SciFridays: Stories–The Bridges To Real World Experiences

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mXLju6cBDwI

“That upon which we focus our attention is what we manifest in the third dimension…

I stumbled upon this blog post over at The Struggling Writer and was so intrigued by the video that I had to share. This is an engaging keynote speech by Levar Burton that explores the idea that stories are bridges to real world experiences; that imagination is the key to the unlocking of experience.

He shares his deep love with science fiction literature, a genre that dares to ask “What if?” Science fiction literature invites us and engages us in imagining a world that we ourselves would like to see, to inhabit, to explore.

He uses his own life as an example. As a child, he read a lot of science fiction books, but it was rare for him to see people like him in those pages, any heroes of color. Of course there were exceptions, but it was not the norm, especially in the ’60s.

Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, then, was hugely influential to him, and became one of his greatest life changing moments. Because what Gene’s vision said was:

“by the virtue of Nichelle Nichols sitting on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, there was going to be a place for me in that imagined future.”

(Considering his role as Lt. Geordi LaForge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, this reality manifested for him in more ways than one.)

…the stories that we tell each other inform us of who we are, why we’re here and where we’re going.”

He also goes on to say that he likes to think that there was a child back in those days who saw Captain Kirk speak into a handheld device to communicate to his team, and eventually created one of the most ubiquitously used device in our society–the cellular phone. (Now, if that same geek can please develop a teleportation device, I would truly be grateful.)

My favorite moment is around minute 2:50, where he talks about the link between that which we imagine and that which we create. He posits:

“The stories that we tell each other and have told each other throughout the history of development of civilization are integrally important, inextricably linked with how we continue to invent the world in which we live.”

“Human beings are manifesting machines. We are that child watching episodes of Star Trek, seeing those images, using our imaginations, coming up with a piece of technology that actually serves humanity going forward. Imaginations are our continuing link into ourselves in order to make contact with ourselves that we might share the beauty of ourselves through culture with the rest of the world.”

I enjoyed that our perspectives on science fiction literature align. I mentioned in a previous post, SciFridays: The Green Float Concept that science fiction literature is an ally to innovation because it asks “What if” and lends itself to “Why not?” 

I feel the need to quote Einstein again, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

What are your thoughts? Have you had an encounter with the written word that resonated with you as strongly?

[I’m celebrating my blog’s Birthday Month! Hop over HERE to read the deets, and fill out the comment form to enter for a chance to win a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble e-gift card. Remember, any additional comments on any post this month will earn you extra entries!]

SciFridays: The Green Float Concept

Seeing real life scientists and engineers work together to create collaborative projects as the Green Float Concept (and others–see THIS ARTICLE) makes me proud to be a science fiction writer (and, proud to be a big nerd, evidently).

To me, science fiction is more than just setting, like a post apocalyptic world or a spacecraft. Don’t get me wrong, those setting are still COOL, but it’s not the main reason why I love science fiction.

When I think “science fiction,” I think of Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert…those pioneers in the genre who used their writing to create new landscapes that evolved from current political/social climes or adventure stories that explored/explained the unknowable (at least in their day).

Science fiction is an ally to innovation and progress because it explores the “what ifs?” and lends itself to the “why not?” Why not create a rocket that can break free of Earth’s gravity and land on the moon? It sounds sort of like a beta test, right? I mean, alien conspiracies aside, I wonder how motivated we would have been to explore the moon if Jules Verne had not written From the Earth to the Moon.

It all brings to mind this Einstein quote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” What an awesome gift to have, the ability to influence a whole generation with imagination and all the other possibilities (and power) inherent in creativity.

Wanderlove, by Kirsten Hubbard

 

When I was in high school, I wanted nothing more than to travel around the world and write for a living. I didn’t necessarily want to write novels or stories, per se, but a little literary non fiction would be cool. (I really enjoyed Joan Didion’s work back in the day. Still do.)

Of course, this was still when I didn’t *quite* understand the value of money. I mean, I knew travel involved money, but my plan was basically to magically appear on distant shores with nothing but my backpack, which was filled with moleskine notebooks and pens. You know, the priorities. And, of course, a towel*.

