Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo and Escapist Literature

My name is Julia, and I am addicted to escapist literature. I'll read far into the night, even through the night, to get to the end of a story.

Even a cluster of not exceptional YA fantasy stories, like the ones I've recently brought home from the library.

(Librarian: "You know those are from the young adult section?" Me: Blank look.)

Or maybe the stories are good, and I've just had a temporary raising of the bar for books in general, from having finished Abigail Thomas' memoir, Three Dog Life. Which is one of those books full of truth written beautifully, that often made me laugh, about loss of what we know, and loving what takes its place.

Profound, in other words.

Most of what I read isn't profound.

My mother, who worked in a bookstore for part of my childhood, brought home great boxes of books without their covers.

Some of my all time favorite books, of which I know every illustration, I wouldn't recognize on your coffee table at a distance, from never having seen the cover art.

The Changeling, by Zylpha Keatley Snyder, was one of those. I remember that this book meant something. It, too, was about loss, and... um... It's been a long time since I've read it, but I just ordered it through the library so I can share it with my daughter. I really hope it holds up.

Then there were the entire boxes of coverless Harlequin romances from that same bookstore. I read every one. I was fourteen or so. Some of them were weird (bad guy wearing a green monster costume and trying to hunt down the MC and romantic lead, MC emptying her bladder while hiding/hanging under a balcony, having conveniently forgotten to wear underwear?), and most of them were racy, what my aunts called "thigh sweaters".

I wonder if the covers would have put me off?

In Normandy, where for one summer and fall I lived on a farm, I found the WWII era stash of pulp mysteries and westerns in English. I am proud of this: I have read much the oeuvre of Zane Grey, the pulp writer mocked in The Third Man.

I'm not saying the pulp was good, but it went well with the Nutella and tea in my lonely little hut.

Books steal the night, and then there is the next day. Tired often leads to sad and crabby, which is no fun for anyone.

So why do I write escapist literature? It seems like a heck of a lot of real life work put into escaping. Maybe, if I'm around for the next few years, I might try to write something true and beautiful that makes people laugh.

But for this year, I will keep at my unambitious little fantasy novel set, coincidently, near where I read all those Zane Grey novels in France.

Do you, too, write books that might feed escapism? Do you read late into the night? How do you feel about it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What comes next?

Surgery was a month ago. Since then I have been sleeping, writing, painting (a little) and playing with my children.

Each child alone is a pleasure, although the two together are baking soda and vinegar.

I'm not saying which is which.

Finally, Laurent took smallest monkey to France, where smallest monkey will spend a whole month alone with his grandparents, because we all needed a break, including Emile.

He might even start maternelle, preschool, there, for a short while.

Everyone gets a break, but I miss him like crazy.

Starting tomorrow, I will be going to Boston every day for radiation - that's three hours round trip for 15 minutes of being turned into the Hulk. I'm doing it because they will also be giving me more chemo, and I apparently love chemo that much...

Every day is hard. It's a mixture of crabby because I might die within the next five years, and blissed out because life is so beautiful, and crying when I hug my family. It's extremely emotional.

On the lighter side, I've written 27,000 words for NaNoWriMo. Yes, that leaves me a bit behind for 50,000 words by November 30th, but I'm still pretty pleased with myself. I didn't stop at 12,000 words, for example.

Also, I'm writing a guest blog post for Katie Dunn, "The 8 Point Dystopian YA Formula." I'll let you know when it's live.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My heroes get younger as I get older. Wait...

I was first introduced to Lorde by Maggie Stiefvater, who had made a writer's playlist that included Lorde's stellar song "Tennis Court". I listened for words, and for music. It was addictive.

Then I heard "Royals", and was swept away. Using beautifully constructed pop music to talk about pop music...

I assume I am not the only ancient trying to sing the lyrics.

And I found out she'd received flack for saying that one of Selena Gomez's songs conveyed a portrait of women that Lorde, as a feminist, was a bit tired of. I'm so happy that she said this.

She's only sixteen. I hope her career continues to be beautiful.


The Day of the Dead is Laurent's and my anniversary. We haven't yet celebrated it this year. Maybe it's feeling a little too morbid.


Words are finally beginning to struggle for freedom as NaNoWriMo progresses. Alas, they are not the words in this year's novel. A happy, dull, complacent little story, I'm afraid.

Nope, what I really want to write is a long stream of nonsense that curdles sentences, and makes letters fall apart. Side effect of chemo?