Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Ode to my Typewriter*

I have a typewriter, and it is beautiful.

It is safe to say that I L-O-V-E my typewriter.

Want to see what it looks like?


I love it so much, I put it on my business cards (yes I have business cards. Halt the eye-rolling! I will explain more about them in another post).

It was a present to me from the husband from a couple of years ago. We’d been eating at our favorite restaurant in New York (Max Soha, UWS, lovely and romantic and inexpensive), talking about our lives.

He hadn’t gotten into grad school yet, I was still nothin’ but a lowly journalist, and I told him that I’d been thinking about writing, a lot. I’d always loved it, but I stopped in college, after my pseudo-intellectual short stories became a chore both to read and write.

Lately, though, a story had crept into my mind, slowly being formed. It was itchy, this story, and I wondered if I should actually write it. And if I did? What was I supposed to do with it? Stuff it in a drawer to read occasionally? Or--gulp--try to publish it?

I remember he took my hand and told me I could do it, and he believed in me. 

It was a lovely moment, and it made me very happy. Then our caprese salad came and we wolfed down some oh-so-delicious breadsticks, and then I told him how I’d always loved those big, beautiful, vintage typewriters. And he told me, get ready kid, ‘cause I’m going get you one for Christmas.

And he did!

It is probably one of my favorite presents/possessions ever, although I have to say I don’t use it as much as I just stare at it (I type on a laptop, like a person from this century).

Really, though, I love it because the husband gave it to me, and because every time I look at it I realize, as much as writing is a one-person profession, I wouldn’t be doing this without him. It takes a huge leap of confidence to quit your job for the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants life as a writer, and without his vote, I just wouldn’t have been able to do this. And yes, he’s a little biased, but he’s also extremely practical** and said: your success is my success, and I wouldn’t encourage you to do something if I didn’t think you would succeed.

It is a lovely, encouraging, sometimes terrifying thing to think about, but ultimately something that gives me courage and hope. And that’s what my little typewriter means to me.

*Note: not an actual ode. I don’t know how to write those and I’m too lazy to look it up on Wikipedia and really I just want to write nice things about my typewriter so let’s just roll with it, hmmmm?

**Except that day he spent $40 on a miniature helicopter from Brookstone, which promptly broke as soon as we got home. Did I mention he was 24 at the time?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Blog Wrap-Up: Turkey Day


Although many bloggers last week were, rightly, on holiday, I still stumbled across a few interesting and noteworthy posts. Enjoy!

Writing Spaces Monday: Cyber Monday

Hello everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday and safe travels!*

Obviously, I was too busy stuffing my face (mom-in-law made three pies! three!) to post the Friday blog wrap-up, so expect a belated post a little later today.

In the meantime, it's Cyber Monday! Cyber Monday made me think of crazy, futuristic writing spaces, sleek design, something out of a sci-fi movie.

On sale here!
This one, from Gravitonus, would not look out of place in Terminator, and although it's probably more geek-friendly than writer friendly, can you imagine how fun it would be to swing in that thing all day?

design by Fred Baier
Or, you could turn your desk into a little robot!

Or forget any pretense about design and just fill your desk with one million computers.

Enjoy the deals, and check back later today for last week's round-up!

*For the record: no delay, only ONE drunken, rowdy fellow passenger, and for our 6-hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale, the husband took me to a lovely restaurant by the water for lunch.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

 I have a lot to be thankful for this year, which has seen me through some ups and downs. I always like to take some time every year to think about the things that mean the most to me. Here are my top ten:

10. Watching the tree outside my window, its leaves changing colors, birds singing on the branches

9. An amazing honeymoon to Italy, and the best gelato in the world

 8. Friendly writers and friendly economists who are helping make Chicago a welcoming place

7. A beautiful home, where I feel happy and safe

 6. The health and happiness of all my family

 5. A first draft with promise

 4. Savings and support and the encouragement and opportunity to actually 
go out there and turn my dreams into reality 

 3. Gaining the greatest in-laws and siblings a girl could ask for

 2. Getting to celebrate my wedding with my spunky, wonderful, Great-Aunt Titi

1. Marrying my best friend

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Writing Spaces: An Early Peanuts Birthday

I like that the two posters so beautifully capture both sides of the Charlie Brown coin

Welcome to another week, folks!

This Saturday will be Peanuts creator Charles Schultz's birthday, and in honor of Sparkie, I thought I'd share this Peanuts-themed office I stumbled upon.

Unfortunately, I didn't keep notes about where this energetic little tangerine beauty came from. The only thing that I (vaguely) remember is that it's a European design company (possibly Spanish?), and they had several candy-colored bedroom/desk sets. This was my favorite (aside from the Peanuts decor) because it is roughly the same size and shape of the spare bedroom that we turned into the husband's office, and this was supposed to inspire us to make something as cute (we didn't!).

