Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writer Pryde

The other day I walked into the living room to find my six year old son Harrison walking repeatedly into a wall.
“Harry,” I said, “What are you doing?”
“Oh,” he said (BANG!) “Nothing.”
“Really?” I said, “Because it looks like you are walking straight into that wall and then bouncing off it and walking straight into it again.”
He sighed tolerantly. “Mama,” he said, “I’m not walking into a wall. I’m trying to walk through it.”

Then he explained that he had been thinking about the X-Men, and in particular about the character Kitty Pryde, whose power is to be able to walk through solid objects. “I figure,” he said, “If I hold my breath and just keep trying, I’ll be able to do it, too.”
Now, this is when a more responsible mom would probably have told him to stop. After all, if he kept walking straight into walls he was likely to break his nose—and if he kept believing that he would have superpowers some day, he was likely to break his heart. But, try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

See, being a writer is a lot like this. We believe that, if we keep walking into that wall—banging ourselves against that creative block, that hard part of the story, that closed publisher’s door—we will eventually develop the superpower of walking through it.

Impossible? Maybe. Except that I have known mutants who did it before, mutants who got good, got published, got through. I have even been that mutant myself and felt the giddy moment when the thing that was a solid block turns suddenly passable and I step through it as easily as a kid walking through the cool mist of a sprinkler on a long, hot summer day.

So I patted Harry on the head. “Carry on,” I said, “Just tell me when you break through.”
He gave me a thumbs up. “I will.” (BANG!)

You tell me, too, and I promise I’ll do the same.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mentors & Authors Who Inspire the Death Pixies....

WisCon 35, 2011 - Photo by HRJ
A group of fantastic author's reading their work!
I've have decided at least once a month, to highlight mentors to who have inspired me to keep writing and authors who have influenced my work (and life). It is only appropriate to begin this series with author and Death Pixie mentor, Kelly McCullough.

About 7 (or 8, give or take) years ago, a group of novice writers took a class at the Loft Literary Center, on how to write science fiction and fantasy. At first, I thought he was China Mieville! {He sort of looks like China.} Through the weeks we were together, Kelly taught the class how to build a world, develop characters, magic systems and how to start and run a writers group.  Kelly has a straight forward, no non-sense approach to the craft of writing. His class inspired me to keep writing.

Not only is Kelly is an outstanding teacher. He is a phenomenal writer. He has penned several books and short stories. He has a new book coming out, called Broken Blade, it is available for pre-order. When he is not writing, you can find him blogging over at the Wyrdsmiths {his writer's group}.

I'd recommend taking a class from him and reading his body of work. :-)


PS......
Thank you Kelly for being approachable, honest and showing myself (the other Death Pixies) the ropes!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writers With Wings


Every summer our family makes butterflies from scratch. Okay, maybe not our whole family—it’s my partner Marcy who does most of the work—and maybe not completely from scratch: Marcy finds the tiny eggs clinging to the milkweed leaves in the alley behind our house, then keeps them in a bucket until they hatch into caterpillars. She feeds them milkweed and cleans their frass (that’s caterpillar poop to you lay people) until they are big enough to be moved into the little butterfly house she built out of mesh and wire. That’s where they start their transformation.

The Rede family never does anything small, so we usually have about twenty caterpillars—or “cats,” as caterpillar enthusiasts call them-- at a time, and almost all of them live to form a chrysalis, the sleek green pod studded with tiny golden dots like fairy gems. They hang, green ornaments decorating the bare twigs in their cage, until one day the chrysalis becomes transparent like a theatre scrim when the lights go up behind it, giving us an intimate glimpse of the damp new butterfly huddled inside. The butterfly slides out into the world and uncrumples its wet tissue paper wings and beats them to dry them and pump them full of life. And then the butterfly flies away.

