December 31, 2012

Casting Back at 2012

I like naming things: while nothing is ever easily categorized, I like to think in terms of titles. For me, 2012 has been the Year of Unexpected Opportunities. There were so many changes and challenges, but all of them pushed me to grow and to appreciate what I've learned and discovered.

Me and my soulmate ladyfriend in downtown D.C. (love you, Lynds!)

I spent quality time with people I love, and spent more time with family than I have since I left for Australia in 2007.

Me and my partner in crime in Savannah.
I started a new job teaching high school, essentially for the first time. I've had the chance to make vocab  crowns, to have fervent discussions about literature, and to make speeches about adventure.
Oh Romeo, Romeo...who is he again?

Inspiration comes in many forms...

I started shopping a novel around to agents for the first time, and continue to be amazed and challenged by that experience. I finished a novel I'm really excited to revise and get ready to send out into the world.

Where I wrote a lot of Novel #3. 

I travelled to places I'd been before with people who mean the world to me, and loved them all over again. I travelled to new places, and fell in love with them, too. 

It's been an interesting year full of surprises. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2013 might hold!

December 26, 2012

Warm Bodies Trailer (aka Thing That Excites Me Greatly)

It's coming in February! That's not very far away! I just hope they've done this book (one of my favorites from 2011), some kind of justice.

December 24, 2012

Best Music of 2012

I love writing 'best of' posts; they really bring home to me how much value my year's soundtrack brings into my writing life, and life in general. It seems as if my year has been filled with a really high proportion of folksy male crooners, and not as much Australian stuff as I would like. However, writing Novel #3, hanging out with hipster friends, and watching bad teen dramas have brought an awesome collection of new artists into my life. So. Much. Angst!

My Favorite Music from 2012 

The Lumineers - (Self-titled Album)

This group provided a handy anthem for my summer. Although they seem like they've become a pretty big deal in the industry, they weren't that well known when I saw them at Wolf Trap in June. It was amazing to see how excited they were to be playing for such a big audience. I embarrassed my friends by singing 'Stubborn Love' at the top of my lungs when no one around us knew the words. Other favorites: 'Classy Girls', and 'Submarines'.

Bon Iver - (Self-titled Album)

I don't need to explain the reason for my deep-seated love for Bon Iver, do I? I love everything about him...even when I don't know exactly what he's saying. Favorites include: 'Michicant', 'Calgary', and 'Wash.'.

The Civil Wars - 'Barton Hollow'

I love this duo so much: using their voices and very little else, they create such beautiful harmonies that soar together as easily as birds. Please write some more music! Favorites include: 'Goodbye Girl', and 'Barton Hollow'.

Daughter - 'His Young Heart'

If I had to pick one artist that shaped Novel #3 more than any other, it would be Daughter. Found for me by my super-hip mother, I couldn't imagine my current writing life without the beautiful sounds of this album playing through my headphones. My Favorites: 'Landfill', and 'The Woods'. 

 The Tallest Man on Earth - 'The Wild Hunt'

A great combination of bluegrass and folk: Bob Dylanesque, with the same knack for great storytelling, but with a style I enjoy infinitely more.
 The Oh Hello's - (Self-titled Album)

Folksy (just for something a little different?) and full of soul. My anthem this year: 'Hello My Old Heart'. I just bought their first full-length album and can't wait to listen to it.

James Vincent McMorrow - Early In The Morning

I spent a lot of time this Spring writing my novel, listening to this album with my toes in the sand and a notebook in hand, pacing the beach by Mom's house for inspiration. Favorites: 'We Don't Eat' and 'From The Woods!!'

Of Monsters And Men - 'Into The Woods' (I seem to really like my music woods-themed)

Another fun, folksy, feel-good group that makes me think of summertime. Favorites: 'Dirty Paws'.

There are many others on my playlist: some A Capella music, Imagine Dragons, and some angsty alternative stuff (Mikky Ekko, especially). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

December 2, 2012

Cold Weather Comforts

There's something incredibly comforting about homemade meals, familiar woods, and family. Having gone without my family for so long, it still strikes me sometimes how nice it is to be able to jump in a car and just go home. Of course, that home isn't the one I grew up in - but it is still the place that holds my old journals, my high school albums, and the detritus of the many lives I've already lived. Here's some of what I've been doing this weekend:

First, I've made unhealthy and glorious things.

Preparations for mac 'n cheese: (1) cut up insane amounts of cheese. 

