Returning to them.

So I tried to save the world.

But it was grasping and hand aching to tug and pull so much.

Defeated I put the world away on the high shelf.

Then I tried to clear my mind,

But I couldn’t get the memories to come unstuck no matter how hard I tried.

I lay face up in the bed, not praying.

My guilt and shame at leaving them bore a hole right through me.

“I can’t promise you anything,”  I told them.

Their returned silence meant they didn’t want to hear my excuses.

This morning I picked them up and slowly read about their lives.

Let’s see, Annie was stuck in the cave and the water was rushing in….

Seth and Luke were locked in a fierce battle with trust….

And Paul…

I had left Paul, still heartbroken and crying, beside the cold sea. 

writing-923882_960_720

A Shameless Plug for Pinterest

I’m not much of a social media fan.

I do have an account on Facebook, but I don’t post much and I rarely read others.

Twitter and Snapchat, I just don’t get those two at all and  you can throw Instagram in that group also.

But, oh, how I love, love, love Pinterest!!

My parents loved to go to old bookstores and they would let me get  stacks and stacks of old magazines.  Once I got a huge, whole cardboard box for one dollar! When I got home  I would make these books using magazines, construction paper and glue…the old kind of glue that was really messy.  I spent hours sitting on the floor of my room, cutting out pictures and glueing them to paper while using newspaper to sop up the glue. Then I would put on one of my favorite albums, yes, those were the days of vinyl and just let the stories wash over me.

Oh, what wonderful times!

I thought the heady feelings of discovery and imagination were gone….until…..

PINTEREST!

Take the photos above….

  1. A girl -love the hair and the candle!  Where is she planning on going that she has to use that taper? Hmmmmm
  2. A boy– is he a hero or a villain?  My choice!
  3. “Don’t go into the woods”– of course, we are going! We probably wouldn’t have if you hadn’t posted the silly sign, but now it’s a given.
  4. A creepy door knocker“Hello?  Is anyone there?”  Cue creepy laughter or a shadow out of the corner of your eye.
  5. A stream slowly meandering in the woods– where does it originate, where does it end?  Is it a dividing line?
  6. Witch humor-I never thought of witch’s being funny, but what if they were?

Six images – boom!  Story! 

If you haven’t used this tool for your own writing or creating, whatever it may be, you should really try it out.

The best part about Pinterest is knowing how many people out there are just like me.

Bookmakers, storytellers, imaginers.

Lord, how I love the imaginers. 

A totally uninformed opinion about Passengers from someone who hasn’t seen it and my thoughts about it as a writer

I haven’t seen Passengers. But I’ve seen a lot of pearl clutching posts about that AWFUL TWIST.
So, I gave in and read them.

Digression – many, many years ago I watched a made-for-TV movie starring Teri Garr [Intimate Strangers, 1986]. She played an army nurse who’d been taken as a POW and suffered horrible PTSD upon her return. The entire movie revolved around the slow reveal of what had happened to her. The reveal: She’d been raped one time by one of the guards. And, call me a cynic if you will, but I had kind of assumed that all along. It wasn’t a reveal, it was a given based on the way they’d characterized her captors. It was kind of like showing someone coming home after ten years in prison and then revealing that while they’d been in prison they’d occasionally been locked in small rooms. Not to say it’s not traumatizing. Just… you’re not surprised by that reveal.

Which brings me back to…

SECOND-HAND SPOILER WARNING

passengers-movie
Apparently, Chris Pratt’s character and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters do not wake up at the same time on the ship’s 120 year journey to another planet. Pratt wakes up earlier, spends about a year alone, begins obsessing over Lawrence — still asleep — and then wakes her up so he won’t be alone.

 
Yes, I agree this is a bad thing. But I wasn’t surprised to hear it.