But there are always a few caterpillars who don’t make it, and I’ve noticed that the ones who die usually die right when they should start making their chrysalis. The caterpillar gets in the right position, “J-hanging,” as they call it, upside down like the Hanged Man on the tarot card, its body curved like a fishhook set to catch its future self. But when it comes time to actually make the chrysalis something fails. One caterpillar may get partway done and then mysteriously quit, its half-chrysalis hooding its head like a shroud. Another caterpillar may not make a chrysalis at all. It just hangs there as its body gradually straightens and darkens, withering like a leaf on a vine until we sadly take it away.

Who knows why this happens. Sometimes it seems like the caterpillar got confused at the crossroads, mistook death for transformation and absent-mindedly stepped down the wrong path. Other times I imagine that the caterpillar just chickened out. After all, transformation is scary. I used to believe that the caterpillar simply spun a cocoon around itself and changed inside it, like we might duck under our comforter to put on our pajamas on a cold winter day, but that isn’t really the case. The monarch caterpillar actually becomes its chrysalis. What I used to think of as an outer covering is actually something that comes from inside; the caterpillar sheds its skin to reveal the chrysalis within. Pieces of the caterpillar are lost, edited out in the process. Anyone would be afraid.

I’m telling you this because I have seen so many writers do the same thing: the writer who seems to loose interest in her book just when she’s about to write the climactic scene, or the writer who creates brilliant short stories but never sends them out, or the writer who writes story after story but never quite gets to revising them. Writers who quit, for whatever mysterious reason, right on the cusp of transformation, right on the threshold of the next stage of their creative lives.

I have been that writer myself a few times over. Luckily, writers—unlike the “cats” at our house—have nine lives and then some. It is never too late to make this the moment when you push through to the next step, whatever that may be. I truly hope that this time you do, and that you find your wings on the other side.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

MerCon

I have been leaving mysterious tweets about, mermaid training. Concerned and amused family members, friends have been sending e-mails, asking for some sort of reasonable explanation. Here goes;

I love the water. I love to swim. Water sports in general, I am in. You would never catch me running a marathon however I would swim it in a heartbeat. In high school, you would find at the bottom of the deep end, hovering on my back looking upward the surface, with my fins. Holding my breath pretending I was a mermaid. During swim practices, I'd make-up mermaid stories while I swam laps. {I was a distance swimmer, this skill came in handy.} When I graduated high school, for the longest time, I wanted to move out to the west coast and become a professional lifeguard and surfer. I have not outgrown my love for the water and swimming. In fact, on my really bad days at work, I threaten to run away and join the mermaid show.

So far, I have not joined the mermaid show, yet. {Yet, being the operative word.} Right now, I simply write mermaid stories, draw mermaids and train for the day I am able to be a mermaid.

One day, I was listening to my web stream, when the host mentioned that there will be a mermaid convention in Vegas.  I could not sign up fast enough! The second weekend in August, in Las Vegas is the first ever, MerCon! I have attached a nifty link! So you can read all about it!!!

I will write more about mermaids, writing and other fodder soon!

XO,
HRJ

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tangled Moments

In Disney’s latest animation feature, Tangled, there is a well-written scene, where Rapunzel leaves the tower for the first time and becomes externally/internal conflicted. The scene moves from her saying, “this is so much fun!” To a imagine of her laying facedown on the ground in despair saying she is a, “terrible person.”

On the way to WisCon35, LA Rede and I were talking about our, “Tangled” moments as writers.
There are moments in the writing process where I think I am genius. Followed by instants of the inner critic rearing its ugly head, taking creative gusto and shredding it.

This manic nature of the, tangled moment, is unpredictable. This is where I usually pick up the phone and call one of the Death Pixies and sob, “tell me I don’t suck.” I’ve discovered, having another creative type to bare witness to your tangled moment, can help shift perspective also, taking a break and doing something completely physical like going for a walk, cleaning etc. helps shift perspective. Eventually the tantrum passes and creative flow returns.

My advice all hang in there (find a tender ear), and don’t forget to breathe.

XO,

HRJ