One thing I absolutely love about the kid lit community is how we rally behind a good cause and put our sorrow, our anger, our love into action.
In the latest kid lit community rising to action, it’s all about showing our love for YA author Beth Revis.
Here’s a little bit about Beth:
She is a NY Times bestselling author with books available in more than 20 languages. Her most recent title, GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE, is a dark fantasy about love and death. Beth’s other books include the bestselling science fiction trilogy, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and a novel in the Star Wars universe entitled REBEL RISING. She’s the author of two additional novels, numerous short stories, and the nonfiction PAPER HEARTS series, which aids aspiring writers. A native of North Carolina, Beth is currently working on a new novel for teens. She lives in rural NC with her boys: one husband, one son, and two massive dogs.
Back in July, Beth posted on social media about her husband going into advanced heart failure without warning. One can only imagine what she and her family have been going through with the long hospital stays and multiple surgeries involved, all of which have taken her away from her work as an author. Appearances had to be cancelled and there was no time for her to promote her latest book, BID MY SOUL FAREWELL, coming out in September.
Enter fellow author Amie Kaufman (co-author of the IILUMINAE FILES series) who helped mobilize the writing community in support of Beth with an outstanding Preorder Giveaway to help promote her next book.
That’s right, Amie got 150 authors to participate in this giveaway! And we can all do our part by preordering Beth’s book and spreading the word.
I absolutely loved Beth’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series. And I enjoy listening to her writing advice videos that she shares on Instagram. She is definitely a kind soul that deserves our support. I’ve preordered my copy. I’m encouraging you to do the same.
To learn all about the giveaway and how to preorder your copy of Beth’s new book BID MY SOUL FAREWELL, visit Amie’s website here.
Do you ever just feel like hopping aboard a plane and leaving for destinations unknown to explore? Want to get a feel for the atmosphere of an Irish pub or a Buddhist temple, but can’t afford the air fare? Maybe you should close your eyes and take a sound journey instead.
I heard this really cool thing on NPR today that could be such a great inspiration spring board for writers, musicians, artists of all kinds really, that I just had to share it. Sound Transit is an audio experience where you travel the world through sound. You book a trip, with up to five stops, and it randomly selects your route and the sounds you’ll hear along the way. With over two thousands sounds in its catalog, your trip will be different every time.
You can also use their search feature to look up individual sounds or search for sounds by country. It’s just fascinating.
Here’s a trip I booked:
I departed from Skaftafell, Iceland, and was greeted by the sounds of “A simple mountain stream, nothing more, which flows down a moss-covered hillside, falls into a small rocky hollow and continues on its way to the sea.”
next, via Cabo Ortegal, Galicia, Spain, I experienced a “storm in ‘Cabo Ortegal’, Galicia, Spain. november 2003”.
Tilburg, Netherlands, was next with some urban sounds described only as, “This recording is a part of my Tunnelproject. A noise investigation.”
On to Baracoa, Cuba, where I heard this “insane gathering of crows near a small river, in Alexandro Humbold park on
the lush eastern coast of Cuba, not far from where Cristopher Colombus is
said to have landed in the new world.”
(I love the details given in some of the descriptions. That alone set my imagination wild with ideas.)
At my next stop, halfway around the world in Kefalonia, Greece, there were different birds singing, “A treeful of finches chirp and flap early one morning.”
Finally, I arrived in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to the sounds of a bustling metropolis, “subway journey underneath copacabana. train drones, whistles, brakes, high pitch, speaker information, automatic doors, ambience. M-Audio microtrack -16bit – 48khz.”
I played around with this for most of the morning and had many different experiences. One was even unsettling, with bomb sounds in Lebanon. Every trip was unique.
You can listen to my journey described above for yourself here or book your own here.
It’s only a few days in and already I feel your magic. The trees are budding, the days are warmer, there is more sunlight.
I love springtime.
You saved me from the dreariness of winter in the nick of time.
That’s why I couldn’t believe this story I heard on NPR about this village Rjukan, in Norway that spends half a year in darkness. People living in darkness on purpose.