 
When news got out and people began to complain about it, Writer Jon Spaihts had this to say, “It’s not as if it’s an accidental oversight of the film, where we, through some cultural blindness, have failed to see the appalling nature of our hero’s actions. It is the subject of the film. [emphasis mine]

 
Director Morten Tyldum added, “…I think that most of us, if we had the choice, would have done what Chris’s character do. We’re lying to ourselves if we’re saying that we won’t. And I think also that Jen’s character and her stance, the moment he walks out [of the ship] and may not come back, she understands that, knowing she will be alone on the ship. And she understands. She completely understands why he did that.”

 
I get that. I totally get what Spaihts and Tyldum are saying. They made a film about what a person would do in this horrible situation, gave us Lawrence to react to this situation, and then put her in a position to understand that she would have done the same. It’s a good story, exploring emotion, human nature and the need for companionship. But apparently, they didn’t communicate that story to their audience. Instead, they gave their audience a creepy stalker story (apparently).

 
It doesn’t really matter what story you intend to tell. What matters is the story you do tell.

Meg’s Epiphany

I find myself very excited today and last night I was unable to sleep.

It seems I am excited about my writing again.  That has been a long time coming.

When I first started writing it was so intoxicating, so fantastical and mind bending.  I had a story flowing in my mind and I was able to put it down on paper!  It didn’t even take effort.  I would just hold the pen in my hand and watch the movie in my head, then when I looked down it was all in the notebook.  Magic!

But then….

Then it turned on me.  Writing became a chore, a monkey on my back.  Once I declared myself a “writer” then people began asking me what I was working on.  Too ashamed to say, “nothing,” I pounded out words I didn’t care about and reprimanded those stories to no end.

“Just go down the stupid hall!” I spat at my characters.  “It makes more sense if you do and stop whining!” After a while they didn’t fight back, they did what I told them to do, but I had broken their spirits until they were as thin as paper dolls.

Finally, I broke it off with them.  Like a messy divorce I told myself lies and made myself believe them. I couldn’t write worth a damn!  It doesn’t matter what you write, it only matters if you get published.  There is no point in writing a book if it is only going to sit in a Word doc on your computer for years. 

But then I began to wonder….why were the stories in my mind in the first place?

I don’t believe things happen in a vacuum.  So, if they were in there for some reason, what was it?  

Maybe, just maybe, they are there for me.  Is that really so hard to believe? Maybe the stories and the scenes and the characters are a gift that has been given to me.

They do fit the criteria of gifts.  They come wrapped up and half the fun in unwrapping them.  They are surprising.  They are specific to me and my likes, they contain everything I love, from creepy fog covered houses and romantic plots and my sense of humor.

I firmly believe if you are given a gift you should share it, but sharing it became part of the problem with my writing.  Now I wonder, does sharing it mean what I think it does?

Maybe sharing it doesn’t just mean the actual words, but maybe it means sharing the fun and joy which I derive from the process.

meg-and-her-booksA few days ago, I picked up a pen and a spiral notebook and I watched the movie in my mind.  When I looked down, there it was on paper, scrawled in a script no one but I could ever hope to read.  It was full of spelling errors and grammar issues and there were doodles on the side of the page.

“Thank you for coming back,” I said to the story.

“Thank you for letting me,” It said back.

Taking advice from Walter – Book Review

8276784._UY200_.jpg This book caught my eye at the library the other day.

It was facing out, so instead of a book’s usual standoffish, spine only stance, this one stared me right in the face.

“So it’s my year?” I said to the book, mockingly.   I picked it up, added it to my growing stack and read it in an hour that same night.  Before you get all impressed with that let me point out, it’s only 103 pages long.

I found it a strange little book.  It’s not a time management plan nor is it very inspirational.  It’s kind of a how to, but more of a “how I would do it,” “I” being Walter Mosley.

One of the oddest parts for me was when he gave examples of a possible plots…

Say you want to write a story about a young family being raped, tortured and blinded.  Several members are killed and the two that escape then live absolutely horrible lives constantly haunted by the trauma they endured. 

or

For example, let’s say you have a plot about a stupid, young woman who is attempting to empty out her college fund to give to her worthless boyfriend, who has recently been jailed in an underage prostitution sting. 

