Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Tale of the Umbrella

I passed my French test! And officially finished my French class...

But before I get to that, a quick side note: My HIMYM post is delayed by a day, since my DVR didn't record the entire show from last night. Luckily, the video of Monday's episode is online; Check back tomorrow afternoon for that review.

And another side note: the story of the umbrella.

When I left work at 5, the rain was pouring. I don't usually carry an umbrella on rainy/cloudy days. For one, all three of my umbrellas are broken due to all the wind tunnels in Chicago. Secondly, during the 5:00 commute in Chicago, the sidewalks are packed, and one of my biggest pet peeves are people who have no sense of where their umbrella is and who, therefore, run into me with their umbrella. I get it, I'm short, you don't always see me, but come on.

So, I was hesitant to take one of the many umbrellas from the office. I don't want to be poking anyone's eyes out. And the umbrellas, decorated with the office logo, are ginormous; they're too big even for really tall people, seriously.

But, it was pouring, and my bag was so full with French books and a hard copy of "Eclipse" (yeah, I gave into reading "Twilight") that I couldn't completely close my purse. I didn't want my beloved books getting wet!

I stepped outside, hovered under the eaves and tried popping open the umbrella. But, I raised the little lever thing too high, and the umbrella flipped open backwards, as if the wind had popped it open the wrong way. Since the umbrella was so large, I was struggling with hanging on to my over-sized purse and trying to wrap my arms around the umbrella to push it back down.

Luckily, three people, just leaving my office building, stopped to help. It took all four of us to wrangle the umbrella down - but we did it, and I was on my way to French.

I was cautious in how I held the umbrella, raising it high when walking by tall people. The umbrella handle was long enough, that 5'4" me was able to raise it high enough to let 6'+ people pass under it.

And then, not even halfway into my walk, the rain stopped.

And then I had French class, where I passed with flying colors, which was recognized with a fake French passport to document which classes I take (and pass).

The only thing worth mentioning about the class (I won't talk about my nervousness over a test that I had little problems with) was the oral presentation. We wrote about a celebrity, about what they were like, where they lived, etc., and then read it aloud to the class, trying to get everyone to guess who we had written about.

I gave the clue, Il aime opera avec "muppets."

He loves opera with muppets.

Guess who?

No one in my class guessed.

Can you?

If you're an HIMYM fan, you should know. Or if you've seen his movie, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," you should know.

Yeah, that's right. Jason Segel.

Off to watch last night's episode of HIMYM.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Mystery Novel for All Readers & Writers

The Thirteenth Tale
By Diane Setterfield

As a reader...
After reading the first chapter of The Thirteenth Tale, I thought the novel was going to be about the power of words, the way we tell stories rather than the "truth," and why we, as humans, feel the need to lie - not only to ourselves, but to our loved ones as well as the general public. Diane Setterfield's first novel was about all of that, but this mystery novel was also about so much more.

Celebrated English author Vida Winter is dying. The wolf is waiting for her, lurking in the corners of rooms, and before he comes to claim her, she wants to tell the truth about her life. All of the journalists who have tried to discover the truth about her early life have failed; Vida knew how to draw them away from the truth by telling a story instead.

Vida chooses Margaret Lea, an amateur bibliographer, to listen to and write her story. But Margaret has her own demons to deal with as well. At an early age, she discovered that she was born a twin. Since the day of her birth - and her sister's death - her mother withdrew from life, and Margaret & her father learned to tiptoe around anything that might upset her.

While Margaret's story is important, it is Vida's story, of her own twin sister, of her unusual childhood in the Gothic Angelfield mansion, that draws readers in. Vida's story is full of ghosts, an eccentric family, an overzealous governess, an introverted gardener, and two twin girls - Adeline & Emmeline - that are eternally bound to one another. Setterfield masterfully intertwines clues that lead to the story's twist - at once shocking but also completely believable.

The story of The Thirteenth Tale shows that the way we hear truth depends on what we expect, what we know, what we want to hear. The telling of truth is clearly no easy matter. And it is these very issues that make this story such a wonderful mystery.

As a writer...
I loved that this book took place in libraries and bookstores, and was, partially, about the nature of telling stories. This book is perfect for any writer/book-lover.

Yet, the novel is also a mystery, one that is deftly told, with clues about Vida's early life seamlessly intertwined with the telling of Vida's - and Margaret's - story. Chronology matters, as Vida touts to Margaret before beginning the tale of her beginnings, but so does creating expectation in the reader.

Early on, as readers, we learn there is a fire at Angelfield, one that caused Vida to change her name and begin a totally different life. The fire is an ending, but it is also a beginning. It encourages the reader to wonder about the events that led to the fire, who started it, what was it's purpose or whether it was an accident, etc.

The back and forth, between past and present, makes me think of my novel, and whether the plot can be driven less by chronology and more by certain themes and character motivations. There's always been a hint of mystery in my novel, along with jumping back and forth between 1792-3 & 2005, but Setterfield's wonderful way of hinting at things that seem to have no importance at the time was stunning, and I hope that I can achieve those subtleties that contribute to my own tale about the past.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


... but not completely the progress I expected.

So, I didn't complete all my "writing goals" for this weekend. Other stuff came up (like studying for my French test), distractions arose, the usual. But I still made progress. I finished revising Chapters 1, 2, & 3... but didn't rewrite Chapter 8. Instead, I worked on revising Chapters 4, 5, & 6. Not what I planned, but, in ways, it was more than I had planned to do. So, I'll take it!

I also worked on a couple themes that run throughout the novel, pulling them out more, creating subtle hints towards them. Again, it's not everything I planned, but I'm making progress on the novel, and it feels great!

And, yesterday's blog post held me accountable. I knew I would write on here whether I accomplished my goals, and it helped motivate me, so expect more accountability posts in the future!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Busy Weekend

Since I'm partially using this blog to hold myself accountable to my writing, I figured this is the best place to write down my writing goals for the weekend - and the things that may affect whether I complete them. I've had such a productive writing week, despite being extraordinarily busy, that I think I can complete all of this, even though - to me - it seems like a lot.

Writing Goals:
1. Finish revising Chapters 1, 2, & 3 of WIP.
2. Rewrite Chapter 8 of WIP.
3. Do first revisions of short story, "Loss: Anne's Story."
4. Send out at least three short story submissions to magazines.

What else I have planned this weekend.
1. cleaning the apartment: not looking forward to this
2. doing my taxes: really not looking forward to this
3. working out: indifferent
4. dinner & bowling with CV & LV tonight: really looking forward to this; haven't seen them in forever!
5. lunch with G on Sunday, while she's in town from DC: really looking forward to this, too!

Last night, I was crazy busy, too, but it was a fun busy, and that's always the best kind. I was at the Serpico Shopping Extravaganza, where my little sister works, for a little while. Serpico is a great designer, inspired by architecture. Check out her Spring collection here.