That country’s first cable car was built in the town for the sole purpose of transporting villagers up to the light for their health. (My first question would be, if you have to do something that drastic, why would you ever, ever live there?)
Finally, one of it’s residents had a brilliant idea (no pun intended) to shed some light on the matter. (Yes, he was an artist.) Many people thought the idea was crazy and a waste of money, but apparently those same people are the ones you’ll find now standing in the town square basking in the warm sun, transported down from above by the fantastic combination of art and engineering. Computer-controlled mirrors now reflect the sun’s light and beam it down to the grateful people below. Brilliant, right?
My point? Just when you think you’re stuck in six months of never-ending darkness, maybe step back and reevaluate your surroundings, your plight. There could be another way to look at your situation that you just haven’t thought of. I don’t know, I just found it creative as hell and hopeful. Human beings are amazing, sometimes.
Make progress on new YA project (Pretty Vacant) including plotting out new story arc and starting on first draft with word count goal of 30K. Steady progress made. I’m closer to 18K than 30K, which isn’t bad. Might just make this goal.
Submit first YA manuscript to at least 15 agents. I’m behind on this goal, but I do have some potential agents narrowed down. I feel confident that I can meet this goal by next week.
Read at least 6 books this month. (I’m a little behind on my yearly reading goal already!) This one is going well. I have finished five books already. I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. It has a great opening line: “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” And this is accompanied by such an ominous illustration that the mood is perfectly set.
Get back into exercise routine slowly – at least three times week. Meh progress. Two times. Next week comes the dreaded return of the elliptical. I know this helps me have more energy and helps me fight of the depression uglies, so do it I must.
Today I’m also posting over at The Great Noveling Adventure blog. I’m discussing craft books that have helped me stop totally sucking at making amateur mistakes and I’m looking for some more suggestions to stop making the even bigger mistakes. If you have a book on writing that you’ve found invaluable in your quest to be the best writer you can be, hop on over and share it with us.
Next weekend is the SCBWI OK spring conference! WOOHOO! I will be tweeting about the conference throughout the weekend at #SCBWIOK14 if you care to follow along. I will, of course, give you all the highlights and my favorite takeaways from the great speakers we have lined up in future posts, so stay tuned!
Hope you are taking command of your goals and bowing them to your will.
This is the second in my Inspiring Stories segment. Read the first one here.
This story comes from the Moth Radio Hour and it involves two very unlikely music genres, rap and soft rock, or more personally Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (of Run DMC fame) and Sarah McLachlan.
(How strange that I had mentioned Run DMC on my blog last week and then I hear this story about one of its members a few days later. Sometimes subjects gravitate towards me like that – totally not in my consciousness radar at all, then I see references for the subject everywhere. That’s when I know I should pay attention; usually it’s the universe trying to tell me something important. Other times, it just means Tom Cruise has a new movie coming out.)
So back to the Moth Radio Hour. If you’re not familiar with the format of this particular show, here’s a description:
The Moth Radio Hour features true stories told live on stage without scripts, notes, props or accompaniment. Moth storytellers stand alone, under a spotlight, with only a microphone and a roomful of strangers. Each hour mixes humorous, heartbreaking, and poignant tales that captivate, surprise, and delight with their honesty, bravery, and humor. (description from website.)
For this episode, Darryl McDaniels steps up to the mike on the empty stage and his voice fills the space with an unexpected story about his struggle with depression in the midst of a successful tour and his yearning to find meaning, to figure out what he’s living for. I listened to him speak while driving in my car. I was mesmerized. When I arrived at my destination, I sat there in awe, still listening to his story. At the end of it, I cried. So beautiful and moving and all about how art can save you. I found it very inspiring and it made me want to write after I heard it.
