Salon Saturday: Kill the TV (or at least maim it)

“You have to give away your TV, you have to read out loud two hours a day minimum. You have to walk in the hills alone and always carry a notebook.” – Kate Braverman

These are Braverman’s words of advice for would-be writers. Now, I don’t think I will be giving away our TV but something must change. It’s a love/hate thing we have going on, more hate than love, lately. I hate all the time I waste. I hate how cranky and lethargic I feel after over-indulging. I hesitate to use the word “addict” because I don’t want to equate TV watching with drugs or alcohol which do real harm. But there is something incredibly seductive about TV. It is so available. One click and you are immersed in another world of supposed “reality” or fantasy or sports. You can pretty much pick your poison. It’s an escape. Escape from what, though? Life?

A quick Google search and it is apparent that I am not the only person who struggles with this. Giving up TV yields pages and pages of links to people struggling with the exact same issue. As an artist, I find it especially insidious. I use it to avoid my writing. Clichéd characters and storylines run deep grooves in my subconscious, filtering into my own writing once I pull myself away from the idiot box long enough to write. Just as writing begets writing, watching TV begets watching TV.

In the last six months i have visited my sister out in Colorado twice, for ten days each time. They do not have a TV. And while I am there I find myself reveling in the silence. The silence around me and in my head. It is soothing. Like a sorbet for the spirit. For the imagination. I find myself dreading coming home, back to the lure of all my “favorite” shows. Half the time I complain about those exact shows, so why watch them? Habit, mostly. And habits are made to be broken, especially  habits that appear to be breaking me.

I am not unrealistic. I don’t plan on going cold turkey. But I do have a plan:

1. No more reruns. Seriously, if I can recite the next line before it is said, that is just wrong. So I am going to reset the DVR so it tapes only first run shows.

2. I am going to cancel any series I have set to record. That way I have to remember to set it each week and I imagine that’ll get pretty old, pretty fast.

3. Habits are hard to break and currently my habit is to have breakfast with Jon Stewart. Instead of taping it at 11 pm, I can watch the replay of it the next afternoon while I eat lunch, after I get my writing done for the day.

By implementing those three things, I think that’ll slash my viewing time by more than half. We’ll see. It is 6:36 pm and I have not watched one show today. I’ll report on this experiment next week.

How about you? Is TV your Achilles heel or is it something else? What habit do you hide behind? What keeps you from being your best Self? Please share your experience in the comments section.



Salon Saturday- YA Novels

Thanks to Nova Ren Suma, I am immersing myself in YA novels this week. After reading her post, I went to the library with a list of titles she had mentioned and came home with this:

You should know that I write adult fiction. It never occurred to me to write anything else. When I was at a writing workshop and a classmate asked if I had ever considered writing YA, the answer was no, even though many of my responses to the writing prompts featured, well, young adults. Even now, my novel-in-stories, follows a girl from age eight into adulthood. After being carried away by Laura Kasischke’s “Feathered” I am beginning to suspect that I may have some YA novels lurking in the shadows, waiting for me to finally acknowledge them.

So, the topic for this week’s Salon is two-fold:

1. Did you naturally gravitate toward a particular genre/age group or do you write for more than one?

2. What makes a novel adult vs. YA? It can’t just be the sage of the protagonist. Janet Fitch and Curtis Sittendfeld have both written about teenage girls but they are not considered YA.

Please leave comments below or a link to your own blog where you muse on this particular topic.

She Writes Blogger Ball Redux

Welcome once again She Writers! Another lovely weekend of blog hopping commences.

A little about me: (thanks for the idea Kelly)

1. I write fiction (mostly). Currently I am working on a collection of short stories, a novel-in-stories, and a novel.

2. I think I have some YA novels lurking inside me. That voice seems to come naturally to me. I think it’s because I feel emotionally stuck at age 14 much of the time:)

3. I am a writer who hates to type. 99% of the time I will type “teh” instead of “the” and “adn” instead of “and.”

4. I am obsessed with post-apocalyptic fiction.

5. I love going to the movies by myself in the middle of the day.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful writers through She Writes and my blog. Thank you for stopping by and be sure to check out Salon Saturday and join in the discussion though I am not even sure what tomorrow’s topic will be yet. I’m sure something will come to me.

Click below to check out what other She Writers are saying:

Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!


Books Read in February

“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.

Unless you live under a rock, odds are you have heard of this book and its author. She’s been on everything from morning talk shows to The Colbert Report and is stirring up quite a controversy. It reminds me of the same kind of controversy that Ayelet Waldman stirred up when she wrote about her guilt at failing to replace her husband with children as the center of her passionate universe. She was branded a “bad mother” and ripped to shreds by smug, judgmental moms who, in my opinion, weren’t getting any, on Oprah. Now, “bad mother” is the worst insult we hurl at each other and ourselves. So, when moms read Chua’s memoir (and that’s what it is, not a how-to-parent tome) it would be easy to sit back and read her story through very judgey eyes but then you would miss the beauty of her story. She is not recommending the “Chinese Mother” way.   She is unraveling it. Carefully dissecting it. She is turning a very humble eye back on herself and the way she has chosen to raise her two daughters. It is an unflinching as well as compassionate eye. She acknowledges the benefits (of which there are many) of her way, as well as the dark spots (of which there are many). I highly recommend this book and when you read it, read with compassion for both Chua and yourself.

What I learned: They key to an amazaing memoir is the ability to look at yourself and the people in your life with an unflinching yet compassioante eye.

“More of This World or Maybe Another” stories by Barb Johnson

Delia has to walk past A.J. Higginbotham and his crowd to get to the gym, which is where the dance is.

