• Bookish,  NaNoWriMo,  Personal,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: on writing

    person using green typewriter
    Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

    November means NaNoWriMo!

    What?

    I’ve gotten that question a few times in the past week. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. It has nothing to do with Mork & Mindy and Mork’s famous tagline.

    The basic premise is that you write every day in the month of November and end up with a novel of 50,000 words. That breaks down to 1667 words written per day which sounds a lot less intimidating.

    The program has been in existence since 1999 so obviously there are a lot of people that participate willingly and have some fun throughout the process. And let me emphasize some when we are talking the about fun part.

    I have watched from the sidelines since I first started seeing it talked about. Sure it sounded interesting but did I really want to do that?

    It turns out that this year was the year I decided it would be an interesting experience. So in the last week of October, I spent time outlining a few different ideas and putting real names and descriptions to the characters I have thought about for years.

    Where will this end up? I’m not sure at all. I’ve been writing everyday and it’s been a fun/interesting experience. I have always loved to read but actually working out your own process makes you appreciate the books you read even more.

    Writing is hard work. It’s also a mind game where your creative brain spends a lot of time making plot pieces fit together like puzzle pieces while the logical side of your brain tells you that there is a missing piece and what a bad idea this was in the first place.

    Remember the some fun part from earlier? This is precisely the some part that I was talking about.

    I enjoy writing so why not add in a challenge to mix it up?

    Why not? I’ll let you know on December 1st.

    In the meantime, I’ll be writing. And when I’m not I’ll be enjoying the books I am reading. Because when you are paying attention to plot structure and characters when you write, you pay even better attention to what a seasoned author has done with their characters and their own plot.

    For me, this alone makes NaNoWriMo worth it because I’m enjoying the books I read that much more.

    As for the rest – I’ll just have to see where it goes.

    Until then, while I write, here are a few big novels to come out of NaNoWriMo in past years:

    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

    and Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell

    … just to name a few.

    Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or have you in the past?

  • Bookish,  Feminism,  mental health,  parenting,  Personal,  Wit,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: The Joy of Syntax

    Ferris-Bueller-Quotes-1

    Have you ever felt like a second person narrator in your own life? What is a second person narrator? Here you go:

    This point of view is the least common of all three persons, mostly because it’s the hardest to pull off …. You’ll recognize this point of view by the use of you, your, yourself with the absolute exclusion of any personal pronouns (I, me, myself). The narrator is the reader. It’s tricky, but it can be done.

    This sounds like the parenting life!

    The past four years of my life have felt like they happened to me. Multiple situations completely out of my control but demanding every bit of strength I had.

    Severe mental illness, physical assault, death, grief, angry and grieving teenagers, a traveling husband, a third teenager who slipped through the cracks, sexual assault, PTSD/anxiety/depression, police interviews, suicidal ideation, therapy appointments, psychiatrist appointments, loss of a hobby, loss of a passion, being used, disrespect, entitlement, addiction, lost dreams, lost friends, a new school, brighter days on the horizon…

    How are you feeling? What do you need? How was your school day? Your orthodontist appointment is tomorrow. The school called about the assault on you. You have therapy tomorrow. Did you take your meds? Are those boys leaving you alone? You can’t drink as much as you are. You can’t do drugs in our house. It’s time for you to be an adult. You love high school?! You have overcome so much. You are fierce.

    You get the point.

    The definition of the second person says that it can be tricky but it can be done; it’s  exclusively you, they, them. That is 100% accurate and correct; it is tricky.

    The exclusion of  I, me, myself is a dangerous way to live. It happens but it’s not without consequences. You miss what’s happening in your actual life while trying to stay on top of everything else that is moving so fast.

    It took four years but it caught up with me. Don’t worry because I’m ok. I have a great therapist. And a fantastic husband.

    I’m writing again. And in my research, along with my favorite “Ferris Bueller” quote, I found the antidote to living in the second person: change the point of view. Tell my story and flip the script to the first person POV where I can ask for help, I can say how I feel, I can put boundaries in place, and I can tell my story.