(2) Create a cream-based sauce, and add more cheese to it.
(3) Forget that you're about to eat eight pounds' worth of cheese.
Holiday balls made from pages from Dante's Inferno. Surely it's okay to mix a fiery epic about the circles of hell with N'Sync's "Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday"?

Second, I've finally gone running and communed with some woods. I've had the opportunity, lately, to teach the work of some of my favorite tree huggers: specifically Emerson and Thoreau. As I ran through these woods by the Chesapeake, I kept hearing these words:
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." 
- Thoreau (= awesome)

I've also been watching the 2010 movie version of Macbeth (again) and trying to figure out how to make the play more fun and intelligible. This is what happened when I broke out my felt tip:

Those are some high quality stick men in tartan.

I'm Writing To: "Lay Me Down", by The Oh Hello's

November 22, 2012


When you're stressed and busy, it's easy to forget to be thankful. Being thankful requires that you pause for a moment and reflect on things, which I haven't had the time to do lately. It's been an incredibly hectic last few months for me. Still, as I take a breath and think back, I am fortunate enough to be thankful for many things:

I'm thankful for my family, who are more supportive and understanding than I could ever hope for.

I'm thankful for my new coworkers, many of whom have already become fast friends. My workplace wouldn't be nearly as wonderful without them. I'm thankful for my boss, who is one of the most supportive and lovely human beings I've ever met. I am fully aware of how rare and wonderful a thing that is.

I'm thankful for the chance to get to know my students and see into their hearts and minds. I'm thankful that, during my first out-of-state, weekend-long chaperoning trip, my students chose to sit in my room after dinner and have a three-hour conversation about life and faith and identity. That conversation filled me with such a sense of awe and happiness regarding what I get paid to do, and I'm grateful for that. I'm thankful for the fact that they trust me with their thoughts and welcome me into their lives so that I can become a part of watching them grow.

I'm thankful for my best friends who inspire and enrich my life. I'm thankful that even though some of my closest friends live far away, I am still able to be an authentic part of their lives. I'm especially thankful this year to Tori for being my partner in adventuring and for always, always, making me laugh.

I'm thankful that I am able to support myself without constant worry. I'm thankful to have a home and good food and good people around me. I'm grateful to be able to buy myself nice things sometimes (including the amazing new laptop on which I'm currently typing).

I'm thankful for my passions and my drive; for the fact that even when I am tired and depleted, those fires continue to burn.

I'm thankful for my cat, who forgives me for making him live at Mom's house!

October 9, 2012

Absense, and Wisdom

It appears as if I fell into a black hole from late June through to early September. I guess I did, in a way, but there were a lot of things going on in there. It was more of a Wonderlandesque rabbit hole than just a black one. Here are some of the more important items:

1. I moved into a new house in the city. I made the move during that weird summer storm that knocked out everyone's power; tumultuous weather seems to like to crop up when I'm making major life changes (at least it wasn't a flood this time...). I'm currently sitting at my new desk, surrounded by open windows, enjoying the sound of church bells and gospel wafting over from the church on the corner.

Mackie: the best dog in the history of the world.
2. I said goodbye to a beloved pet, Mack. Mom got him from the pound when I was maybe sixteen. I remember the day Mom brought him home. He was so excited to be out of the kennel that he spent the entire afternoon wearing a circle into our backyard. As with all good things, he could be a little high maintenance, but he was incredibly loyal and loving. When you looked into his eyes, you saw a human inside him. He was just one of those special dogs that felt more like family than anything else. When I moved back from Australia, our walks together through the woods was the only thing I derived any real pleasure from. He used to run ahead and look over his shoulder, smiling, wanting me to run with him. I miss him every day.

3. I had some incredible and unexpected adventures in new places. I spent a lot of time outdoors and in awe of the world. Here are some of those places:
4. I started a new job that continues to challenge and inspire me. I feel pretty privileged to be a teacher. And that I get to make vocabulary crowns. And that my students actually wear them.