I’m sorry….what?  I read these sections through twice just to make sure I hadn’t fallen asleep and was having a nightmare.

Wow!  Those are  pretty extreme examples of  plot lines, aren’t they,  Walter? 

I almost put the book down at this point, but it was only 103 pages long and I would think myself a bit cowardly if I didn’t finish 103 pages….so I read on.

Mosely goes on to show how you(he) could takes such horrific images and craft them into redeeming fiction.  So, good for you, Walter.  

And I never really got how any of the book related to me.

A struggler, an attempter, a person who would love to get published, but faces insecurity and doubt.  In other words, a fellow artist who looks towards the Walter Mosely’s of the world for guidance and inspiration, not examples of how good they already are.

For me, the book felt just like that project from elementary school you were all excited about, but when you asked your mom for help, she took it over and didn’t listen to any of your suggestion because she was “helping you make it better, honey.”

So you ended up with a poster board about Egypt that didn’t look anything like what you had planned, but somehow it had your name on it.

 

 

I dream of Genie

marvel_genie_by_dreviator-d4bz4i9So, there I was, sitting at my computer working.

Well, OK. I wasn’t working. I was just staring at the screen.

Fine. OK. I wasn’t staring at the screen, I was playing a flash game. But I was thinking about working.

Then I spilled my tea on my keyboard and jabbed at it with a paper towel and the next thing I knew the screen was all swirly and blue and then a man appeared there.

Well, he wasn’t really a man. For one thing, he was blue. Also, instead of legs, he was made of swirling smoke. He had a turban and a black goatee.

And he looked at me like he was bored and he said, “I am the Genie of the keyboard. I am here to grant you three writing wishes.”

bodyduilding-genieWho-what now?” I said, because I’m smart like that.

You have been granted three writing wishes. You may wish for whatever you want, as long as it has to do with writing.”

Oh,” I said. “So, what you’re saying is, I’ve fallen asleep in my computer chair again.”

May we please get on with this?” he said. “I have to be in Salt Lake before dark.”

Well,” I said, “I suppose I should try to correct some of my flaws. Like… I’d like to be more disciplined, you know? I’d like to sit down and say I’m going to write for an hour, and then actually do that.”

Is that a wish?”

Sure. I wish that I could be more disciplined in my writing habits.”

Now you are more disciplined!” He snapped his blue fingers and golden sparkles flew from the screen and settled on my hair. I felt the moral certitude of self-discipline flowing through my veins.

What is your second wish?”

Hmmm.” I was a believer now. I needed to be careful and not waste these! “I wish I was better about outlining and crafting out my stories before I begin so I didn’t have to spend so much time rewriting and restructuring in my 2nd draft.”

Done!” He snapped again and silver dust sprinkled down around me. Instantly, I could see story structure in my head and understood how to fix my current project. “You have a final wish. What is it?”

I stood and stared out into the backyard. “I want a writer’s shed,” I said. “I want it air conditioned, with good high speed Internet. A mini-fridge and a microwave. A comfy chair, a nice desk. And I want to be able to go up a flight of stairs and have a little patio on the room with a swing and a canopy. And an ever-stocked ice-bucket with my choice of beer. Oh! And a bathroom. It has to have a bathroom, with maybe a shower. And a sound system that just knows when to play coffee house jazz or upbeat classic rock or, you know, just play some white noise.”

Of course,” the genie said. “Is that your wish?”

I nodded. I want a writer’s shed so bad I have already drafted out three versions.

He snapped his fingers. Shining white sparkles flew from the computer screen, out the window, and began to form the shape of the writer’s shed I’d imagined.

and then I woke up. No genie. No magical discipline, no sudden ability to draft intricate outlines and… I glanced out the window and sighed. And no writer’s shed.

Guess I’ll just have to find those things on my own.

How to make me believe in your young adult dystopia

In my quest to binge watch ALL THE SHOWS, I started watching The 100.