    Please don’t take this as me making it all about me. Because every good story has a balance; multiple perspectives and plot lines. And if the book is good, they converge and tell a cohesive and relatable story. But it takes everyone, even the antagonist(s) to create a rich plot. Because without adversity, there’s really no story arc and it results in something flat and boring.

    Our life has been anything but boring. Would I change anything about the past 4 years? Probably not. I certainly have learned from these years and for that I’m thankful.

    But I’m also really, really thankful that what our family wrote doesn’t resemble a horror novel and something closer to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.

    Ferris-Bueller-s-Day-Off-jennifer-grey-38291373-1280-528.jpg

    And yes, I unapologetically admit to being Jeanie.

    Isn’t writing amazing? What surprising thing has it taught you about your own life?

  • Book Reviews,  Bookish,  Feminism,  Writing

    Dead Girls Don’t Need True Crime Addicts to Rescue Them: Part Three

    Part one – my book review of True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner

    Part two – my book review of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

    Welcome to part three of my discussion of the true crime genre and the sensationalism of missing and murdered women. “Dead girls” as they are referred to in Alice Bolin’s book.

    In Renner’s book, he took a personal approach to the case of missing woman, Maura Murray. Woven into his “investigation” were intimate revelations, such as him scoring a like a psychopath on a psychological exam given to him by his therapist. Then there was his own family secrets revealed and his “falling in love” with a picture of a missing girl when he was a boy. Besides the psychopath thing, Renner has issues for sure. Rage, alcohol, and stalking tendencies all come to mind.

    He claimed he lost himself in the investigation but what we really lost was a young woman full of life and potential. Renner made little to no progress (I’m being gracious here) in his investigation so he turned his book into his personal pedestal of redemption and the recovery of the (never) missing James Renner.

    He worked out some of issues through the Maura Murray investigation and in that process he harassed her family, made some terrible insinuations, and created a lot of questions around Maura’s character that had little to do with his investigation. The book went no where and I’m honestly surprised it was published. It was pure sensationalism.

    Alice Bolin wrote her book of essays to combat people like James Renner and the “websleuths” who do his bidding. The true crime junkies who can’t get enough and go as far a finding ways to insert themselves into the investigations. There is a fine line here because there are obvious benefits to extra attention given to a case.

    But that line is crossed when the attention is focused on the perpetrator, the gritty details, or the true crime addicts like Renner who make it about themselves. And then the absolute worst outcome: they distract law enforcement with far reaching theories that directly harm the progress of the investigation.

    A criticism of Bolin’s book was that it wasn’t only about the obsession with dead girls. She addresses the use and abuse of living women as well and that bothered some people just there for the “dead girls”. However, I think Bolin subtlety and brilliantly proved her point which brings me to my own opinion of this genre.

    If we weren’t so obsessed with the “dead girls” would there be as many of them? What if we focused on the treatment of the living women and the behavior of the others, turned true crime junkies?

    Now, there is certainly a place and time for the appropriate attention to the missing and the murdered but even that we have to get right. Just look at the news, it’s the pretty, young, white girls who captivate the nation. But what about women of color, women on the fringes of society, the sex workers, the addicts, the economically disadvantaged, etc.?

    There are good people doing good work, I wholeheartedly believe this. But the obsession with hurting women has to stop. It’s not entertainment to watch or read women being raped, tortured, murdered, abducted, etc. It just perpetuates the dead girl obsession and desensitizes the viewers/readers.

    And these dead girls don’t need to be saved in a 47 minute TV episode. The missing girls don’t need to be rescued by the true crime addict who wants to run a podcast or write a book. They needed to be treated better while they were living and because it’s too late, their memory needs to be honored.

    How do we honor them? By treating each other better. By speaking up for the marginalized. By not partaking in sensationalized accounts of murder, torture, and abduction. And when we do come across a tragic story, asking ourselves if it is told in a respectful, truthful, and necessary manner. Both books certainly caused me to examine my own approach to these kinds of stories and I hope other do the same.

    And finally, James Renner and people like you, leave these poor families alone and let the professionals do the real work. You know, the investigators who aren’t writing books for profit.