I also had a quick dinner with the boy, and then went to go see I Love You, Man, which was a great comedy about bro-mance, starring Jason Segel (who I, obviously, love from HIMYM), Paul Rudd, and Rashida Jones. It was hilarious! And I think Segel & Rudd played real, believable guys. Definitely worth seeing.

Busy weekend! Better get going...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Climbing Her Way Out

An attempt at microfiction. It was crazy-hard to keep it under 150 words (it's currently 147), and I need your opinion on whether I lost the plot or meaning, if there's an "ending," etc. . . critique away! And then maybe I'll try to get it down to 100 words - yikes!


The day the office celebrated Julie's year-anniversary with the accounting firm, Julie stepped off the elevator and tripped. She looked back, noticing the elevator didn't quite line up with the 15th floor. Thinking nothing of it, she went about her day, staring at numbers, waiting for the work day to end.

Each day, the elevator stopped short a few more millimeters. The millimeters turned into inches, until one day Julie had to step up to get off the elevator. When she complained to management, they tested the elevator, said nothing was amiss, and gave her a funny look.

As the elevator grew worse, Julie's work began piling up. Then, the day of her company review, the elevator stopped so short, that she couldn't see the office floor. When she reached up, to start climbing out - she couldn't. Only the tips of her fingers touched the floor.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Typewriter

In the early 1990s, when I was kid, I either wrote my stories out long-hand or I used the family typewriter.

The typewriter sat in the back corner of the basement and faced a blank wall. I used to sit there for hours, my small fingers clicking away at the keyboard. I loved the sound of the daisywheel switching, hitting each letter against the paper. I liked rolling each individual piece of paper through the roller, watching the page move left as my words filled in to the right.

Back then, I didn't have much of an inner editor. I was a kid, willing to experiment with my words and rarely doubted myself. I was just writing, for me, myself, and I. But, if I had an inner editor back then, it had more difficulty expressing itself. With a typewriter, I couldn't just go back to an earlier paragraph and switch a couple words out, or add more sentences. I was forced to continue writing, and only erase the last few letters I wrote.

This is how I wrote my Julie & Beth story series, inspired completely by my avid reading of the Nancy Drew novels. With the typewriter, I liked the way my mystery stories laid on the page, always in a "Courier" font.

We eventually got a new-fangled computer, and my sisters and I were loathe to use anything else. The typewriter started collecting dust in the hall closet.

Years later, while in high school, I wanted the typewriter back, so I could roll a sheet of paper through it, watch my words unfold, and feel like I had to keep going... I always had that sense with a typewriter. Add a page. Roll it down an inch or so - and go.

Unfortunately, the typewriter barely worked. Certain letters failed to press ink onto the page - the letter 'e' being the worst victim of all. I tinkered with it, wanting to achieve that sense of drive I had with the typewriter when I was a kid, but I'm no mechanic. Nothing I did helped.

Now, in my mid-20s, there still seems to be something magical about that typewriter, and I don't care if I'm being nostalgic and corny - I loved that typewriter!

When you first started writing was there something that kept you writing and inspired? What was it? Why do you think it affected your writing? If it can be bought, would you buy it?

There's typewriters selling on eBay for $129. I'm pretty tempted.

Photo source: http://new.idsa.org/webmodules/articles/anmviewer.asp?a=264&z=62

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Practice, Practice, Practice

My French was definitely affected by missing last week's class, due to that weird bout of pain I was in. Words that I used to know eluded me, and so, again, frustration with learning the language resumed.

We did A LOT of talking yesterday, mainly by breaking off into pairs and creating a "conversation" or "exchange" that we had to present to the class. The conversation had to be full of questions, talking about who we were, and where things were around Paris.

The girl I worked with, by far, understands the language a lot more than me, and she was really helpful in teaching me a few more words that she'd picked up on her own. Even though I stumbled through a good chunk of the convo (my nervousness about speaking in front of a classroom - whatever happened to my days of debate?!? - contributed to words flying away from me), the conversation went well. We even threw a joke or two in; my partner was an actress, and I said goodbye with "See you in your next film!" How I said that in French, again, escapes me, other than "A bientot!" (See you soon). Another reminder I need to practice even more.

Next week is the last class, which I can't believe, considering how quickly these past two months have flown. We'll be taking a test over everything we've learned; it'll be both a verbal and written test. Yikes! Definitely need to study more.

I also have to decide if I'm going to hand over more money for the next class. The class has been super-beneficial for me, not only in the way the material and class is structured, but also in providing me with an opportunity to converse and practice the language, which is obviously key to learning any language.

BUT, $260 - or thereabouts - is A LOT of money to me... money that I need for my trip. I'm heavily leaning towards buying the $20 "Teach Yourself French" books and then just practicing with my sister as well as with my friends who are fluent. I'll definitely need to create a regiment for myself in this case, just as I do with my writing, so that I can keep practicing, practicing, practicing, and not lose everything I've learned in the past 9 weeks of French!

On a total writerly side note, you can find the first 100 words of my WIP by clicking here.
Giveagirlapen.com is an AMAZING Website, and a great resource for any writer, male or female. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More Barney, please!

Old King Clancy
How I Met Your Mother: Season 4, Episode 18

Canadian sex acts. Architectural dreams. I didn't expect an HIMYM show about both, but that's what we got this week. We also saw a Ted who was more "inspired" than usual, and that, at the very least, was good to see.

At the bar, Lily, Marshall, and Barney played a game of "Clue," trying to guess what celebrity Robin almost hooked up with, what collection he enticed her with, and what kinky sex act he wanted to do; to make their guesses, they used the handy-Website, canadiansexacts.org. As with any referenced Website on HIMYM, the site is up and running - except the descriptions of the sex acts which are indefinitely "temporarily unavailable."

Okay, back to the point of the show. Wait - was there a point to this show? Oh, yeah. Ted and his lofty ambitions for the new GNB building that Bilson keeps squashing.

At the beginning of the episode, Ted learns that Bilson scrapped the plans for the building a month ago, and Barney and Marshall have created an elaborate lie - complete with a fake task force that loves every single one of Ted's ideas - so they wouldn't have to tell Ted that he was fired.

Naturally, Ted is upset. To make amends, his best friends get him hired for another project that involves creating a room to fire people, just like the one two floors below it. Surprise, surprise. After Ted presents his plan for the room, complete with a grief counselor, Bilson fires him, again. At least this time Ted had his revenge, as he hits Bilson over the head with a chair.

Alas, with the GNB project gone, Ted is let go from the architectural firm, but he's no longer upset. His plans for the GNB building inspired him; he's determined to start his own firm. Go Ted!

Overall, I found this episode disappointing, even if it was kind of nice to see a bit of "personal growth" in Ted. Now, if only, Ted could get his personal life together as well!

A couple highlights from this week's show:

  • Marshall says that Lily would be the celebrity he'd want to nail. Then, Lily says, "Hugh Jackman."
  • Barney casually firing people, in a security video montage, with a simple wave of the hand.
  • Lily getting so excited about Robin almost-sleeping with a celebrity, that she gets uncontrollable hiccups.
  • "I have to think of ways to put my wood into Bilson's dark atrium," Ted proclaims, while discussing his architectural plans.
  • The Canadian jokes, both Barney's quips and the listing of sexual acts that are named things like the "Reverse Rick Moranis" and "Two-handed Zamboni." But...