MV5BMTU5MTczNTkxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM5NDc1MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_This is (yet another) Young Adult Dystopia (actually, the ‘topia’ part of dystopia is questionable. There’s not really a good side to be found in their world. Nonetheless…) If you’re going to write a dystopia – young adult or otherwise – you have to be prepared to answer the question of why the population tolerates the situation. And you have to make sure that the consequences of disobedience are worse than the consequences of tolerating the situation.

I tend to read Young Adult only when convinced. I read Harry Potter because my son begged me to. I read The Hunger Games because my nieces enjoyed it and I thought it would be something we could talk about. A friend recommended the werewolf trilogy that begins with Shiver because she thought I’d like it. In all those cases, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the stories and the writing.

The Hunger Games was the first of the modern YA Dystopias I read. And it was the first time I remember reading a story and thinking “Why would they tolerate that?”

For those unfamiliar (I’m sure there’s someone who just came out from under a rock to read this blog), the Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic future. Humans live in a place called Panem which consists of a wealthy and privileged Capital surrounded by thirteen hunger-games__120301153305districts of various levels of poverty and oppression. Once a year, two children – a boy and a girl – are selected from each district and put into the Hunger Games, a fight to the death from which only one winner emerges.

Why do the people tolerate this? It seems that having your children killed annually would be a prime reason to riot and rebel. And the answer is right there – remember when I said thirteen districts? Well, District 13 is a smoking pile of rubble. They did rebel and were utterly destroyed for it. So why do the people tolerate having their children killed year after year? They’ve been conclusively shown that they’ll be destroyed if they don’t. 

OK. I can accept that.

Then I read Divergent. I did not love Divergent. One of the main reasons is that the question “Why would they tolerate this?” was never adequately answered. In Divergent, people are divided into five groups depDivergent_(book)_by_Veronica_Roth_US_Hardcover_2011ending on their character traits, things like being selfless or brave or intellectual. Various aspects of life are controlled by each group which leads to resentment. At sixteen, a child can chose to stay with his family’s group or move to a different group. At which point, they are, for all practical purposes, dead to their family. Once again, it’s a case of families tolerating the loss of their children, though granted, not as totally as in The Hunger Games.

And “Why would they tolerate this?” Because the government says it’s better that way. It’s not an adequate explanation and it’s one of the main reasons I didn’t enjoy the book and why I didn’t bother reading the rest of the series.

Which brings me back to The 100. I’d heard lots of good reasons why I should watch this show. The women are not “strong female characters,” they are fully developed characters. The story and situation is rich and complex. The teenage characters are too busy trying to survive to get too very angsty. They actually look like they’re struggling to survive rather than that they have a hair stylist waiting for them back in their camp.

The 100 is set about a hundred years in the future. Earth was torn apart by nuclear war. The scant survivors wait out the radiation in The Ark – a space station floating above the earth. The ark is dying, so they decide to send a collection of juvenile delinquents to earth to see if it’s survivable. Not only are children being put in danger once again, but the Ark is a dangerous place. With resources so scarce, any crime is punishable by death, with apparently very little trial. You commit a crime, you’re put out an airlock – “floated.”

It seems an intolerable situation. Which brings up the “Why would they tolerate this?” At first, I was unimpressed with the answer. The leaders didn’t seem to have enough power to control the population. I kept watching mostly because I didn’t have anything else lined up I wanted to watch more. Then a few episodes in, I realized – Why would they tolerate this? The answer is, they don’t. Everyone is struggling to survive and not everyone is looking out for the greater good. Like the Hunger Games which answered the question, and unlike Divergent, which didn’t, I am continuing to enjoy The 100.

Dystopias are a great way to comment on humanity. The things a person will tolerate just to survive. The things they’ll allow someone else to suffer. How blindly they’ll follow just to maintain their own quality of life. But if you want it to be believable, you have got to answer that question: “Why would they tolerate this?”