The abbreviated version is that during a very successful overseas tour, McDaniels began feeling suicidal and tried to find reasons not to end his life. He decided that he couldn’t do it right then because it would upset his bandmates. He’d wait till the tour was over. On the drive home after the end of the tour, a song came on the radio that changed his life. It was Angel by Sarah McLachlan. He thought that if something this amazing existed, life was beautiful. He spent the next year listening to every album she ever wrote. Her music saved him. One day, He got the chance to tell her in person. And she said that’s what music’s supposed to do. (Ah! That killed me. What a perfect response. I feel the same way about all different kinds of artistic expression.) He continued to struggle with a feeling emptiness inside, but he kept listening to McLachlan’s music, with a little more hope.
Then, at the age of thirty-five, he found out he was adopted. The void inside made sense. The missing piece was all about where he came from and wondering about whether or not he still had value if his birth parents gave him away?
I’m gonna write a record that’s gonna help that little kid in the foster home or that little adopted kid or the grown up adopted man. Adoption is just my situation. Whatever situation you’re in on this earth, you have a reason.
And with Sarah McLachlan’s help and harmonies he did just that. He worked on a new solo album and one of the tracks was a re-envisioning of Harry Chapin song Cat’s in the Cradle, entitled Just Like Me.
Doing a favor for loved ones rarely puts one’s life in danger, but then it also rarely involves psychotic chickens.
Last week, the kids and I set off on a four hour road trip to house-sit for my folks deep in the Ozarks of rural Missouri and to experience what my dad kept calling an adventure (my first clue something would go terribly wrong).
I was greeted with a four page manifesto of chores – the bare minimum necessary to keep the place running smoothly. That’s okay, I thought, I wrote my folks something similar once when the hubs and I went on vacation many, many moons ago – a survival guide for babysitting the younglings, more than double the length of their instructions.
It’s all in the details.
I admit, I may have glazed over some of the details in that first reading due to road fatigue and children demands – What’s to eat? How do I work the TV? Why are there so many bugs here?
One of the details mentioned something about a rift in the chicken world with one particularly spiky chicken nicknamed “The Bitch” who had to be quarantined away from the younger chickens throughout the day so she didn’t terrorize them and peck them unmercifully. Good thing I didn’t have to start worrying about that just yet.
We started the next day with a brief introduction to the psychotic chickens. Entering the pen and throwing scratch on the ground. Don’t ask me what scratch is, I don’t know. I just measured it out of the bucket labeled “scratch” like the directions said and spread it around like I was told. I am not a country girl – as you may have guessed by now. The two oldest chickens met us near the gate to the pens, clucking in what sounded like a friendly manner. They went after that scratch the minute it hit the straw-covered ground. That gave us time to observe them and check out their surroundings – and most important of all, look for eggs. My folks had been gone a good twenty-four hours by then so we found a good haul. We made our slow departure, eggs in hand. I left the chicken compound thinking, hmm, maybe this chicken thing would be easy.
After that excitement, the daughter who has developed an extreme phobia to all flying insects, decided to stay inside while the boy and I enjoyed a beautiful walk along the countryside. I did remember the one detail in the instructions about bug spray; if you’re going to spend any amount of time outdoors, spray, spray, spray. Or you’ll get nasty chigger bites. Spray we did, then off we went to enjoy nature.
Trevor walking up ahead.
Wildflowers in the morning sun.
If only I hadn’t forgotten how steep and rocky the hills were on the return trip. Who needs an elliptical or treadmill? This hill was set to extreme cardio level 10!
By the time we’d walked a little over a mile, I was breathing so hard it hurt my chest and my calves were singing in pain. I thought I was going to die. And I hadn’t even begun the daily chores. Nice. When we climbed the final steep hill back up to the house, my son decided he’d had enough. Time to take a shower and call it a day. I tucked him in to his favorite spot with his favorite things and started a movie. He was back asleep before I went out the door. I envied him.
It wasn’t so much that the tasks were difficult – mostly there was a lot of watering garden areas and moving hoses around, carting water buckets to flowerbeds, that kind of thing. What killed me was climbing up and down to those rocky hills about thirty times to get it all done. I was a sweating, drooling, zombie-shuffling corpse (complete with incomprehensible moaning) by the end of the day.