... the Canadian sexual acts got overplayed. I had hoped for a stronger storyline for Lily and Robin, as we had last week, but they got stuck with the silly storyline that really went nowhere. So, who was the Canadian celebrity that Robin hooked up with? The Frozen Snowshoe, a Canadian wrestler that the gang has never head of. This joke fell flat, just like the pants story did two weeks ago. All hype; no payoff.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. With the exception of last week and learning Lily's relationship manipulating ways, the Barney-centric episodes (and scenes) are often the best. Call his womanizing character what you will, he is by far the funniest character on this show.

Please, let's see something more with Barney, so we can get back to some classic HIMYM.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Third-Grade Lessons

When I was a kid, I didn't always like to go outside during recess. Dorky from an early age, I know.

I begged my teachers, asking to stay inside and write. More often than not, my teachers of my earlier years - first and second grade - insisted I go out each and every day; you know, fresh air, physical activity, and all that jazz.

But in the third grade, my teacher - Mrs. Engle - let me spend a couple days inside to write. The stories I wrote generally revolved around ghosts. My best one, that I still keep in a pocket folder decorated in pink, purple, and green, is about a girl who discovers that a ghost lives in one of her books. Then there were the days that I didn't know what to write about; to solve this dilemma, I marched over to the classroom's library, chose an encyclopedia at random, flipped open the heavy book, and wrote a quick story about whatever entry I happened to land on. The most difficult one, I remember, was about the "sun".

I was scribbling one of these stories, on looseleaf lined paper, when Mrs. Engle approached me one day. She sat down in one of the small chairs and huddled over the table where I patiently worked.

"How would you like to start a writing group?" she asked.

I was totally game. The idea of sharing stories and working together with my friends to create stories sounded like fun. It was optional for everyone in my class, and, surprisingly to me, a handful of other kids were willing to forgo their Friday recess to join in. It was the first time I was able to share my passion for writing, and I have Mrs. Engle to thank. I owe her even more thanks than that though.

Back then, adults often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I honestly answered, "a famous novelist," and I'd often get a smirk or a laugh, or something else that equally showed they didn't take that dream seriously.

But Mrs. Engle did. She was the first - and one of the few elementary school teachers of mine - who believed I could do something with my writing.

After elementary school, I continued to write, but my interests grew and expanded, and I slowly found myself writing less often. By the time I reached high school, I wasn't writing anything (save for in my diary).

I started volunteer tutoring at some of the local elementary schools, and when I was 16, I was taken back to my old school. One day, after finishing up some English tutoring with a student, I was roaming the halls with a friend, as we reminisced about our years there, when we ran into Mrs. Engle.

The first question that passed her lips was: "Are you still writing?"

Ashamed, I told her I wasn't.

She asked why, and a conversation ensued about writing every day and working towards my goals of one day writing a novel. Even when you feel like you don't have anything to write about, she told me, sit down and try - like I used to do with that encyclopedia. You can't fulfill your dreams of writing, of becoming a novelist, if you don't try.

Not too long after this conversation, I set to work on my first novel. While this novel never got published, it did get written when I was sixteen years old. Plus, it taught me how to go about writing a novel, from creating outlines to sending queries out to agents, and I truly believe that I wouldn't have learned any of this had it not been for the encouragement of my third-grade teacher.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Excerpt: Chapter Four

From my WIP, Through Charlotte's Eyes


18 August 1791

What a frightful day it has been. Here, reader, is what happened, and why you must understand my sudden thoughtlessness and disregard for Aunt’s friends as well as my own. I meant no one harm, but they were discussing the mother of Gracchi and Coriolanus as well as of some of my other favorite heroines in history. How could I not speak in admiration of them and of the old Republics?

I called the old Republics “the noblest form of government”—for that is what they are—but Mme Levaillant retorted, as if she was hurt: “Can it be that you are a republican, my dear?”

My embarrassment left me speechless. All I wanted was to leave the room, but I could not ignore her nor the stares of all of Aunt's guests. I whispered, “I should be, if the French were worthy of a Republic.”

One of Aunt’s Royalist friends gasped. Silence filled the room. Finally, someone spoke and turned the discussion to other, less political, topics. I do believe I have offended them, and I do wish I could take back all that I have said.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chicago in the Springtime

I'll get back to posting about my "beginnings" as a writer... but right now, I'm happy it's finally SPRING in Chicago. And I'm not just saying this because it was my birthday yesterday, but because I love Spring, and I love Chicago, and the two combine wonderfully.

Why I love Chicago in the Springtime:

* People come outside, like crazy! Gone are the heavy coats and the scowls. Chicagoans (and those from the surrounding suburbs) really appreciate the weather when it finally turns from frigid cold to the springtime, sunny weather. The streets around my apartment were packed today.

* The best 'city entertainment' appears too. A block from my apartment, there was a mime, performing to some music. A little bit further up Michigan Ave. there was the puppet show that circulates the city in a cart.

* The warm lake breeze. 'Nuff said.

* The clear blue skies that surround a beautiful skyscraper-filled horizon. 'Nuff said.

* Being able to cook-out and not freeze my ass off. 'Nuff said.

* The art outside. It's easier to appreciate when it's not freezing. Like the ~50 foot statue of the "American Gothic" figures (which, today, had a homeless guy sleeping at the base of it; not surprisingly, this didn't stop any of the tourists from taking a picture and/or climbing on top of the large suitcase at the woman's feet). Or, finding that someone had spelled out, in chalk, the word "VISION," by placing one letter on the base of each of the six concrete flower pots. You can only notice it when walking south on Fairbanks/Columbus. Observation is rewarded!

Granted, it's only 52 degrees out right now. But that's Springtime in Chicago for you, and I'll take it!

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Writerly Beginnings

Yesterday's blog post got me thinking about why I write, and in turn, when I started to write, so here begins a series of posts about just that.

I honestly can't remember ever not writing.

Ever since I was little, I loved telling, and getting people's attention through, stories. There's a home video of me when I was about seven or eight, where I'm sitting out on the back porch and my dad's filming everything going on. My sister, K, and her friends are sliding down the slip n' slide on the mini hill in our backyard, as I lean against the back railing, my chin resting on my crossed arms, taking everything in from up above. My dad turns the camera on me and says, "Lizzie, tell me a story," and I'm more than happy to oblige.

I take a seat, my skirt flouncing out. Within seconds, I launch into a story that I pull off the top of my head. If I remember correctly, in the video, I hold my pointer finger to my chin, momentarily pondering where my story should start.

I'm talking so quietly that you can't hear much of what I'm saying, but I'm clearly invested in every word I spout about "a white house with blue trim." My sister's best friend - let's call her K2, if only because she has the same name as my sister. K2 flits through the peripheral vision of the camera in her blue bathing suit, but I don't glance her way once, as I keep talking and gesturing widely.