Anyway, I always envisioned myself with well worn travel clothes, even wearing a. lot. of linen in my teenaged years, because, you know, linen wears really well and is made to look wrinkly. (No ironing, score!)

Well, fast forward *blank* years, and clearly I’m not a travel writer. I don’t have a book of short stories based loosely on my travels entitled Wanderlust. I don’t have a blog that chronicles my every move, sustaining a living from the kindness of strangers whom I meet in exotic locations. (The name of that imagined blog being, you guessed it,” Wanderlust.”) As you see on my bio, I’m currently very landlocked as a retail store manager in the middle of America. Far from glamorous or exciting. But my wanderlust simmers still, relegated to the back burner of my life, briefly satisfied with a road trip or vacation here and there. Adequate for now, but nowhere close to what I truly want to experience.

Enter Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. (I said HERE that you needed to mark your calendars for this book’s release, but as a public service, here I am to remind you all!)

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

This book…this book captured the very essence of that need. That unnameable thing that I’ve wanted to find, if it could ever be found. The spirit of charting your path and following the road less traveled. Basically, when I read it, it was like I was reading about my life.

And this passage from Bria’s point of view was so. dead. accurate. of what I envisioned for myself when I was her age, it’s uncanny:

I could picture it already.

I would glide from ruin to ruin along La Ruta Maya, in a caravan of beautiful, happy people, and I’d be the mysterious one, gracious and profound. Butterflies would float down from the jungle canopy and alight on my bronzed skin. I would wear silver necklaces and ankle-length skirts that shifted in the breeze.

Sigh. Kirsten Hubbard captures the young adult voice really really well.

I remembered an important lesson that I kind of forgot along the way. I was too focused on what I wasn’t doing or what I could be doing better and how those things proved that I wasn’t good enough to be a fill-in-the-blank. I had to remember that I AM ENOUGH. No rules, no comparisons. Just me.That against all odds, I need to finish my work, and remember my love for writing. It wasn’t about being good enough or what other people will think of my work. I just needed to remember that I loved the feeling, the satisfaction that I get from writing. That feeling of creating stories just for me…is just as fulfilling and unnameable and a truth-self-evident as the wanderlust inside me. That thought was and is enough.

And I clung to that thought, and it inspired me to revisit WIP2 again. I’m grateful, because now I’m so close to finishing my draft, woohoo!

I read this book as an e-galley, and I SO wished I had the physical version of this book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still grateful that I got to read it when I did (especially since I’m thisclose to The End of WIP2), but since Bria is an art student, we get to see a lot of fun illustrations (drawn by the author herself!) sprinkled throughout the book that I really wanted to see on paper. Speaking of which…

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

Congratulations, Laura! You shall be experiencing the Wanderlove pretty soon!

Anyway, I hope you get the chance to read this book, and I hope you become inspired to follow your passion, no matter how hard the journey, and no matter where your journey will take you.

*”Traveling with a towel” is a reference to Douglas Adams’s cult favorite, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 😀

EDIT: Wanderlove will be available for purchase, Tuesday, March 13! Feel free to pre-order through your usual bookish channels! ^_^

Just a Friendly Reminder

I’ve had a pretty productive novel writing week, thanks to a combination of dedicated twitter #accountibilibuddies (hi Laura and DB!), a change of venue, and above all, a mindset of finishing what I start, no matter what the result may be.

The actual work I’m producing is really kind of boring and the dialogue is way stilted, but what I’m learning about my writing process far outweighs the embarrassment of reading my cringetastic writing. And, as a bonus, I’m so proud of reaching my daily page goals, that the feeling of success just motivates me to continue working on my novel some more.

Anyway, here are some lovely inspirational quotes so you can understand what mindset I was in.

 

I’ll eventually get the hang of balancing novel writing time and blogging time, but at least you understand why my posts have been pretty random lately!

Happy goal setting and achieving!