And I haven’t even mentioned dealing with the chickens.
The instructions said around noon I’d have to corner The Bitch and pick her up – I was told not to worry because she was used to being picked up and this should be fairly easy to do (another warning sign that things would go terribly wrong). Once I had a firm hold of her I would then need to let the younger chickens out of the coop into the open area of the pen. After they were all out in the yard, I would gently secure The Bitch in the coop and lock her in for the remainder of the day after making sure there was plenty of food and water inside.
Let me just tell you that is not what happened on the first day. Or the second. Or the third. Not even on the fourth.
I brought my daughter along to help me corner said spiky/bitchy chicken. After a few minutes, it was clear she wouldn’t be fairly easy to pick up no matter how “used to it” she was. All of our chasing did manage to direct her into the small dog crate in the chicken yard – also used for chicken separation. Sweating and panting, we made sure she had food and water and locked her into solitary.
I was exhausted. And my chores were only half-done at this point.
For the rest of the day, there was just more water hauling, kid-wrangling, body-aching to contend with. The younger chickens actually put themselves to roost in the coop that night so locking them back in and releasing The Bitch, as we now affectionately referred to her, into the main pen was much easier than our noontime adventure. The only other notable event came when we were wrapping up our final evening chores. We had to bring in the leftover cat food for the outside cats so it wouldn’t attract raccoons. A little after dusk, I had my daughter shine the flashlight along the walkway while I retrieved the food. (Have I mentioned she’s also an arachnophobe?)
At the first sight of this…
…she screamed and the light went out.
I froze and asked her what happened.
“Spider!” she yelled and pointed at the harmless loping thing as it made its way across the deck.
“Turn the light back on,” I said. She did and then promptly screamed again.
There was another one, a little closer, but still just as harmless, moseying along. At this point, my light source companion bailed on me, not waiting to see what other horrors lurked in the darkness. She high-tailed it back into the house.
I sighed and wondered if she’d ever get over her irrational fear of all things creepy and crawly. There was just enough light that I could still make out fuzzy outlines of most things so I just soldiered on. I was almost at my destination; the end of the deck. I grabbed the food dish and then screamed even louder than my daughter. Inside the dish, coming towards my hand, was the largest daddy long legs I’d ever seen (trauma of the situation may have warped my recollection of events and size of said arachnid). I dropped the food dish with a mighty clatter and spilled out all of the remaining cat food. The raccoons fed well that night, I must tell you.
I bolted into the house even faster than my youngling and slammed the door. I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and the entire day. My daughter, once learning what I’d done, joined in laughing at me. This, of course woke up my son who just looked at the two of us like we were insane. At that moment, I’m pretty sure I was.
Day two was pretty much a repeat of day one, with the added bonus of pain. Copious amounts of pain from all the work I’d done the day before. I knew I wasn’t in great shape, but it wasn’t very nice of the Ozark Hills to advertise this fact so maliciously. Also, the chickens were much less cooperative.
The Bitch didn’t fall for the old, let’s go into the dog crate routine so easily this time. Instead, she hid underneath the back roosting nest after leading us on quite the aerobic chase around the pen. I finally had to go get a long stick to prod her (gently) to come out. Her response was to run around the back side of the coop where only a slimmer, younger chick could fit. Let’s just say she got herself stuck in an embarrassing position – literally stuck between the coop and the fencing.
That wasn’t in the manual.
I pulled the fencing out as far as I could to make it wider for her and she still remained stuck, flapping her little wings and running her legs in mid-air, like a chicken with her head cut…er,I mean, to no avail. I gave her a loving, gentle prodding with the stick (I swear, it was loving and gentle) and she finally came out. Still, it took another ten minutes to get That Bitch in the damned dog crate. Another day in the hole.