Watching the video when I'm older, I notice what I didn't back then. As I'm telling the story, K2 asks, "Liz, are you going to eat?"

I keep talking.

K2 keeps entering the frame, coming closer to me, continuously asking the question - but I keep telling my story, oblivious to everything else.

My gaze flits away from the camera's lens, as I envision what happens next. Nothing else exists. So, when K2 runs over to me, suddenly shouting, "Liz, ARE YOU GOING TO EAT?" I flinch and an utter look of surprise crosses my face.

I whisper, "No," and K2 walks away, finally satisfied.

And I continue on with my story, as if nothing had happened.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Make Time & More Positive Thinking

I was going to use this post to rant about how there's never enough time in the day to write.

But then I read Nathan Bransford's blog, especially his posts from Positivity Week, and I decided I'm done complaining, venting, and saying anything negative when it comes to my writing. It only feeds the writing demons, instead of overcoming them.

So, from now on - only positivity about my writing! That isn't to say I won't take your critiques/comments about the writing that I post on this blog. Critiques, I think, can be incredibly constructive, and help me see things that I don't always notice because of how close I am to my writing. Critiques are NOT negative.

And why did Nathan's blog inspire me so much to stay positive? Well, here are just a couple things that I've taken away from his "positivity week" posts.

*Thinking About Why I Write*
I can't imagine not being a writer. I like creating and meeting new characters, delving into worlds that I didn't even know existed before I opened a book or set pen to paper. When the ideas flow and the words fit together, it's one of the best, most electric, feelings in the world. When I'm in the moment of writing, everything falls away, and everything makes more sense. But, when I do have difficulty in figuring out my ideas or my words, thinking about why I write only serves to help.

*Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer* - all of them are listed on Nathan's blog, but here's some of the ideas/thoughts that really jumped out at me.
- There IS time in the day: I just need to make more time for writing. Skip a TV show, put off the doing the dishes for a little bit. You want to write? MAKE time.
- Writing may be important and something you're passionate about, but, it's not everything. Family and friends are the most important thing. So, if I had to choose between one or the other - family and friends, all of those relationships, come first.
- At the same time, when tragedy is ready to befall, keep writing. So what if an asteroid is about to hit earth? Keep writing.

More positivity to come in the days - and weeks, and months - ahead!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pain, Pain, Go Away...

... and do NOT come back another day.

I was suffering yesterday.

I survived work, despite some weird abdominal pain hitting me in waves. But I failed to make it to French class. I really, really, really tried. I even started walking to class, but a wave of pain hit me again - it was like a baseball, on fire, trying to push its way out of my stomach, through my abdomen muscles - and I just couldn't do it. As my boyfriend said, "you need a sick day off of class."

So, I went home, worked on my HIMYM blog post in between waves of pain and then laid on the couch and didn't move. Pain is definitely an obstacle when it comes to putting cursor to Microsoft Word; writing the post took forever because I had to keep setting down my computer, brace myself against the pain, and then remind myself to breathe through it.

I can't believe I even finished the blog post, so this entry is me giving myself a pat on the back for pushing through the pain and still writing. But after finishing the post, I was in no mood to do anything, let alone work on the novel or the the short story. So, I took it easy, and my wonderful boyfriend took care of me.

Earlier in the day I had called my doctor's office and was told that if the pain is still around tomorrow - meaning today, now - that I should call again. But, I feel 100% better. So back to writing!!!

In other writing news: I'm seriously considering changing my novel from third-person to first, which makes me question my sanity.

Yet... in working on the short story about my main character, I keep falling into first person, and I'm thinking my main character wants her story, and therefore the novel, told from her perspective and hers alone. Ahhh! The thought of changing everything... I need to think about this more. Will post on this later, when I'm thinking clearly.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Way To Go, Lily!

The Front Porch
How I Met Your Mother: Season 4, Episode 17

When Ted's relationship with Karen takes a nose-dive, Ted learns that Lily has manipulated his relationships with women ever since college. Meanwhile, Barney learns the freedom that comes with nightgowns, and Robin wishes her friends would start supporting her by watching her morning show.

It's 3:30am when the gang gathers in Lily & Marshall's Dowisetrepla apartment to have a pj-party and watch Robin's show for the first time. Barney, insistent on looking good even while in pjs, appears awkward in his pajama suit, while Marshall wears a nightgown and can easily give 5 great reasons why nightgowns are awesome: 1) No need to wear anything underneath (vouched for by Ted). 2) Sexy (vouched for by Lily). 3) Grandpa Olaf wore one and he lived to be 107. 4) No elastic waistband to leave its judgemental pink teeth marks around his Thanksgiving belly. 5) It's the "freest, most wonderful feeling in the world," like he's flying.

Ted, on the other hand, arrives with a "sad announcement" that everyone is happy about: Karen broke up with him after finding an earring in his bed. He quickly learns that Lily not only planted the earring, but that she's also broken up six of his past relationships, most significantly his relationship with Robin.

Ted is livid, even after Lily explains her "front porch test" with some great flash-forwards. When Lily imagines getting old, sitting around on the front porch of their beach house, and playing "bridge," she wants whoever joins "Team Awesome" to fit in and be just as awesome as they are. Karen, with her self-righteous pretentiousness, wouldn't be any fun. And why did she break-up him and Robin? Lily never intended for that to happen; she just wanted them to talk about what they wanted out of life.

While their A Few Good Men-esque argument escalates, Robin's show, muted, played in the background, with Robin putting out a kitchen fire, reviving a coworker who was having a heart-attack, and delivering a guest's baby. Despite all this absurdity, it definitely lightened the mood of Ted & Lily's dramatic fight.

By the time Robin arrives at Lily and Marshall's, the argument is still going strong, and Barney is in a nightgown, enjoying standing over the heating vent. Robin and Lily make nice, but Ted storms off, accusing Lily of playing God, and says that Lily and Marshall can have the front porch to themselves.

Meanwhile, still wearing their nightshirts, Barney and Marshall are in bed. As Barney drifts into sleep, he asks Marshall what marriage is like. My favorite question was: "and sometimes when you're worried you've made all the wrong decisions in life, and you're not nearly the man you want to be, what does she do then?" I almost thought he was going to confess his love for Robin again, but, alas, he then asked if "she'd help you find other girls to have sex with?" He soon fell asleep, as did Marshall, who again dreamt of flying.

The next day Ted finds Karen at MacLaren's, and he learns Lily went to Karen and apologized for meddling. But, when Karen says that Lily achieved a new low and that they'll never hang out with her again, Ted was smart. He realized how important it is that his girlfriend likes his friends, and his relationship with Karen is really, truly, and thankfully over. He's finally learning!

Back at Ted's place, Lily had prepared a meal to say she's sorry, and since there's no Karen anymore, Ted shares it with Robin. They finally talk about their differences, about marriage and having kids, just as Lily wanted them to. They hint at something still between them, but, instead, decide to become each other's "back-ups" if they didn't get married by the time they were 40. After all the build-up with Barney and Robin, I would have been disappointed by anything else.