5. I wrote the first draft of my third book - in four months. Yikes!


I recently had a few days off to celebrate Rosh Shoshanna. While I'm not Jewish, I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on all of the things that've happened this year. To think about the things I've learned, and the things I'm looking forward to. It was nice to take a breath and appreciate how far I've come. Here are some pieces of random wisdom that popped up during my reflections:

1. Don't feel guilty about taking time out for yourself. There will always be something you need to do - work, school, bills, whatever. Enjoying an afternoon doing something you love can be just as important as getting 'stuff' done. Sometimes even more so.
2. Using buttermilk in baked goods is always a good idea. It makes them fluffier and less likely to be dry.
3. Travel, travel, travel. Even if it's just a state away. Even if it's only an hour away.
4. When you're feeling uninspired, go outside. When you're feeling frustrated, go outside. Being outside and moving makes everything a little clearer.
5. It's good to have a hobby that's yours and that you can do no matter where you are or what's going on. Writing is that thing for me; doing it always makes me feel grounded within myself, and that's a valuable thing to carry with you.
6. Slow down long enough to crunch those shriveled leaves on your sidewalk, to take a picture of the sunrise before getting in your car, to smell your coffee as it's poured. Otherwise life is just a series of moments rushing by, rather than a series of memories.
7. Try putting cinnamon in your coffee. Try putting Aleppo pepper in...everything.
8. Take the time to write people thank you cards. Not just the big thank you's, but the little ones. Thank people for being encouraging, or for doing the deeds that usually go unnoticed and unremarked upon. You wouldn't believe what an impact it can have.
9. Never miss the opportunity to go for a swim in natural bodies of water - regardless of whether you brought a bathing suit.
10. Unplug yourself from time to time. Step away from your iPhone and listen to the rhythm of the world as it breathes.

Currently writing to: Mumford & Sons - "I Will Wait"

September 23, 2012

Moby Dick: The Book I Always Meant To Read...

"Moby Dick is the great American novel. But it is also the great unread American novel", says the Moby Dick Big Read project. I have to admit that it's gone unread by me.

Everyone I graduated with knew, of course, that Moby Dick is about a great white whale and one man's obsessive hunt for it, but I don't think anyone actually read it. So how cool is it that, in an attempt to make the work more accessible to a modern audience, Big Read is releasing an audio chapter of Moby Dick a day - for free, easy download - read by the likes of Tilda Swinton. But it isn't only celebrities who were asked to read. One chapter is read by a fisherman, adding to a broad wealth of voices and characters livening up this literary tome.

I'm in love with this idea - bringing a great novel alive in a new way, and making it free for everyone to enjoy. Check it out!

Chapter 1: Loomings - Read by Tilda Swinton - by The Moby-Dick Big Read

June 21, 2012

Being Crafty: How To Repaint a Junkyard Trunk

When I'm not procrastination baking, I like procrastination crafting. I bought an old trunk for $15 in New York State last year and hadn't done anything with it yet. I figured since I'm moving soon and this thing is going at the end of my bed, I'd better give it a makeover. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out:

It's easy, too. No really...the easiest.

Step 1: Clean and sand it.

Step 2: Spray on a primer coat. I don't think I necessarily had to do this, but I figured it wouldn't hurt. The primer dries very quickly. I love spray paint; it's almost idiot proof as long as you're aiming in the right direction (hint: not at your eyes). The key is to not hold it close to the object you're painting and not hold it in one place too long. Otherwise you'll get drippage, and no one likes that.

Step 3: Spray paint with your primary color. (same process as above. It dries super fast, too).

Step 4: This step isn't hard, but it's a labor of love. Carefully tape paper over the panels you want to stay your primary color. Give the trunk a couple of hours to dry and use painter's tape or it's liable to strip off a layer when you take it off later.

Step 5: Spray on your trim paint. I used a hammered finish paint, which has a dull sheen and a cool pitted look.

And there you have it: an awesome trunk.

The Power of Simplicity

As I round the 60,000 word mark in my WIP, things are starting to get complicated. I am trying to weave several different threads together, and to make sure they all make sense side by side. There's pacing to consider, and whether my characters are still humming along on the right track. I worry about this, sometimes, because it's easy to overcomplicate stories. You think you need to add in rather than take out; to add in more drama and more monsters, or else you'll lose people's attention. That's the stuff that keeps readers reading, right?

Except then I see a book trailer like this one, reminding me that evocative storytelling doesn't have to be complicated. Sometimes it's more powerful when it's not.

You don't know what this story is about, right? All you know is that this kid who likes music is having a hard time, and that he's trying to find ways to deal with it. No words are spoken, no secondary characters introduced. There is only this kid with a bloody nose walking off with an axe...and I really want to know what he's going to do with it. Don't you?

Currently Writing To: "White Blank Page" by Mumford & Sons

June 11, 2012

Resolutions, Revisited: The Halfway Mark

So it's June. How did that happen?

