1,000 Words V: The Garden

This is a picture from the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. I had the chance to visit it two years ago. Be warned, sea-level dwellers: the atmosphere is thin at that elevation, and if you are not acclimated, you will get a headache just walking around. I know from experience. But, I think the pain was well worth it.

Now, without looking anything up, and just going on the name of the place, I want you to tell me: What kind of gods created this place? Are they still there? Write me a fable, link to it in the comments.

Advertisements

Why I write

One of my favorite columns in Poets & Writers magazine is “Why We Write.” The magazine solicits short essays, asking writers why they do what they do, and these heartfelt answers are published for readers.

It’s always nice to get a glimpse into the mind of a fellow author—or a favorite author, for that matter. It is often inspirational and helps keep me motivated. I’ve noticed, however, that my reasons never seem to align with those listed in this column.

Many times, the writers of these essays took up writing as a way to deal with a tragedy, or rediscovered it when they went soul-searching. Writing became a form of therapy, or a moral soapbox, or something equally noble. Of course, they all admit that writing makes them happy, but it’s not usually the primary reason they took up the craft.

This makes me feel a little shallow.

My doves, this is my confession: I write because I like it. It makes me stupidly, consistently happy.

I have not suffered a tragedy.  I have not overcome a series of truly unfortunate events. My life is decidedly blessed. As an “arteest” I’m a fraud. A phony. I’m not starving; I have no hidden moral or political agenda, no cause that I am trying to further. I am, artistically speaking, a selfish bitch.

In the fourth grade, my teacher and my librarian told me I was good at writing. I already liked to do that because I enjoyed telling stories (the result of an over-active imagination), and suddenly, I had people praising me for it. I won a first place prize for poetry, when I had never won a competition in my life. I felt validated. I was good at doing what made me happy.

So, I kept doing it.

This is the only photo I have of me doing something writing related. That binder is The Binder of All Things Written, and contains notes on my various manuscripts. I was editing. And also drinking. Hey, it was vacation.
“You know what’s almost as good as more writing? More gin!”

I like to tell stories. I like to have other people listen to my stories, and tell me they like them, too. I like to write these stories out because the people and places I create are sometimes more interesting than real life.  I like to explore the darker corners of my mind while writing villains, and the nobler bits of my soul while writing heroes.

Every once in a while, what I write gains some sort of purpose. It expresses a personal philosophy, or touches on societal commentary, or has some sort of moral lesson. I assure you, this is purely accidental. I am utterly surprised when it happens, infrequently as it does.

I like to write because it is an outlet for my weirdness. I am myself when I write, in a way I cannot be with anyone else, anywhere on the planet.

I write, sometimes, just to write. To flex my imagination. I really wish that was an exercise or something, because I’d be RIPPED if it were. Dude. My imagination has guns.

Imagine, if you will, that I am a five-year-old and writing is a fabulous toy. Pretend the toy is a shiny Princess Leia action figure and that I am obsessed with Star Wars. (Ahem. This isn’t a stretch, my lovelies, because I am. O-b-s-e-s-s-e-d.)

It makes me blissfully happy and if you take it away I will howl like a banshee.

That is why I write.

Rerun: What does “high concept fiction” mean?

I’ve noticed in my research of literary agents that many are looking for “high concept” children’s and young adult books.  That’s all well and good, except  our dear agent friends don’t do so well defining that term. When I think “high concept” I think: complex, detailed storyline, something that takes more than a sentence to define.

That is, apparently, wrong.

High concept fiction is, in fact, a storyline that is described very succinctly and in an appealing fashion.

Firefly, for instance, is a high concept show: the wild west meets outer space. Space western!

You could also describe a love story set on an alien world as “Romeo and Juliet in space,” and that would be a high concept story.

If I were an agent, the only thing you’d need to say was “in space” and I’d be on board, if my examples were anything to go by. Anyway.

You can find more examples and definitions here and here.

Meanwhile, I’ll be attempting to come up with a way to shove my children’s book peg into the high concept hole.

…that didn’t come out right.

Road Trip

I went on a bit of a road trip this weekend with my mother for a family friend’s bridal shower. I always like road trips, if only because you come back with weird stories.

For example, when I go on road trips or extended local drives with one particular friend to somewhere we’ve never been, it is always an adventure. We generally get lost for a short amount of time, or stuck in horrendous traffic, or run across some unusual event or roadside display. It’s quite entertaining.

This weekend, I learned the primary difference between driving somewhere with my mother, versus the same trip with my father.

Mother:

“I’ll drive, Mom.”

“Okay.”

*ten seconds later*

“Watch the traffic, hun. Oo, brake lights. Curb! More brake lights. Don’t mess with the radio while you’re driving. Where are the tissues? What’s that clown doing? Careful of the trucks. Did you see how close he got? He was practically in our backseat! Brake lights!”

“Mom, relax, I got this.”

“I know you do, honey.”

Father:

“I’ll drive, Dad.”

“Okay. ZZ Top?”

“Sure.”

*synchronized head bopping*

“You know where we’re going right? Good. I’m gonna take a nap.”

Have you all been on any interesting trips lately? Tell me about them in the comments!

A Pirate’s life for me

All right, my doves, it’s time. It’s time for me to explain why I consider myself a pirate, as I said may or may not happen.

There are several reasons. One is the romance behind the swashbucklers—I love the old Errol Flynn movies like “Captain Blood” and the rogue-with-a-heart-of-gold characterizations. I grew up watching the fantasy cartoon “Pirates of Dark Water,” which has emblazoned itself upon my memory even though it’s probably one of the more obscure cartoons from my generation.

Then, of course, I fell in love with Captain Jack Sparrow and dear William Turner. Don’t judge.

But the main reason I am a pirate is because I worked with a bunch of buccaneers at a bookstore. Uh-buh? Pirate bookstore?

I used to work at Borders Books, the now defunct mega bookstore chain.

Yup. I was bookseller at the store in my little town, seasonally during college and for about eight months after I graduated. I don’t know why, but I had wanted to work there since high school—I was (still am) a voracious reader, and I thought that maybe, while I worked there, MAYBE I’d see one of the books I wrote appear on the shelves.

As we all know, I wasn’t quite that lucky, but despite some of the messy (chicken bones littering the fantasy shelves) and spiteful (people would yell at you because the store had sold out of a book and were too lazy to go to another store) customers, I had a great time there.

I had dozens of coworkers during my tenure but there was a core group that stayed as long, if not longer, than I did. I came to know them quite well.

We weathered Harry Potter midnight releases together and in the wee hours of the morning, as in 2 a.m., and had a slow-motion lightsaber fight in wizard costumes. I may have also accidentally shattered the eardrum of my supervisor while yelling for cash only customers at the register.

We used to race to close the book and music side of the store before the baristas could close the café, which was more difficult than you might think. And if the café wasn’t shut down before the bookstore, the booksellers would go to help. It was on one such night I was heaved into an empty-ish, rolling trashcan as a joke and immediately tumbled out on to the tile.

I have other silly stories that I could bore you with, but they are more inside jokes than anything else (A-Team? Batman?), so I won’t do that.

The group I worked with, headed up by the most fabulous manager you could imagine, became very tight-knit. We referred to ourselves as a pirate crew due to our manager’s love of all things piratical and her self-designated captaincy.

It is people like this—the ones that let you be totally yourself, right down to the inner-nerd core—that facilitate creativity. I didn’t know it then, but I do now. Working at that bookstore with my Crewmates was basically like finding the mother ship. Everyone was just as weird as I was, just as strangely creative, just as slightly off-center.

It was the golden age of pirates.