Overall, this episode was a great way to address Ted's issues with relationships, which I discussed last week. Even though Ted still has room to grow, he made progress in this episode, and part of that is thanks to Lily. So, while she may have stepped over the line, multiple times, Ted needed to hear what she said, especially, "You are a commitment-junkie. You fall in love with these women even if they don't deserve you."

I don't fault Lily for stepping over the line. She cares about Ted, and therefore she wants to see him happy, not in a relationship in which he's sacrificing himself. Alyson Hannigan's acting was superb in this one, showing a side of Lily that was good to see (even though Alyson had to hide her pregnant belly in every scene).

Do you think Ted learned anything from Lily - other than that his girlfriend's opinion about his friends matters? Did Lily step too far over the line? Do you want to see another storyline for Marshall, other than something related to an item of clothing? What would you think if Robin and Ted rekindled their relationship?

Photo source: http://www.tv.com/how-i-met-your-mother

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Trip South and "Re-learning" How to Write

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I headed south, to Springfield, Illinois, to visit his family and celebrate St. Patrick's Day. This was my third year celebrating the Irish holiday with his family in central Illinois, and the celebration, with a two-plus hour parade and more than enough cheap beer, was much like past years.

But the actual trip itself was different: it was the first time I took the train. I was all about not driving the three-plus hours it would take, thinking that I could spend my time napping, reading, and even getting some writing done. In some ways, I was able to do all of the above, especially the first two. Writing, on the other hand, became an unsteady task.

Never mind the fact that the seats quickly became uncomfortable, since they hardly had any padding in them. Ignoring the fact that the train itself was loud, with the conductor blaring the horn every couple seconds. It was the unsteadiness of the train - the constant rocking back and forth and jolting every which way - that made writing difficult. (It probably would have made napping difficult, too, had I not been so tired).

I wrote a bit in my writing journal, jotting down ideas to work on later. I continued editing a friend's manuscript. I worked on some character sketches. But all of my writing turned into a scrawl as the train unpredictably rolled in every possible direction. When I attempted to steady my hand, it took me three times as long to jot anything down, forcing me to hold onto my ideas for as long as possible, hoping the words wouldn't slip away too quickly. It was an exercise in writing patience, if nothing else.

Despite my complaints about the train, I did enjoy the trip via the Amtrak. I liked being able to look out the windows and enjoy the view, rather than focus on driving down the highway. I liked being able to relax, too, and spend some time with the boy. And, even the writing "experience" was worthwhile. I got my daily writing in, despite being jostled, and I learned, yet again, that writing in new places can be invigorating, despite the difficulties of physically putting pen to paper.

Has your style or mode of writing ever changed, from a simple change in where you decide to sit and write? How have you learned "writing patience"?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Excerpt: Chapter Two

Also from my WIP, Through Charlotte's Eyes


The cabinets’ insides weren’t as organized. The first burst with old letters Grand-mère had received from friends and from Anne’s Grandpapa when he fought in World War II. As Anne shuffled through them, she found nothing of her mother.

When Anne opened an old book that she’d pulled from the next cabinet, the yellow pages, with brown edges, crackled. While the first sheet was blank, the next, in perfect cursive writing, read: Journal intime de Marie-Anne Charlotte Corday d’Armont. 1791 à 1793.

Charlotte Corday—one of the few things Anne remembered from her mother's stories about France was about a famous revolutionary woman to whom they were related. Her mother only referred to her as Charlotte when she told Anne about their brave and heroic relative who fought for what she believed. Other than her mother’s high opinion of their distant relative, Anne knew little about Charlotte.

Anne flipped through the diary’s pages.

My friends have fled, but I have stayed behind with Aunt… the things I witnessed yesterday in the streets have infiltrated my dreams… The upstanding men of the Republic have come to Caen. I hold utter faith in their abilities to save my beloved country from the murderous tyrants who have laid siege in Paris.

The front door rattled shut, startling Anne, bringing her back to the present.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Excerpt: Chapter One

From my WIP, Through Charlotte's Eyes


The man awkwardly smiled. “I am so sorry, mademoiselle,” he laughed, causing Anne’s heart to race. His accent was slightly off—but not American. “It is just, you are so striking, and now that I finally see you up close, I am sure.”

“No,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t bother with the lines. I’m not interested. Got it?” She buttoned the top button of her pea coat as she turned to go.

“You misunderstand,” he called after her.

Her heart still racing from nervousness—rather than from the man’s friendly demeanor—Anne walked away. The wind blew her hair into her eyes and mouth. She wiped at them both. She stopped an intersection, looking left, then right. He didn’t seem crazy—just odd, especially with his comment. What kind of strange pick-up line was that supposed to be? She slowly felt calmer, feeling like she’d done the right thing confronting him. He wasn’t anyone to be scared of.

“Anne Marie?” The man caught up to her.

Anne spun around. Her heart was suddenly pounding full throttle again, nervousness, like blood, surging through her veins. He knew her name. He was stalking her. There could be no other explanation.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Excerpt: "Loss - Anne's Story"

Since my posts have been super-long lately, and since I'll be out of town this weekend, I'm going to start posting short snippets of my writing. Feel free to critique because everything I'm posting is a work-in-progress!


Then the door creaked open, and I was awake again, but I didn’t want her to know, so I kept my eyes shut tight. Without looking, I knew she tiptoed in, her feet bare, her toenails a brilliant red, as they always were.

“Ma petite fille chérie?”

I could feel her near me now, and I struggled not to smile or flutter my eyelids the slightest bit. But then her long brown hair grazed my chubby eight-year-old cheeks, and my lips burst open with a giggle.

“Oh, you silly girl, pretending you did not hear me,” she said, still speaking in French since she barely knew any English at all, as she tickled me under my arms, along my sides, and I squirmed under her touch but didn’t try to roll away.

“Stop mum, stop,” I squealed in French, expecting her to keep it up despite my "protestations."

But she stopped abruptly, drawing her hands away from me and folding her arms across herself.

“I didn’t mean it,” I said, sitting up.

But her gaze flitted away and she laid down, her head against the pillow where I had been peacefully sleeping just seconds before.

All was easily forgiven.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My (Eventual) Trip to Paris

This week's washingtonpost.com travel e-newsletter was all about Paris, which, naturally, got me thinking about my eventual trip to the City of Light.

I'm leaning heavily towards going in the Fall. I wish I could go in the summer, since my little sister will be there in July, but all other factors seem to be against that time of the year. For one, my lease ends in July, so I'll need to find a new place to live before the end of the month. And two - the real biggie - is money, of course. Flights, along with everything else, are so much cheaper in the Fall, and I'm already struggling to save enough for this trip.

But, enough of the things that are holding me back... I want to start planning my trip! What to see, what to do, all that stuff... While this trip is mainly for "research" purposes and exploring historical places related to the French Revolution, I definitely want to get a good vacation in too, of course.

