Sunday, July 31, 2011

Love Letters

I was going through an old trunk filled with photographs and found an envelope from a very dear ex. He was the Love of my LIFE (I was in my 20s and the teenage exuberance was still very present) A few years after we'd broken up he mailed me copies of family photos and some love letters I'd written. Copies. Despite the fact that he'd been the one to end things, he kept the originals.

I started to read them last night and was embarrassed. Partly because of the content, there was so much love on those pages it was hard to read. Partly because I felt like a voyeur, so much passion and a window into my soul. Yes, I wrote that but it's such a younger version of me that it felt like I was intruding on someone else's private correspondence.

But what really embarrassed me was the language and structure of the letters. Wow. The internal editor really never shuts up. Instead of appreciating the honesty of emotion, I was critiquing the word choices. So flowery and unimaginative. No wonder I never got a book contract back then.

The most important thing about those letters truly is the feeling I had when writing them. I couldn't hold all that emotion inside. I didn't want to jump on a couch but I knew if I tried to contain it I would explode. So I used the tool with which I was most comfortable and wrote.

Words, even cliched ones that have been overused, are evocative, powerful and can take one back in time.

I'm glad I found those letters. I'm going to burn them because they really were private and written only for us. We've both evolved since then, changed and matured. But it was nice to take a quick glimpse at the past me who believed LOVE was everything. She's still in here. Perhaps it's time to invite her out for a glass of wine and see what happens.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An author worth savouring

You all know of my love for The Art of Racing in the Rain. It's a book that has stuck with me for three years and one that comes to mind often. It's not just the storyline but the rhythm, cadence and voice that have embedded themselves into my psyche.

Last week, I read something else that is destined to linger. When the stars go blue by Caridad Ferrer. The prose is as visually stunning as the cover. I finished the book earlier in the week and haven't been able to read anything else since. The characters have lingered in my reading palate and I want to savour them for as long as I can.

Caridad Ferrer's writing first came to my attention several years ago when she guest blogged on a blog I followed regularly. I made a comment and won a copy of her debut novel, Adios to my old life. I was hooked. Her strong characterization and evocative description drew me into a world with which I was completely unfamiliar(teenage Latina musician trying to make her mark on an American Idol type reality show). Bear in mind that I'm a middle-aged tone-deaf Caucasian woman to understand how surprising is my connection to that book.

Caridad Ferrer's writing captures the culture and flavour of that world while making the reader a very real part of it. You cannot teach that ability.

Do yourself a favour. Whether the cover copy appeals to you or not, read this book. The writing alone will make the journey worth your while.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Don't keel over from shock.
I've been writing again.

It started with a commitment to write for ten minutes a day. I blew that off for two days in a row then sat down and wrote until that draft was done. Yeah, I don't know how to ease into things at all.

I'm at the point where I need to input all of the notes, edits and maps into the computer. I've re-read all of the comments from my beta readers and contemplated their suggestions. Only one thought that the book should really have started at page three. The other four readers felt the context was important so that the significance of that starting point was stronger.

I'm torn. I tend to agree with the one lonely reader. Your book starts with the first step of the journey. However, an argument could be made that the first step occurred when my mom fell as opposed to when Casey arrived. A strong argument, because if all of our living conditions hadn't changed so radically we wouldn't have been capable, let alone receptive to Mom's desire for another dog. In this instance, I think context is vital.

On the other hand, that backstory can be told throughout the first chapter.

I'm great at playing devil's advocate for both sides. Making a decision about which is the better choice is a lot harder for me.

Do I start with the hypothesis - Healing takes many forms
the action - His calm steady gaze looked through the monitor's screen and straight into my mother's heart

Which grabs you more? Yeah, I thought so. That's a lot more editing.

Next week's blog - how editing makes a much stronger story.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Reading formats

I've spent a ridiculous amount of time in waiting rooms over the last two months. While they are usually loud rooms with lots of people talking or demanding answers, I observed an interesting trend. Cell phones, tablets, books and puzzles were all in use. One family of 27 (I'm assuming it was extended) talked amongst themselves as well as to others on their cell phone. A woman in her late 70's was texting someone while a young man approximately nine or ten years old was reading a 39 Clues book.

At another table a young woman in her 20's was on her cell phone. The three year old beside her was putting a puzzle together.

A different family group was playing a Solitaire tournament on their ipads. Again, it was the youngest group that was reading a book.

We all had paperbacks but my brother and I were texting each other about the family of 27. If only 2 visitors were allowed at a time, how long would they take to all see their loved one. It was 11pm at the time of our texts. Five more people came in to join that family. Too much math for me.

That was just one particular night. In the time I've been consciously observing the trend, it is the older generation using electronic devices while the pre-teens are reading books. It's not hard and fast, empirical data, just my observations.

It gave me hope for the future of books. In multiple formats.