koukla?” we all know to whom she is referring].

I find it all very… heart warming! I even have a shirt that says koukla on it and I forget that not everyone knows what it means!

Jane Eyre

To be frank, I can’t articulate many absolute favorites. If you ask me for my favorite movie, or song or ice cream flavor, I’m HARD PRESSED to name just one. I can give you a list of favorites NOW or favorites THEN or “This is my favorite eye shadow for 4 am because it makes me look NOT DEAD but this is my favorite for going out at night because it has sparkles.”

The exception to my rule is Favorite Book = Jane Eyre.

It’s been my favorite since I read it. I don’t even remember when that was, to tell you the truth. Sometime in University I think. it’s got EVERYTHING:

Romance! Mystery! Spooky happenings! Strong heroine! Snappy dialogue! Brooding atmosphere! Creepy Castle!

Did I mention the strong heroine? Jane Eyre is probably one of the strongest heroines, if not THE strongest heroine I’ve ever read. And she was written in 1847.

If you’ve never read Jane Eyre, here are some quotes from our dear heroine, Jane, to motivate you to pick it up:

  • “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
  • I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”
  • “I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”

And from Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester

  • “You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have been tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an obligation: but you; it is different ;- I feel your benefits no burden, Jane.”

And the quote that has FOREVER RUINED ME:

  • “Because,” he said, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you — especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.”

He. Should take. To bleeding. Inwardly.

RUINED ME, I SAY!

This truly is my desert island book, my “You can only save one book and must leave the rest” book, my “I’m feeling low and sick and need something to curl up with” book.

I think I need to clear my weekend to read this again.

Hello Cello

Image

Since it’s been so long since I’ve used my blog regularly, I realized, I have not posted about the cello.

I started taking cello lessons about 2 years ago. I love it. I’d always wanted to play a stringed instrument – either the violin or the cello and I finally decided to give it a go and I’m so so so glad I did.

I feel like… it’s definitely a hobby that uses my brain and my body in conjunction but in a totally separate way from athletics or traditional physicality, which I’ve always struggled with. I didn’t realize how unaware of my body I was until I started taking cello lessons and my teacher, Christine, would say “Drop your elbow” and I’d drop the whole side of my body having NO IDEA how to just move my elbow. It sounds ridiculous, but I really had no sense of how to make it all work together.

There’s definitely an intellectual component as well and I really like that. And I truly believe I have the best teacher ever! I’m a question asker, and I often digress, or cannot properly articulate what it is I really want to know and somehow she manages to take my half formed sentences and phrases and parse out what I’m saying! she’s also really good when I show up and I’m like “It’s making this WAHNKWAHNKWAHNK sound on the A-string? WHAT AM I DOING?”

The beauty of taking musical lessons as an adult is that I can show up to class and say “Hey, it was busy. I didn’t practice, yo.” and it’s fine. There’s no recriminations. I don’t ‘get in trouble’. It’s so different from my days taking piano lessons or in band class when I would AGONIZE if I didn’t know my music and just… fear going because I was scared.

All that to say: I LOVE IT. If you ever thought about taking up a musical instrument but hesitated, DO IT. If you end up not liking it, you can quit. Assuming you’re a grown up now 😉

On Grief

It’s surprising to me how grief works. When my dad passed away in 2006, it seemed like every minute of every day was eaten up by thinking about him, about what we’d lost. And then, as I moved through the process, I realized that I wasn’t thinking of him every moment of every day and then slowly, not every day.

Now, sometimes, I have to stop and try to remember what year he passed away. I think ‘Jesus, has it really been almost seven years?’

People say time heals everything but I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe I’ve said this here before, I can’t remember. But it’s not as simple as time heals all wounds. And even if it were, I’m not sure that I would be okay with that wound, the one of my dad passing away, healing.

But time does help you learn to live with it. I’m used to missing my dad. I’m used to not having him around.

but it still really sucks and it’s completely shitty and unfair.

Writing is hard!

Is there anyone who whines more about writing being hard than people who write?

Nope.

I’m still gushing about how my book will be coming out and then my sister says “So, have you started working on the second one yet?”

I said “LOOK WRITING IS VERY HARD OKAY IT TAKES A LOT OF SITTING AROUND STARING AT THE INTERNET VERY HARD WORK AND THERE ARE PLOTS AND … STUFF.”

Short answer – okay, not really.

long answer – I’ve got my little journaling book started on book 2. I write on my laptop and I do most everything on a computer, tablet, iphone etc but I find for figuring stuff out I need the slower speed of a pen on paper.

and my chicken scratch handwriting. sometimes I can’t even tell what I wrote but I know the process helps!