So, I need your help!! I already have a list of places to go, but, fellow travelers, please let me know what you liked best of about Paris. If you went back, what is the first place you'd visit again? What was your favorite arrondisement, restaurant, cafe, museum, park, etc.? If there was one thing you wish you knew before you went, what would it be?

Here are a list of 'must-see' places that I've already decided on, mainly because they appear in the novel... or just because I want to visit them. =) But, please help me fill out this list with some of your favorite places.

  • Place de la Concorde / Obelisk of Luxor... one of my favorite scenes in my novel takes place here, with Anne standing beside the Obelisk and looking down the Champ Elysées. Is this even possible? That's why I need to go to Paris and see for myself! ;)
  • Tuileries Gardens... while the Tuileries Palace no longer exists, the gardens are just one remnant of the French Revolution.
  • Champ de Mars / Eiffel Tower (duh)
  • Versailles... mainly for the Musée Lambinet, where a bunch of Charlotte's portraits are exhibited.
  • Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine... I learned about this new museum from the Washington Post article. It documents 8 centuries of French architecture.
  • The Belleville quartier... one of the less-touristy and more-diverse parts of Paris, I've read that this neighborhood is one of the most electic in the city.
  • A graveyard... somewhere. I don't know where. But the little I've found about Parisian graveyards say they're usually attached to a church???
  • The third & fourth arrondisements... 17th century mansions galore. Enough said.

Okay, there's more places I want to see, but I'm going to leave my list like this for now. Add to it! Let me know what other must-sees should be on my list! Tell your stories of Paris! I recognize that I'm using way too many exclamation points, but it's only because I'm excited for this trip!!!!

Photo source: http://www.destination360.com/europe/france/paris.php

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh, Ted, when will you learn?

Sorry, Bro
How I Met Your Mother: Season 4, Episode 16

It's 1:45am, and Robin is joining the gang at the bar before heading off to work. There's stories to tell; Marshall had the "funniest" thing happen to him at work, about... his pants? And, Ted's ex, Karen, is now living in NYC to Marshall & Lily's dismay.

This episode finally brought us back to Ted's love life, and his story confirmed, once again, why this show is so great: the writers know the characters so intimately, that old subjects come back and reward loyal viewers time and time again. Who doesn't remember pretentious Ted in college, calling his long-distance girlfriend, Karen, to apologize for making out with another girl in the episode "How I Met Everyone Else"?

Now Karen, played by Laura Prepon, is back, and she doesn't appear to have changed a bit. She is even more pretentious than old Ted. The old Ted who went back to her, time and time again, even after catching Karen cheating on him, time and time again. But, wait, she's changed, for real this time, Ted claims. And now Ted's dating Karen. Whoop-de-do. I wish I cared, but I don't.

I want Ted to wake up and start dating likable women. I want Ted to stop returning to old flames; hasn't he done this before and seen how badly it's worked out? I'm thinking of "Return of the Shirt" episode, when he dates Natalie until he realizes - for the second time - that she's not the one. And then he gets beat up by a girl.

That episode happened way back in Season ONE. Come on, Ted. Grow up. Move on. Find the woman with the yellow umbrella.

My biggest qualm is this: it's disheartening to see Ted have bad relationship after bad relationship, and not see him learn from any of it. His character has barely evolved since the beginning of the show. Sure, he is no longer the hopeless romantic we first met, but he hasn't progressed much. We loyal fans know the writers can do so much more with him! Look at Barney.

As I talked about in my last HIMYM post, Barney is continuously evolving as he admits his love for Robin and then tries to deal with his feelings. Although I admit, I made a mistake in my last post. Ted does NOT have things figured out. He still has plenty of room to grow (up), and hopefully he does that soon so he can find the Mother. I'm not asking the show to be over with (because I think it can exist even after Ted meets her); I'm just asking that our main character get a bit more interesting and learn from the past, rather than continuously repeating it.

Now that I'm done complaining, here are some of my favorite, and the most awesome, parts of Monday's episode (because it was still a pretty good episode overall, despite Ted):
* Barney's 4 reasons why an Ex would want to have lunch. The gun thing, both in the Barney and Robin sections, was hilarious. I also liked seeing young Marshall; the child looked it could have been Marshall's kid!
* Marshall standing up from the booth and he's still wearing his shredded work-pants, displaying his handsome calves. =)
* Robin's sleeping pill-induced sleepwalking, especially her eating the ribs while sleeping/lying on the floor. Again, another shout-out to past episodes! ("The Bracket" episode, when Ted says that Robin laughs every time she lies. His example? "Have you ever fallen asleep while eating ribs?" Robin: (giggles) "No.")
* The entire episode took place in the bar. The flashbacks, of course, took us all over the place, but the writers were able to tell the story from the vantage point of the bar. Mighty impressive, I think.
* Lily asks Barney to give something to Marshall, and Barney, of course, thinks it's something sexual.

What do you think of Ted, and his return to Karen? What were your favorite (or least favorite) parts of the show?

Photo source: http://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/met-mother/photos/192257

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

There's Still So Much to Learn...

I just got back from my French class, and it has been a very, very, very long day (she says as she lounges on the couch in her pajamas, with barely enough energy to type - partially because of the 13+ hour day she's had and partially because she still hasn't eaten any dinner, or, for that matter, any food since 12:30).

I'm beginning to get really frustrated with learning French. I can read it fine, identify words (most of the time), even pronounce it fine (once I'm told how to)... but when I listen to someone else and try to translate to the page? Forget it. I learned that because of the quiz we had today. I didn't do all that well.

Maybe it was partially because when I looked at the 20 point quiz, I had flashbacks to my years of Spanish, of getting half-points and quarter-points taken off for misspellings and missing accents. Or, maybe it's because I haven't been studying the language as much as I should be. I know that I should spend at least 50 minutes 5 times a week to really get to know a language, and I am doing nowhere near that. I don't have the time (who does??) if I'm going to get anything else done after work, like, you know, writing, socializing, all that stuff.

Back to the quiz. I didn't really do that badly, with a 15 out of 20. I'll take an 80%.

Then again, we all graded ourselves. And those grades don't even count, because we don't get grades in the class. We are paying customers, after all. But, we do need to do some sort of evaluation, to know where we stand, to know how much we still need to learn. And I still need to learn so much more - and I'm not just talking about the language itself.

I'm surprised at how this class is affecting my perceptions about my novel. It's not affecting what I think about Anne (which I thought it would), because, as a child, she knows French better than she knows English. She has to re-learn it later in life, but it comes easily to her, unlike it does for me.

The class keeps reminding me that I still don't know enough about French culture either. That I still need to learn more about the riots of 2005, of the way people address and speak to one another, of the way people dress and eat, and... the list goes on. And that's just contemporary Paris.

I can't forget the culture of the French Revolution. There's still so much to learn about those ten years...

Granted, I know more than I've been giving myself credit for. During grad school, I learned more about France and the revolution of 1789 than I thought I could possibly ever learn in a year. But, it begs the question: when will I feel like I have enough information?