I've been thinking about goals today, trying to figure out how much I can squeeze into the few months I have off before I dive into teaching. Let's see how I've done so far with this year's resolutions:

1. Finish Novel #2 and start shopping for agents. I finished edits on TORN in February (sweet triumph!) and started shopping in March. This was something that involved an insane amount of research and meticulous dedication, more so even than I expected. Thanks to that wonderful thing called the Internet I've learned a massive amount and connected with some interesting people. I've entered a few contests and gotten MUCH more comfortable with having people read my work and also with hearing 'no thanks'. I just have to keep this ball rolling through the rest of the year.

2. Write Novel #3. I wrote 12,000 words of novel #3. And then started writing an entirely different Novel #3, one that wouldn't leave me alone. I'm now about 55,000 words into what I'm calling my UndergroundNovel, and I'm loving it. So that's...[computing]...almost 70,000 words in four months? Yowza. That's fast for me. If I keep going at this rate, I'll be done with this draft by mid-July.

3. Make photography a bigger part of my life. I was better about this in the first three months of the year, but I'm coming back around to it. The summer's adventures should yield some interesting new places to point my camera at.

4. Take myself on a writing retreat. I'm going up to a beautiful farm in NY State in a few weeks to finish Novel #3 (and also to paint my aunt's farmhouse living room. And also to eat copious amounts of her cake.) Here's to family-sponsored writing ventures!

5. Learn to play the violin. You know what I don't own? A violin. But I DO own a guitar, one I never play anymore. I think I'm going to try and get better at that so I can serenade my new roommates.

6. Run for a cause. I just ran a half marathon. I did not, sadly, run for a cause. I was afraid that I'd fall on my face halfway through, disappointing my sponsors and feeling silly. Now that I know I can actually run 13.1 miles, I'm on top of this. Are big races only a summer thing, or do they have them in the fall?

7. Get back in touch with Shakespeare. I actually forgot about this one...that's what I get for not hanging them up somewhere visible. I'm off to read me some Macbeth.

My Current Writing Soundtrack: "The Lighthouse Song" by Josh Pyke

June 8, 2012

It's A (half) Marathon - Not A Sprint.

You know when you try to get things done and, without fail or exception, they don't seem to work the way you want them to? That's been today.

I'm a bit of a mastodon with my To Do lists - I exist under the belief that if you stomp and chomp away at something, it'll eventually get done well. Today I ploughed 1,000 words into a difficult scene in my WIP only to realize I'd come at it from the wrong angle. Knowing this made me cranky, because it meant having to rewrite a huge chunk of work I'd already done. So I stepped away from it and up to another project. I wanted to paint an old steamer trunk of mine so I got the paint, broke out the sander, and got things underway. It only took an hour to realize I'd gone about the trunk all wrong, too - wrong method, wrong supplies. I have to start over. I even tried to wash the dog with...well, similar results (he's fine, but peppermint bath wash is not his favorite).

I don't like this at all. It's enough to make me want to put on sweatpants and call it a day. Still, there's something to be said for going about something the wrong way. Sometimes you have to go the wrong way to realize what the 'right way' is. Plus, it makes me remember the importance of patience - a skill I'm constantly relearning.

Speaking of which, I ran my first half marathon last weekend. My goal wasn't to run super fast; my goal was, quite honestly, to run the whole time and finish without breaking anything. And, by some minor miracle, I did. In my training I'd only run about eight miles - nowhere near the 13.1 I had to do on race day. I was worried, but it all worked out fine. In the midst of miles ten and eleven (because I'm obsessive like this), I found myself thinking about my writing. Doing something creative - doing anything worthwhile, really - can feel a lot like running a marathon. There are moments when you hit your stride and everything clicks into place, but there are also those miles when you know - you just know - you can't go any further. You were crazy to think you could. But most of the time, you really can. You're just tired and have lost your focus.

I've found that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on being present - not focused on two miles ago, or one mile ahead, but right in this present place - you'll be surprised what you can accomplish. I always am.

Currently writing to: In My Veins - Andrew Belle

May 29, 2012

Book Burgling

A pilfered reading nook.
I love book burgling.

As my writer friend and fellow burglar Fiona could tell you, book snatching is not about stealing books (I'm not into that). It's about...borrowing them from your friends and relatives. Most of the time you ask them nicely before pilfering from their library. Unless you think they're going to say no, and then you stick the book you're coveting down the back of your pants and sachet towards the exit.

I have great memories of doing this as a kid. I snuck Pygmalion out of my grandfather's prized library--I didn't know what a Pygmalion was, but I wanted to read about one. He thought it was such a funny choice for a seven year old that he let me have it. Any time I go over to a friend's house, the first thing I ogle--without fail--are the books on their shelves.