We first encounter Delia in high school and these stories follow her, as well as others, throughout their lives. Complex, touching characters appear and reappear in these interconnected stories set in New Orleans. I am intrigued by the writer as much as the stories. Johnson was a carpenter in New Orleans for twenty years before receiving her MFA. It’s inspiring. She won the Glimmer train award for New Writers and is the fifth recipient of AROHO’s $50,00 Gift of Freedom.

What I learned: That an exquisite story is created by a writer with an exquisite eye for the beauty and flaws in her characters and the ability to follow them as they navigate the choppy waters of their lives.

“The Book Thief” a YA novel by Mark Zusak

First the colors.

Then the humans.

That’s usually how I see things.

Or at least, how I try.

The “I” is Death, who is narrating the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl living in Nazi Germany during the holocaust with a foster family. She steals her first book at the grave of her younger brother. Her accordian-playing foster father teaches her to read with what is only the first book she will steal in her life. This is one of the best books I have ever read and if you have followed this blog at all, you know that is saying alot. It is not just about a young girl and books or the Holocaust. Like all great books it is about that and so much more. In this case it is also about the beauty and horror of language, of stories. The power and fragility of the human spirit.

What I learned: To be bold in the choice of a narrator. And to not be afraid to include artwork within the prose.

“The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin

I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations.

I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed whenever people perused my bookshelves and saw the many self-help titles that resided there. I started hiding them in the back row, so they weren’t visible. I think I was afraid of being perceived as frivolous or ungrateful. After all, my life was lovely. What was I trying to improve? Like, Rubin, I have much to be happy about. But there is this scrim of dissatisfaction. This feeling that I am not living my fullest, most passionate life.  Unlike Rubin, I have not taken such concrete steps to address this dissatisfaction. After reading “The Happiness Project” I am tempted to embark on my own. Most of us can not tour three different countries in a year as a remedy to our unhappiness but we can learn to be happier within the context of our daily lives.

What I learned: Happiness is created out of choices. Choices made every moment of every day. (excluding depression.)

“The Life You’ve Imagined” a novel by Kristina Riggle

The taxicab exhaust curls around me like a fist.

Four friends from high school find themselves back in their hometown for various reasons. Each chapter alternates between the POV  of the four women. Anna is an attorney in Chicago who returns to her Michigan hometown after the death of a close friend and mentor. Her mother, Maeve, has never left their town, still yearning for the husband that abandoned her and her daughter, Anna. Cami, Anna’s best friend from high school, has moved back in with her alcoholic father, determined to uncover a family secret. Amy is on the verge of having the life she imagined and marrying the man of her dreams but  is haunted by who she used to be.

What I learned: Alternating points of view can create a rich tapestry for a novel.

“No One Would Listen – A True Financial Thriller” by Harry Markoplpos

On the morning of December 11, 2008, a New york real estate developer on a JetBlue flight from New york to Los Angeles was watching CNBC on the small seat-back television. A crawl across the bottom of the screen reported that Bernard Madoff, a legendary Wall Street figure and the former chairman of NASDAQ had been arrested for running the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

“Thriller’ is not an exaggeration. Even knowing the outcome, I couldn’t put the book down. I was equally fascinated, disgusted, intrigued and horrified. I have always loved behind the scene stories and this takes you way behind the scenes of the pursuit of the greatest (worst?) financial criminal, in history.

What I learned: 1. Truth is definitely stranger than fiction. 2. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. 3. That Ponzi scheme refers to an actual person, Charles Ponzi. 4. It always comes back to money.

“A Widow’s Story” a memoir by Joyce Carol Oates

February 15, 2008. Returning to our car that has been haphazardly parked–by me–on a narrow side street near the Princeton Medical Center–I see, thrust beneath a windshield wiper, what appears to be a sheet of stiff paper.

I found myself reading this memoir through three distinct prisms, which left me both dazed and a little disoriented. First, I am a reader, reading a memoir of a tragic time in the life of a writer who I have long read and admired. Her ability to ride the intense moment-to-moment thoughts that most of us left go unobserved, brings us close-up to her grief. Second, I read this as the sister of a widow. My brother-in-law died almost nine years ago  leaving my sister widowed at the absurdly young age of thirty-four with an eighteen-month-old daughter to raise. I was literally at her side her for the first three weeks and I found myself reliving some of the most intense moments as well as wondering if she had felt and thought the same feelings and thoughts as Oates had. Third, I read it, almost with one eye closed, as if I were a widow-in-waiting. What would I do if I got that same middle of the night call. If I got to the hospital moments too late? On and on, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would handle it. And I can only write “it”. Even writing the words, “death of my husband” sends a chill through me. If you’ve lost someone close to you I imagine (and at this point in my life I am lucky enough to only be able to imagine) this could bring you comfort, if only the comfort of knowing you are not alone.

What I learned: 1. She considers herself Joyce Smith and Joyce Carol Oates is merely a persona. 2. It takes tremendous courage to look unflinchingly at your own devastating loss and grief, to write of it and share it with the world. 3. Even an amazingly talented adn prolific writer has that voice of doubt eating away at her.

“Some Girls Are” a YA novel by Courtney Summers

Everyone is wasted.

I couldn’t put this book down. I picked it up to “start” reading before I went to bed and ended up staying awake until almost one in the morning to finish it. Summers reminds me of this generation’s Judy Blume. She infiltrates their lives and reveals their secrets. As a mother, it was disturbing, as a writer, I found it admirable.

What I learned: A strong voice really lets you ride the wave of the story.

“Shadow Tag” a novel by Louise Erdrich

I have two diaries now.

Irene keeps her real diary in a lock box at the bank. The other is written for her husband, knowing he will read it. Written in alternating chapters between the two diaries as well as an omniscient voice, this novel exposes the dark underbelly of a marriage and a family on the brink..

What I learned: It is possible to write characters  with deep, deep flaws without alienating the reader.