In ways, I doubt I ever will, but I can't let that stop (or block) me from working on the novel. I can still make the novel what I want it to be. So, I'll keep writing, and researching, until I think I've gotten it where I want it to be... wherever or whenever that is.

I don't know if I'm making any sense, so I think it's time to stop and get some dinner.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Meet Bob, My Inner Editor

I didn't know what to title my short story, based on my novel's main character's early childhood, when I first started writing it, so I just labeled it: "Loss: Anne's story." The "title," at the very least, helped distinguish it from all the other Microsoft Word files that contain notes, tidbits of stories, and outlines in my novel folder that are saved on my desktop.

As I've been working on the story, my inner editor has been nagging me: "What's the story's title? Why haven't you come up with a title yet? You need a title!" The label, apparently, was not good enough for my inner editor.

I like to call my inner-editor Bob, if only because it's a lot easier to say, "Bob, shut up." By naming my inner editor, it turns that incessant, writing-blocking voice inside my head into a "character," someone that I can respond to and have discussions with. I can tell "Bob" that I'm focusing on the plot right now, and that the plot will drive what I end up titling the story. More often than not, my inner editor, Bob, listens and responds.

Once I finished "discussing" with Bob the merits of focusing on the plot, he quieted down and left me to my work. I also realized that the label could actually be the story's title. "Loss" - it's simple but it encapsulates what the story is about and is a theme in my novel. "Anne's story" - that I wasn't so keen on at first, why I shied away from using it as part of the title and why "Bob" kept nagging me.

Then again, I'm beginning to think I could create a set of stories, set around themes from the novel, for the two main characters: Anne of 2005, and Charlotte of 1792. In that case, labeling or titling it "Anne's story" makes perfect sense. It distinguishes it from Charlotte's.

Take that, Bob!

See? Talking to your inner editor - rather than trying to ignore him (or her) outright - has its benefits. Sure, you might sound a bit crazy to your non-writerly friends, but at least you're putting that inner editor in its place so you can get back to doing what you do best: writing.

All of this isn't to say that I'm set on using "Loss: Anne's story" as a title (it very well could change), but for now, I like the title, the label, or whatever you want to call it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

First Chapter: The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, is about the conscientious nature of telling stories, of weaving words together in a powerful way, of creating fiction and how that relates to telling lies. At least, that's what I gather from the first chapter, a mere nine pages.

The main character is Margaret Lea, an avid reader who works as amateur bibliographer and as an employee in her father's bookstore. Vida Winter is England's celebrated author who, as some say, has sold more copies of her books than the Bible. No one knows anything about Vida; nothing "true" anyway, for in her interviews Vida prefers to make-up stories, thinking people would prefer to hear those rather than the truth about her life. But, in her old age, the idea of telling the "truth" about her life has taken ahold of her, and she wants to tell her story to Margaret.

Vida Winter has a good point; people, more often than not, are more interested in the lies we tell, because lies are often fantastic tales that are nowhere near what our simple reality provides. (This idea, particularly, is something that really interests me, for a variety of reasons; and something I try to explore in some of my own writing).

With this first chapter of the novel, these ideas outweigh the characters. While we know near to nothing about Vida's true life, other than what little Margaret has surmised through Vida's letter to her, we don't know all that much yet about Margaret yet either, other than the fact that she has a love affair with books and is interested in discovering what authors are thinking as they write.

So far, the ideas are not embodied within the characters themselves but espoused as being of either of Vida or Margaret's mind. I'm interested to see how these ideas are fleshed out precisely; will they continue to exist outside of the characters, merely as a discussion topic between the two women? Or will the two characters somehow be examples of these ideas that seem so important to both Vida and Margaret?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Encased Meats Anyone?

My boyfriend and I arrived at Hot Doug’s at the corner of California and Roscoe in Chicago at 10:10 this morning, with growling stomachs, ready for some… brunch?

The restaurant, famous for its specialty “encased meats,” doesn’t open until 10:30, but we’d heard about the long lines, especially on Saturdays, and considering the downpour of rain in Chicago this weekend, we wanted to get there and have as little of a wait as possible.

Yet, despite the early hour, we still didn’t end up being the first in line. We squeezed into the front entryway, a three by five foot space, where ten other people stood, waiting for the doors to be opened. We poured over the menu while we waited, trying to decide between three-chili wild boar sausage or the spicy thai chicken sausage or any other number of meaty pieces of goodness.

When the doors opened, the people poured in, streaming in from outside, dripping wet from standing out in the rain, and came into the brightness that is Hot Doug’s. And by “brightness,” I mean that literally. The vibrant yellow walls are covered in photos of celebrities—the most were of, by far, Elvis. One wall detailed the history of encased meats, beginning with Neanderthals eating a sausage on a stick. The mantra of the restaurant also decorated the restaurant along with the server’s t-shirts: “There are no two finer words in the English language than ‘encased meats,’ my friend.”

The line moved quickly enough, and it was about 10:45 by the time the boy and I were seated and the food was delivered to our table. The boy couldn’t decide between two, so he ordered both. The blue cheese pork sausage—doused in a pear cream sauce and covered in smoked almonds—had an earthy, slightly crunchy flavor. The foie gras and sauternes duck sausage, which was decorated with a truffle sauce and other gourmet food items that I don’t know anything about, was okay, I thought. I didn’t like the hint of cinnamon flavor. But the boy loved it, even though he admitted that the delicate flavor of the foie grass was overwhelmed by the sauce.

Despite being indecisive, at first, I went with the cognac-infused pheasant sausage that was covered with a pomegranate-raspberry crème fraiche and goat cheese. The toppings went so well with the game sausage; the crème fraiche added a sweet flavor, while the goat cheese balanced it with a bit of tartness. Heaven! And, with the bit of sweetness,it was kind of like brunch.

But, wait, I’m not done! The boy and I split an enormous single serving of duck-fat fries, which is only served on Fridays and Saturdays. Drool. Seriously. They were crispy and salty, and oh so delicious.

Once completely satiated (meaning, every last drop was eaten), we walked out the door we had walked in only forty-five minutes or so before. The line was still there, still growing. It wound out the door and down Roscoe’s sidewalk, nearing the alleyway, meaning that the wait would be at least an hour.

That’s how amazing this place is. Rain or shine, freezing temperatures or humid air, people will be there, willing to wait in line for some specialty dogs.

I know I’m already planning on going back, wanting to try everything on the menu as someone ahead of me in line had. Plans are already in motion. My birthday weekend, only two weeks away, I will be there!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Even When Tired

When I'm exhausted, I don't feel like writing, and I know I'm far from the only one who feels this way.

Yesterday, and today, has been horrible. I've been excruciatingly tired. Each and every part of me was, and is, so tired, (despite pumping myself full of caffeine all day today) that all I wanted to do when I got home from work was lay down and not move at all.

Yet, here I am, writing.