That night, way past their bed time, the younger chicks decided to test the new babysitters. They weren’t ready to go quietly into the coop. I reread the instructions and it said we were supposed to chase them in to the coop – and that they were used to this. (HA! And again I say, HA!) As this was night time, and I thought this was a quick chore, like it had been the night before, I did the unthinkable – I forgot to spray, spray spray before going out to do this simple task. It took at least fifteen minutes to corral all of those damned psychotic chickens into their coop. And don’t think I wasn’t a little bit tempted at my weakest moment to bring out The Bitch to finish the job and chase them into the coop for me.
The other chores went a little smoother, although I did drop the cat food dish, again – less to spill this time. I think it was just a little PTSD from the night before. Or maybe from my entire experience thus far.
One nice thing about this day…
…It ended with a bang!
And we only set one little small fire that was put out in a second. No problem.
(Did I mention that I woke up with the worst chigger bites all over my arms and legs?) Apparently, toothpaste works wonders for the itch when nothing else does, also you smell minty fresh. I thank my daughter for that home remedy she learned while watching some science program. You rock, even though you abandoned me in the dark. All is forgiven.
So what if the nice, relaxing country vacation where I could hang out with the kids and get some writing done didn’t happen exactly the way I thought it would. We eventually got into a better rhythm with the homestead and all of its creatures, even the psychotic chickens. By the fourth day, I woke up and didn’t feel crippling pain, just good, honest muscle ache – that I could work with. We all three had our stations in the chicken coop when it came time to put The Bitch in solitary and she went in with much less stress for all involved and in record time.
There were some really good moments, too. We made time to visit our favorite eating establishment there in Gainesville, Missouri. Antler Package & Pizza, otherwise referred to as The Antler, where they do indeed decorate with antlers and the heads that came with them.
Regardless of the décor, the food is to die for. Trevor devours the famous cheese pizza and my husband swears they have some of the best burgers around.
On the final day, once the sore muscles faded and the itching stopped, the chores were done, and there was time to just be, I had time to absorb my surroundings and this is where I was…
and I did find some inspiration. So in the end, even the psychotic chickens were worth it.
Sometimes when I’m reading or listening to a news story or looking at a piece of art, I get this overwhelming feeling of inspiration that I can hardly contain and I must drop whatever I’m doing to start writing. I thought sharing some of these moments of inspiration might be a fun element to add to my stable of blog posts, so here’s the first one.
Caroline Shaw recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her piece Partita for 8 Voices. At 30 years old, she is the youngest composer to win since the inception of the award. She is also one of only a handful of female composers to win this honor. Shaw wrote this piece for the vocal group Roomful of Teeth, “a vocal octet dedicated to re-imagining singing in the 21st century.” (Description from group’s website.) Shaw is also a member of the group.
What I found most intriguing about this interview on NPR was how modern and avant garde her composition was and that she was inspired by a piece of artwork by Sol LeWitt entitled Wall Drawing 305. I love it when one form of artistic expression inspires another. It happens to me all the time.
This particular art piece is one of a series “in which LeWitt experimented with textual instructions that direct the draftsman to construct shapes on the wall. Called ‘location’ drawings, these works are done in black pencil with geometric figures emphasized in crayon, foregrounding the process of drawing as a problem-solving mechanism.” (excerpt from Mass Mo Ca website).
As to how it inspired Shaw, there’s one moment in her music piece where the lush harmonies give way to a cacophony of vocal noise, like several people talking at once.
“It’s funny, my first thought was, ‘Wow, that’s what the Internet sounds like!’ When you open your computer and everyone’s talking at you suddenly,” Shaw says. “But I was really wanting to hear the sound of jumbled talking, where you can’t understand what’s going on — and then, suddenly, one beautiful, simple chord.” (excerpt from A Moment With Pulitzer-Winning Composer Caroline Shaw.)
After hearing the interview and this description of what it sounded like, I had to hear it. I found it surprisingly beautiful and haunting. The spoken voice part blended in so well with the whole composition. Click on this link to hear Partita for 8 Voices for yourself.
So that’s my first “Inspiring Stories” post. Be sure to let me know what you think and feel free to share any inspirations you’ve had.