Generally I'm not a big fan of matchy-matchy, but I love the energy and bounciness of this little office, along with how nicely the furniture frames the room. Also, if you're going to use anything as a design jumping-off point, you could do worse than Charlie Brown's baseball mitt.

And here's a shot of the man himself, hard at work, in his own work space:

My parents have that same wallpaper in their foyer.

In other news, I'm sure most of you are planning your week around crazy travel schedules and overeating. Us too! Tomorrow morning we leave for a two-plane, 14-hour journey to the East Coast (I don't know how early we're leaving in the morning because the husband hasn't told me, perhaps because if I knew, I would stage a revolt, buy a turkey, and stay in Chicago).*

I'm excited to see my brand-new in-laws and pass out after eating my mom-in-law's cooking, so it's debatable how much posting there'll be this week. If I go radio silent for the next few days, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great rest of the week!

*Because this is not, technically, a travel blog or a personal blog or a ranty blog, I won't go into detail about WHY a plane trip from Chicago to the East Coast is taking 14 hours (assuming no delays, which, oh god, please, no...). Suffice it to say, it involves a budget airline that may or may not be going out of business and several unhelpful customer service people.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Blog Wrap Up: Fall Leaves Edition

Happy Friday, folks! The tree outside my window is sadly devoid of leaves (meaning I no longer feel like I live in a tree house and that I have to actually lower my blinds if I want to dance like a crazy person/lounge around in my bathrobe), but here's a little photo I took while the leaves were still turning and the sky a beautiful, bright blue.

Without further ado, here were some of my favorite posts of the week:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"How Do You Do This Every Day?"

Last week, I visited with a lot of my family, on both my parents’ sides, and, as always happens when I visit family, I got a lot of questions about what I do every day (“Write!” I sneered, and stomped off to get more canapés. No I didn’t. That would be weird.).

So, I’m in a unique position from a lot of writers I know because writing is my one and only day job. Pretty much the only thing I have to accomplish every day is to write something. I’m serious about this. Most days I don’t even put on pants. And Sunday night for dinner I had Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and a bowl of popcorn (made on the stove!)*. It’s a…charmed life?

Anyway, the number one question I get is: How do you do this every day? Meaning, how do I wake up and write, instead of just lounge around in PJs eating bon-bons and watching Project Runway?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Spaces Monday: Hunger Games Edition

That squee heard 'round the world today was the result of the epic, breathtaking, heart-pounding new trailer for The Hunger Games movie! I almost didn't want to watch it, so great is my love for this book, but it delivered.

There is something so incredibly magical about seeing this world and these characters come to life, and, if anything, it gives me an even greater appreciation for how Suzanne Collins created such a memorable world.

In honor of trailer, I went out and found the Hunger-Gamesiest writing space that I could find:

Images via Roddylife
Located just east of Seattle, Treehouse Point is a unique park where people can rent and stay in one of their many beautiful treehouses. This one, called the Hermitage, has its own tiny desk and a 360-degree view of the neighboring creek.

How magical would it be to wake up, look out your window, and see this? I can imagine all sorts of writing inspiration coming just from that view (unless your book is set on the desert wasteland of a sun-scorched planet, in which case you're better off here).

What did you think about the trailer?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Blog Wrap Up

Happy Friday, folks! (As well as Happy 11.11.11 Day, and a special thank you to our soldiers on Veterans Day). This has been a bit of an upside-down week for me, and the husband and I are home for about 36 hours before we head off for another corner of the country.

In the meantime, I've been catching up on the blog-o-sphere, finding all sorts of fun, interesting, thought-provoking posts for this week's wrap up.

It's still NaNoWriMo, which means GalleyCat is still posting a tip a day to keep authors motivated! This week, Fight a Word War, Write What You Don't Know, Get a Literary Butt-Kicking, Download 7 Free Writing Books, and Seek Figment Support.

Via Literary Rambles: Regal Literary is having a Winter Giveaway featuring signed copies of their authors' books. You can enter here

Via Janet Reid: Sara Zarr writes about failure, and how to use failure as a source of inspiration

Meaghan McCarthy at Blue Rose Girls is launching a new project to find authors and illustrators to contribute to a book about bullying. It sounds like a really amazing project, so if you'd like to help, you can visit her website here

Rachelle Gardner talks about Authors and Book Piracy

Jessica at BookEnds Literary discusses her editing process, which includes some good tips on how to become a better editor

The new Nook came out this week! Matt Silverman at Mashable put together a chart of what to know and how it ranks among other e-readers

Via Dystel and Goderich: a great little website that maps out authors' relationships with each other, based on fan interests (turns out everyone loves Twilight...)