This summer I find myself in a fortuitous burgling position. I'm spending a lot of time at Mom's house; Mom has a LOT of books. There are tons of classics I've never read, modern mysteries I've never heard of, and children's books I haven't enjoyed in years. Not to mention the books I left behind when I moved over to Australia. So I'm setting myself a summer reading challenge: read books exclusively pilfered from Mom's library. No new books (well, except this one). Just the ones on all these heavy shelves.

First up: Test of Wills by Charles Todd.

Current writing soundtrack: "The Woods" by Daughter

May 25, 2012

What Rough Drafting Looks Like

I'm halfway through the rough draft of my third novel. First drafts are a strange and special animal that seem to roll out differently for everyone. Some people love drafting; some people hate it. As for me, I keep waiting for the whole process to become easier and more streamlined. To stop making me feel like a self-indulgent crazy person who talks through plot problems while stuck alone in traffic. I think to myself, "I've done this a few times. So, clearly, I have learnt my lessons. I will know my ending in advance. All of my characters will behave and be nice to me."

Every book has been a different experience, but I'm finding that my drafting process has developed a predictable pattern. Let me illustrate.

0 - 10,000 words: 
My characters are vivid and interesting. Everything I write is vivid and interesting. I can't wait to see where this story is going! And this novel writing thing?...pure magic.

10,000 - 35,000 words:
I can kind of see where this story is headed, but I have no idea how I'm getting there. That end point seems really, really far away. My characters are being tempestuous. I was a fool to think I could make a novel out of this crazy premise. It's hot out here. I'm thirsty. I'm going to send this to my critique partners so they can tell me if it's awful. This novel writing thing?...the hardest.

35,000 - 55,000:
I understand my characters now; they're starting to tell me when I've got them wrong. In fact, they're keeping me up at night trying to dictate their stories. All of these plot possibilities seem worth exploring, but I'm angsting over which ones are the right ones. Let's go left!:

...maybe I shouldn't have taken a left...maybe I shouldn't have written this, period...

...wait, this is nice, but I think the creepy woods were more interesting...

...and here we are again. I remind myself that my crit partners assured me that this story isn't awful. I force loving friends to read pages and promise me that isn't awful. 

55,000 - 75,000:
So this isn't awful; I'm liking this. I know where I'm going! My characters are starting to make big decisions as they stumble towards the finish line. My plot is revealing new twists. Or maybe they're not new: hey, look, I planted the seeds for them in chapter three! This is scary! This is exciting! Someone pass me my oxygen tank!

75,000 - 80,000:
I'm in love with this story. I hope others will also be in love with this story. In a few weeks, I'll probably reread this draft and moan about how much work it needs but right now, for me, it is perfect. 

 Five minutes after typing THE END:

Current Writing Soundtrack: "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers

May 21, 2012

The Joys of Audio: Reading Edition

I've always loved audiobooks. Mom and I used to go 'shopping' for them at the public library; we'd scour the Mystery shelves together, her because she loves mysteries, me because I wanted to love whatever she loved. I discovered some fantastic books this way. At thirteen I got very sick and spent several months chained to a couch, knitting really ugly scarves with my one good eye and listening to audiobooks. My poor eyesight meant I couldn't really read, so it was good to feel that there was still a way for me to ingest stories.

There's nothing like being read to; it makes me feel like a little girl again. I clean to them, drive to them, and sometimes fall asleep to them. A book read really well can make a story come alive. Even so, my audiobook love often strikes me as something of an old lady habit, but more and more books I've read and want to read are being respun into audio, read by interesting people - especially in YA. Here are some of the best audiobooks I've enjoyed in the last few years. I read them all first, and I can tell you that these renditions are well worth taking the time to enjoy.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater (read by Steve West & Fiona Hardingham). I loved this book when I read it, and I loved it even more when listening to it. These readers evoke all the atmosphere and sense of place the book does so well. I liked it so much I listened to it more than a row.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (read by George Guidall). I listened to this before bed (a very relaxing way to wind down) and was completely captivated by this guy's reading voice. It is deep and kind of craggy, perfectly suited to this story.

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson (read by William Roberts). This book is very funny, but it was William Roberts' rendition of it that made me laugh so hard I almost wet myself. He brings Bill Bryson's dry humor to life and turns interactions between Katz and Bryson into comic gold.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (read by Jeremy Northam). I feel that I should just be able to say 'Jeremy Northam' and leave it at that...he performs this book so, so well. He takes its creep factor and turns it up several notches (in a very good way). Don't listen to it before bed or on dark car rides, though. Trust me.