If I make a promise to myself to post on here each day - which contributes to me writing every day - I have to stick to it, no matter how I feel. Because, the thing is, when I don't write on a given day, it puts me in a funk. When I do write, even if it's only a few lines or a few tweaks/revisions here and there, I'm almost automatically put in a better mood. So, yeah, when I'm this tired, it's a struggle, but it pays off, little by little. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Thankfully it's (finally) the weekend!! I fully intend to sleep in tomorrow and the day after. I will get rid of these feelings of exhaustion - despite Daylight Savings Time and setting the clock back an hour - and I will keep writing, each and every day.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm a TA...

...for two middle-school workshop sessions in April. It's not much, but I'm excited about it. I haven't tutored in about four years now, and it's been even longer since I've tutored kids. Even then, I was helping the kids with math and reading. This time around, I'll be teaching kids about creative writing - specifically, using all of their senses to write. THIS is the kind of stuff I love to do and have wanted to do for some time: fostering the passion for writing in kids. If you couldn't tell, I'm really excited about this!

But, I'm exhausted today, although I have no reason to be, so I'll keep this post short. Til tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Classe française numéro cinq

I'm halfway done with my first-ever French class... and I still feel like I haven't learned much.

Okay, that's a lie. I have learned a lot, just not the things I expected to learn.

Yesterday, we learned more numbers (through 79), more about how to navigate around Paris, and how to conjugate verbs, well, at least how to conjugate AVOIR in present tense. Last week we learned about the arrondisements and that was reinforced again this week; I also learned more about the banlieues - which was an aha! moment for me, since one of my characters lives in a banlieue north (nord) of Paris. At the very least, I'm beginning to feel that, if I left for Paris today, I would be able to navigate my way around and feel slightly comfortable asking a Parisian for directions. And I can't ask for much more at this point, can I?

Next week: a quiz! I'm guessing it'll be both written and verbal, to test our pronunciation (which I was complimented on yesterday by my professor - that was a surprise!). So, if the quiz is not incentive to study French more this week, then I don't know what is.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Return of HIMYM

Finally! "How I Met Your Mother" is back with new episodes after a month-long hiatus. (Warning: a incredibly small spoiler below about someone guest-starring in the future).

I have to stop reading "previews" for what the new HIMYM shows are about, because it really ruins the premise for me. Meaning, I wasn't surprised when the gang followed Barney and discovered that he had a "wife," Betty, and a "kid," Tyler.

Then again, my lack of surprise continued past what I knew about the show before I sat down to watch it. The family was fake. Really? I get that the writers were parodying other sitcoms, but I figured they would have done something a little different, a little bit more random and out-there, you know, in true HIMYM-fashion.

Despite the beginning, I did enjoy the episode. I loved meeting Barney's mom, Loretta (Frances Conroy). I loved that pretentious Ted appeared, that he clicked with Barney's "wife," and that he over-acted when caught with his tongue down Betty's throat. I loved that, after Barney and Betty acted painfully cute as a couple, Barney turned to Ted and said, "This is what you're really like in a relationship." I loved that Marshall and Lily brought up Lily's feelings of hatred for Marshall's mom (but what about Lily's parents. Where do they fit in? My spec script will, hopefully, answer just that). I loved that Barney came clean to his mom and that she encouraged him to not wait and to go for it, if he ever found someone he wanted to be with. Aww. Another cute Robin and Barney moment. My favorite storyline =)

This is yet another episode in which Barney was the center of attention. But I'm not complaining about this. His character remains one of the most engaging and developed on the show. Don't get me wrong. Lily & Marshall as a couple are fabulous. Robin is clearly no one to mess with. But Ted, despite being the "main" character, can get a bit stale. (Although, in this episode, his pretentiousness was perfect for the situation.) Overall, Ted has things figured out and knows what he wants; Barney, on the other hand, doesn't.

So, I, for one, am more than happy to see more Barney-centric episodes. I know Laura Prepon is guest-starring for a bit as Ted's new flame - and that's all I know, please don't spoil anymore for me! - but I think there's also still going to be some great Barney-centric episodes as he figures out how to - or one day, accidentally - tell Robin his true feelings. My guess is that it won't happen until the Season Finale, and I'm more than okay with his Robin-storyline continuing til then, and beyond.

Photo source: http://www.fresh-buzz.com/2009/02/18/video-resume-of-barney-stinson

Monday, March 2, 2009

To Move Forward, Look Back

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."
~Winston Churchill

I can't attribute breaking through my writer's block to only putting my novel aside for a few weeks. Over the past month, as I tried writing - or working through my writing - in my head, I realized I was stuck because I still needed to know more about my characters, specific details about their past and not just generalities.

Developing my character sketches is one route, but I'm taking Ginger's advice (from a comment posted to an earlier post), and developing stories out of my character's background/history.

Right now, I'm working on Anne's childhood, specifically a story about dealing with the pain of losing her mother when she was eight-years-old. Ideas keep bubbling over, of things I should include, of things that will affect who she will become when she turns 18 and goes to Paris - and learns that what she once thought about her mother's death was completely false.

The issue I'm running into now is the complete opposite. I feel like I have too much information to include in the short story. (Don't get me wrong; I'd take this "obstacle" any day). Where does this story begin? End? Do I include Anne's struggles in making friends, partially due to her mother raising Anne to speak French and not English? Since I know her mother isn't really dead, as Anne believes, do I hint at it? Do I use third-person or first? (Since my novel is in third-person, I'm inclined to use that, but as I write this first short story of many, I find myself shifting back and forth between third and first... which is interesting considering the novel and how Anne switches between her own perspective and Charlotte's... definitely something to think about more).

My solution - for now - is to get down everything I can, and then start chopping the really unnneccesary stuff (and putting it in a separate file for possible later use in my novel).

It's interesting, "getting to know" characters, delving into their pasts, their histories, as if they existed. I once heard that a professor/author had a conversation with a passenger in his car late at night. It wasn't until he got home that he realized he was talking to a "character" from his novel. Creepy - in that he was really talking to himself, but interesting - in that all writers, I think, need to be able to "speak" to their characters, know how they'd react and what they'd say in any given situation, if they are really going to develop and depict characters that readers can truly believe in.

So, for me, I'm looking backwards, developing my character's backgrounds even more so that I can move forward in my character's life.

Sidenote: If anyone knows who that author was, that had that "conversation" with his character, please remind me, because it's really bothering me that I don't remember!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Attempt No. 2

I’m on the NaBloPoMo March Blogroll, meaning I’m attempting the feat of blogging every day for the entire month, yet again. I know, I know. I said it didn’t work in the way I wanted it too when I did it back in January. But perhaps it was because I felt stuck with my novel, and had a really bad case of the writer’s block?

In any case, the writing floodgates have opened. Last night, I had my first late-night writing session since grad school—a good eight months or so ago—which is the longest I’ve been without one of those in quite some time. Ideas are flooding out at a pace that I feel like I can’t keep up with, which is more than invigorating. I seek out the keyboard, or the pen and notebook, rather than cringe at the thought of trying to come up with what comes next.

I figure that I can encourage these ideas, and keep them a’coming, if I keep posting to the blog. So, that’s my progress, and the blog is what holds me accountable.