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

UPDATE: One more good one! Also, via Dystel and Goderich (and hot off the bloggy presses...):  Publishing Trendsetter put together an amazing video + diagram post about the life cycle of a book, talking with everyone from the author to the designer to sales to publicity about what happens to get a book from brain to shelves. Fabulous post with great interviews!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction


I'm out of town this week, so I thought I would suspend my regular Wednesday post to share with you a TED talk by author Elif Shafak on how writing, stories, fiction can bring us all together.

It is a beautiful, funny, inspiring talk, and something I think about often when people ask me why I love to write.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Writing Spaces Monday: A Place to Reflect

Mt. Makiling, Philippines

Hi all, After a bit of a crazy Sunday, I'm feeling a need for calm and peace.
When I found this writing space, from designer Brian Cajulis, I just said, "Wow."

Right now, I'm imagining myself sitting up there all alone, watching the mountains and feeling the breeze.
It's a nice feeling.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day-After-Friday Blog Wrap Up!

Happy Day-After-Friday!

After an all-day paint-o-rama led to a writing workshop which led to actually hanging out with the husband for once this week, the Blog Wrap Up sort of fell by the wayside. Sorry! There are many lovely links which I would not like to deprive you of, so without further ado, here are the posts and stories I found most interesting this week:

It's NaNoWriMo! Many folks had some great tips and tricks for how to jump-start your writing:

GalleyCat is posting 1 NaNoWriMo tip a day

Nathan Bransford has also a slew of how-to posts, like why to participate, how to start, and how to stay motivated, as well as a post about success and motivation from author Shawn Thomas

Over at Tor, a look at some of the most successful NaNoWriMo authors and novels

In other bloggy news, the website OccupyWriters is up, featuring poetry, essays, and stories from authors in support of the OccupyWallStreet protests

BookEnds Literary has a great post about how to be a "middle" editor, reading more than what's on the surface without overediting

And they also feature a guest post by Gina Robinson on the creative spark

As usual, if there's anything I've missed, please let me know! And if there's anything you'd like featured here, send me an email.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing with Music

Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. Listen to it. Love it.
First off, Happy NaNoWriMo! I will not be writing a novel this month (other than my own little baby work-in-progress), but I've been diligently scouring the Interweb for tips and tricks to post this Friday for the blog wrap-up--check it out!

Ok. Like a lot of writers, I work from home and I work alone, which aside from making me go occasionally cocoa for cuckoo-poofs, also allows me to blast my iTunes DJ to my heart's content, without my husband saying, gently, "Baby? Can you turn that down?"

I'm sure every writer has a different preference, but for me, I love writing with background music. It's energizing, drowns out street noise, and, sometimes, can even be inspiring. When I have to get into a certain mood--romantic, angry, excited, sad--it helps to pump up the music and let the emotions go.

Music and writing have gone together for years, influencing and defining each other (arguably, painting forms the other side of that triangle). One of the best classes I ever took in college was about the Modernist movement, and how you can see musicians, writers, and painters interpreting all these modernist ideas into their works at the same time (Stravinksky's Rite of Spring with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness; Wagner's Tristan und Isolde with Nietsche's Birth of Tragedy).

Stephenie Meyer has been vocal in her appreciation for music as a way to shape her writing; in her acknowledgments, she thanks several musicians and bands: Muse, Animal Collective, Silversun Pickups, and the Dead Weather (who knew the author of Twilight had such highbrow musical tastes?). Yahoo's music blog has a funny post about the Top Ten Songs for Writers, and USAToday's Romance blog, Happily Ever After, polled Romance novelists about what they listen to while they write.

Music has a wonderful way of taking us to places, reminding us of where we were and who we were the first time we heard the songs. Every time I listen to The Anniversary's Your Majesty, I'm transported back to freshman year of college, walking in the cold and snow between the library and my dorm. And I still can't listen to Newsies' "Santa Fe" without feeling exactly like a 13-year-old, just wishing someone would understand me.

Recently I had to write a speech for one of my characters that I knew would be difficult. It represented a mental shift in the story, a turning point that had to both encapsulate the antagonist's perspective and lay out the ground rules for the rest of the novel. It needed to be a truly hateful speech: angry, violent, but still coming from a real emotional place. I listened to the most terrifying music I could find: the "Deathmetal Hardcore" station on Pandora and psyched myself up, focusing on the music to take my head to a place that was primal, furious, aggressive. It was weird. But it worked. And for the rest of the day after, I had to play songs exclusively from Glee to get my brain back into a warm and fuzzy mood.

My favorite go-to band for writing is Arcade Fire. They are just so so brilliantly evocative, all swingin' melodies and poetic lyrics. Their latest (and Grammy-winning!) album, The Suburbs, makes my heart break every time I listen to it. But aside from being beautiful, their music just sinks into me while I write, keeping me going without distracting me.

What about you? What are your favorite songs for writing? Or do you have to write in silence?