  • Feminism,  Personal,  Wit,  Writing

    Wednesday Words

    No, I’m not on fire. At least not for the sake of other’s comfort.

    Anymore.

    Last night after dinner my husband asked me about taking care of some rather mundane tasks that belonged to other people; other adults to be exact.

    My gracious response was, “I’m not doing it. I’m tired of doing shit other people are supposed to do.”

    No kids or animals were around to hear my sparkly words so at least there’s that.

    His response was actually gracious. Because he is a very smart man. Well, actually he just said, “ok.” But whatever. Still a smart guy.

    However, I do think my abrupt answer speaks to where a lot of women are coming from these days. Especially women with one or all of the following: jobs, families, pets, household responsibilities, personal care, etc.

    We have been told we can have it all and in the process we have set ourselves on fire. Or worse, we have let others set us on fire for their own gain. They have taken advantage of our warmth.

    Now we are left burned. And hurting. Yet life moves on.

    Kids still need to get to school and activities. We have careers we show up for with smiles on our faces. Our homes need to be clean-ish. Our families have this crazy expectation to be fed. Even our pets want treats every time we walk in the door, even if it was just to get the mail. It’s exhausting.

    So Sunday evening, after a particularly trying weekend, the thought crossed my mind:

    What if I just stopped talking?

    I spend a lot of time up in my head with my thoughts but this was a weird one, even for me. It’s now Wednesday and I have finally figured out what that my silence would ideally achieve.

    If I stopped talking, people would see me.

    They would have to look. Forced to make eye contact. Forced to read expressions. Forced to make gestures… some probably not so nice if we’re being honest.

    We don’t see each other anymore. Our noses are buried in electronic devices. Even as we are rushing from activity to activity or chasing the next big promotion, we are texting and emailing instead of seeing the other person.

    And this lack of seeing others; I don’t believe it’s a female specific issue either. But because I’m a woman, this is my own perspective. And because this is me, I’m going to tell you what I, along with most women, long to hear:

    I see you.

    I see your frustration. I see your tears. I see your hurt over the destruction of addiction. I see your worry over your kids. I see the times you clean up messes made by other adults you are supposed to be able to count on. I see your struggles because we all have them. I see the well-intentioned fire you started to keep others warm and I see the harm it is doing to you.

    It’s time to stop the madness. Put the fire out and help another woman put her fire out as well. Because there is more than one way to generate warmth. Community instead of competition would be an excellent place to start.

    Build a different kind of fire. One that illuminates and allows us to see and support each other. We can all do better.

    And one last thing, take a look in the mirror and see yourself. I did that this morning and saw a woman doing her very best, and purposed to keep talking. Without as many sparkly words.

    Maybe…

  • Bookish,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Writing

    5 Star Recommendations

    blur book stack books bookshelves

    What makes a book a 5 star book for you?

    My criteria includes:

    • Characters that are interesting, endearing, or so good at being so evil.
    • Writing that is sound and has a clear voice.
    • Imagery. This is a big one for me. If I can hear it, taste it, see it, smell it, or touch it, I’m probably going to be your biggest fan.
    • Relatable. Even if I’m not a Crazy Rich Asian; if there are elements I can relate to, I will find this kind of book enjoyable.
    • Powerful and compelling. Do the characters and story stick with me days/weeks after finishing the book?

    Here are five of my favorite 5 star books from 2018… in no particular order:

        1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – One character: Jude. Remember those books and characters that stick with you? I still think about Jude almost six months later.
        1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Imagery set this book a part from other coming of age novels. I could hear, smell, see, and taste the marsh air when I listened to this audiobook.
        1. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman- I found myself so interested in each character; their likes, dislike, quirks, and faults. You know it’s a good character when even their faults are appealing.
        1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – Alice, the main character, had such a strong voice and inner dialogue. And that is despite losing her memory in the book.
        1. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – I am not a Punjabi widow but I found this book to be so relatable. Reading a book about a community of women gaining their collective voice despite old beliefs and opposition reminds me very much of where we are in 2018 with #metoo and #believesurvivors. There is power in community; especially a community of women supporting other women

    I’m curious, because all readers are different, what are some of your favorite five-star books?

     

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