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (read by a long list of great-sounding people). I listened to these on a very, very long car ride. They made me fall in love with Pullman's world all over again.

Current song obsession: "War" by Gossling

May 17, 2012

Author Thoughts from a Figment live chat

I participated in my first "live chat" the other night. It was like sneaking a peek at somebody's Gchat (although apparently 500 other people were doing it, so I guess I'm not that big a creep). The chat, run by This Is Teen and Figment, went down between two of my very favorite authors: Maggie Stiefvater and Lucy Christopher. It was supposed to be about voice, but their answers spanned a whole range of writerly topics that had me taking avid notes. 

On Character:

- You don't always have to know how the story ends, but you should know the end of the characters' emotional arc. In other words, what do they learn? Everything that happens to a character in the story leads to the realization they come to by the end.

- It's OK to steal people. (I liked this one...because I'm constantly stealing sayings and nervous gestures from people from strange and familiar). Keep writing fresh by watching how people react to things; their speech patterns and movements; their turns of phrase.

- Read out loud to see how a character's voice is shaping up; it's great for objectivity and for 'hearing' what isn't working for your characters.

- The most important thing is that your character be consistent and believable and true to themselves...

- I think it comes back to being true to the individual you're writing. You don't ask "would a teen say this?" you ask "would my character say this?"

- Ask yourself: who is it that your character projects? Who are they really on the inside? You need to know the 'why' when you're the author. WHY are your characters acting the way they do? Don't worry about the physical things like eye color and hair length...worry about motivation, what propels them.

- Reading out loud helps you to know if you're being yourself, or if you're being your character.


From Maggie: "...the key to true storytelling is to be specific". You can find a character's 'truth' when their reactions become predictable, and you know what it is that drives them

LC: "I write stories about places I want to explore / think about more / have issues with / have an interesting cultural resonance."
MS: "Absolutely. A setting is like a character where you have to ask yourself, why are things that way HERE. Not anywhere else, but HERE."

MS: "So if there is something peculiar and interesting about you, something cool you've done, that is what you should mine for your novels."

MG: "In my head, the story already exists, and my job is to dust carefully away until I find it beneath all the silt. And if I smash too hard and impose my will and bust past writer's block without thinking about what is really stopping me from writing, I'll smash off the statue's arm. So I need to go carefully and trust my gut, and when they are right, I can FEEL it. I see it right there. The story I always meant to write."

MS: "If you know how a character is going to react, you know what they're going to say."

It was a fantastic chat, and well worth sipping wine through. If you want to replay it in all its glory. go here

May 8, 2012

April Photo Collection: Tripping Through The South

I recently went on a stellar road trip through the South. Besides slaking my general thirst for travel, it allowed me to flirt with my ever-growing love of the South. When I was a kid, I moved from D.C. to Northern Virginia. When friends would tease me about the fact that I was now Southern, I would grow very grave and maudlin. "I am NOT A Southerner," I'd say. As if being Southern were akin to having shingles. I don't know what that was about; now, I like the South a lot. I like that it has retained so much local flavor and cultural heritage. I like that people say hello to strangers instead of assuming they want to mug you.

Here are some trip highlights, photo montage style.

The view over our first morning's coffee in Atlanta, Georgia.
Spanish moss in one of Savannah, Georgia's many squares. I love this stuff!

A fantastically crowded second-hand bookstore in Savannah. Hello, lover. 
Tori and I discovering sweet tea vodka in Charleston, SC (and looking a little bit devilish)
Outside our B&B in Charleston. The whole city smelled like this Confederate jasmine, which was, in a word, glorious.

Sitting in our garden patio on our second morning in Charleston. 

Our boat ride through the amazing Cypress Gardens, SC. For five bucks you get to paddle yourself around a stunning swamp and wave to the alligators!

This swampy smelled quite nice. The water's black because of all the tanins, but when you stuck your hand in it, it was actually quite clear. 

Something happens to me when I am behind my camera. I decide that whatever I'm  shooting isn't actually a threat to me. So despite Tori's protests about toothy grins and that whole "don't bait the gators" rule, I convinced her to paddle up to it. We started out this close...

...and ended up this close. Actually, this is as close as we got before I dropped my camera and we ran into its log. Now I know what an angry, hissing gator looks like. Whoops.