Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Ganguros

I just signed up for the NaNoWriMo even though I'm not really sure of the rules yet. I want to try to write an adult novel and I figured it might be fun to do. I know you can't have started the manuscript yet, except maybe mentally. Of course I don't have a whole lot of time to devote to this, but I can try. It's really a way to force me not to agonize and just get stuff down on paper, and it might be fun to do it with other folks. I actually don't know anyone who writes adult books...maybe I will after this. And I think there are forums, but I haven't gotten that far yet.

In other exciting news, I am HAPPILY REVISING. Now that might seem like an oxymoron, but I can assure you, it's not. Usually, I approach revision with the same enthusiasm I approach a pile of ironing with, which is to say none.

I suffer through revision. I feel very, very sorry for myself and console myself with hidden stashes of chocolate (not Mars or Hershey's either, the good kind, from Europe) I work slowly. I consider abandoning writing and taking a full time job in a middle school where I force twelve year olds to circle the subject of sentences. I stop and start and stop again.

This time, I didn't take advice. I just went with what seemed right to me and it's coming out much, much better than I thought. It may not be perfect, but I think confidence in actually listening to yourself is a writing skill that is largely ignored.

I'm always worried about craft, about having it sound exactly the way I intended it to, but if someone, even someone who doesn't write or doesn't read much, says, "Hey, have you ever thought of including Satan in that picture book?" I stop to consider that as an option.

This time, I just did what I thought would be better and it worked. You would think I would know that by now, but you know what they say (actually, I'm not sure what they say, but they must say something about learning things after the fact, I just don't know what it is)

And things just keep getting better and better. After several days of wondering how I went so woefully wrong as a parent that my daughter wants to go out as Snooki for Halloween, she has decided, instead, to be a Ganguro Girl. Apparently, she liked a specific cheetah print dress that Snooki has worn, and when the idea of wearing that wore off, she landed on the Ganguro Girl. After she showed me a picture - here are Ganguro Girls:

I got really worried that they were a certain class of working girl in Asian society that Emma may not realize. But they're not.

 Apparently, researchers in Japanese studies think ganguro is a kind of fashion revenge against traditional Japanese society. I have no idea how she found out about it, but she does read fashion magazines. I am just really hoping they are not a form of the Japanese Snooki.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hillbilly YA

The other day I was reading a short story that was, in a word, dreadful.The hopeful writer who asked me to read it is an acquaintance of mine who is looking to make some holiday cash by penning a few short stories. What I didn't tell him is that you get paid in copies for years, and an acceptance can be months, or even years, in the offering. He would be better off stocking shelves at Toys 'R Us.

(Expert 1)

                                                                                         (Expert 2)

I think there's a whole misconception out there that writing is easy, sort of like a hobby. I've said this skadey eight million times, but when I meet people, I almost never confess to being a writer. I've gotten too many weird glances, like I'm saying, "I shrink ocelot heads in my basement and make garlands from their teeth." So I just say I teach English and change the subject back to something about them.

(Expert 3)
But I know I have to say something to this man about his work. It was dreadful due to the dialogue. It went something like, "She's at the beauty parlor." "You don't say." "Yup, she is. Getting her hair all done up for this Saturday night."

Now, I'm paraphrasing that sample, but if you're thinking they sound like hillbillies sitting outside the gun shop, that's pretty much the impression I got. And it's YA. Hillbilly YA. Maybe hillbilly teens still say "beauty parlor" but I doubt it. I'm sure even they go to the Daisy Duke Spa.

You don't necessarily have to have teens to write successful YA dialogue, but I really think it helps to either have them around or work with them in some capacity. I have a ready panel of YA experts. They never seem to mind when I swipe their phrasings. This is one example of a recent dinner:

Emma: Did you guys ever meet someone with an eye that doesn't quite...
Philip: Yes! You mean a slow eye?
Christopher: Mom, didn't you have an aunt with that?
Emma: This girl has it and she talks to me all the time. Like all the time. And I know I have to talk to her or Mom will lecture me on how lucky I am...
Philip: I know. To have two good eyes or something.
Mom: I'm sitting right here you know.
Christopher: I have a paper due in ten hours. It has to be five pages long. Mom, have you ever read...
Emma: So here's the problem. When she looks at me...
Philip: Who ate the last slice of pizza?
Christopher: So what happens when she looks at you?
Philip: You definitely ate it last night.
Emma: I never know where to look. It's just that there are too many...you know, decisions to make on what part of her face to focus on.

And so it goes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Halloween Choice

My kids change their Halloween ideas a few times before settling on one costume. It's kind of a ritual that they go through. Well, I should say Emma and Philip do this. They always loved costumes, dressing up, all that stuff when they were little. Christopher wore a Batman suit as his sole foray into dress up world, and every Halloween he knew what he wanted to be by Labor Day and he stuck to it. Of course, his particular weirdness was to eat all of his Halloween candy on Halloween night and well...you sort of know the rest if you've ever run a highly necessary wash at 3 am.

But not being able to make linear decisions is genetic. Emma and I went into the basement to look at all the Halloween stuff we had lying around. I saw a bunch of coats in a box and remembered the coat drive for the homeless. I was trying on a coat that I once really loved: this red, wool coat with big buttons that I haven't worn since I was maybe 25. I thought I looked pretty good when Emma looked over and said, "Wow, Mom, you look just like Clifford in that." In case you haven't traveled with the under 12 crowd recently, this is Clifford:

I put the coat in the box. Then Emma announced what she wanted to be for Halloween. "I need a new wig," she said, "since Snooki has long, black hair."
This is my interpretation of Snooki: 

Needless to say, I got judgmental. The Jersey Shore is everywhere around here, particularly since we live at the Jersey Shore, only here's the thing: they act and speak just like people from North Jersey or Brooklyn or Staten Island do. They don't act at all like the folks down here who spend a lot of time quilting and quadding and thinking about ducks. After explaining to Emma all the reasons why she shouldn't go out dressed as her, she shrugged and said, "That's my final decision."

I appealed to Philip. "You talk to her," I said, "since she'll listen more to you." I was going on and on about what a terrible role model she is, how I was not happy, and he looked at me and smiled.
"You don't get it all, Mom. You act like this is serious. It's Halloween."
"Yes, but..."
"You're acting like she's going to be Snooki as a career or something. Emma thinks Snooki is a joke. She laughs when she sees her clothes. She's going out as her to make fun of the whole thing."
I was thinking about what he said when Emma walked in, her face red. "Philip, there is no way you are going out as that."
"As what?" I had been so preoccupied with Emma's choice that I hadn't asked Philip about his.
"A clown," she wailed. "An evil clown. I can't stand clowns. I won't go in the parade with you if you do this. Clowns are like my worst nighmare."
I'm fairly certain neither one will budge about their costume choice. This should be an interesting Halloween.

Maybe I should dig out my old favorite coat and just get a pair of big red ears.