All Thinking and No Typing Makes Me Not A Writer

I had a blog post written for this week. Several actually. They’re still waiting to be re-read and polished into something coherent in Microsoft Word. But, somehow, I couldn’t muster up the will to actually re-read anything that I’ve written, let alone, clean up a draft. Lately, I’ve just been in the mood to type type type all the random (and not so random) little things that flit through my mind, and though I know this is my blog, and I can post whatever I want on it, I respect the general blogosphere enough not to throw out word vomit just for the heck of it. Believe me, no one needs to see what my unfiltered, newly awake, pre-coffee mind is capable of. (No, it’s not anything negative or controversial. I just don’t want anyone to question that English is my native language.)

Unfortunately, my type type type disease hasn’t translated to my WIP2 very well. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite. I will re-read and tinker with the bits that I’ve already written, and yet d.r.a.g. my metaphorical feet to get to the next step in the action. It’s not procrastination. Not really. Nor is it a “what happens next?” thing. I think honestly, I over analyzed the story, and now I’m too bored (for lack of a better word) to continue.

I like my story. I know I do. But, I think that I’ve spent a little too much time thinking about The Story and writing about it via plotting methods of all sorts that I’ve lost touch with my MC, who, I admit, is the main reason why I like my story in the first place. After all this time, MC started to feel like, well, a character and not a real person. Well, I know MC isn’t real, but I started to think of the story as scenes that would lead to other scenes, and things that MC would need to do to get to those scenes, etc, that I lost sight of my recently learned lesson: story comes from the choices that the MC makes.

Random Interjection By My Brain Elves

Thinking about cardboard characters kind of reminds me of the flannelgraph stories I used to sit through during Sunday school.

The teacher would change the main elements of the story on a flannel board as she told the story. So, I would sit there, listening to her words, and yet, mostly stare at a static scene. Sure, sometimes she’d wiggle the characters if they were supposedly walking across the room, or a desert, but ultimately, the characters were lifeless, and no amount of moving by the teacher convinced me of the actions they were supposed to convey from the story. (Story time is definitely best served with an animated voice fueling a listener’s imagination, no visuals necessary. My two cents.)

Anyway, that’s how I’ve started to feel with WIP2. That I’m just pushing this cutout of MC around varying backdrops, which all amounts to a big, fat “So what?”

/End interjection.

Looking back, I can see where I’ve tripped myself up. I probably should have kept working on it privately first, before letting alpha readers give me initial feedback. After all, the Almighty Stephen King proclaimed that writers should write first with the door closed. That first drafts were a time for exploring and uncovering the story; a time to wallow in back story, adverbs, and tense shifts (oh my!). First drafts are supposed to be a free-for-all creative time, without that nagging feeling of “I hope they like this” poking at me.

And, for me, the “door closed” would also apply to reading anything to do with the publishing industry at all. It’s too discouraging to see books being sold and/or released that are too similar in concept to anything I’m working on. I know, I know, I’m supposed to read a lot and research widely, etc, and I do, believe me. But, I shouldn’t during the “door closed” phase. I know this about myself now, and I won’t waste time trying to convince myself that many books with similar concepts are published all the time, blahblahblah. It’s easier just to avoid news of that sort all together. Besides, there are plenty of non-adventure, non-science-fiction books out there to satisfy my reading addiction. (Sidenote: currently reading Kirsten Hubbard’s Wanderlove. LOVE IT. It releases March 2012. Mark your calendars!)

Another thing that I must must must remember: even though I enjoy planning and organizing my day, week, month, year, and have been encouraged to do so in my pay the bills job with extremely positive results (no surprise, running a business requires thoughtful planning and preparing for the unexpected), when it comes to writing a novel, pre-planning just doesn’t work for me. It’s hard for an uberplanner like me to admit that, but it’s scarily true. I hit my stride with my story when I just wrote it all out, no outlines or anything. I was always able to push through a “writer’s block” by thoughtfully considering next steps, and then writing them out. But, thoughtful consideration should not equate to plotting out my novel scene by scene. My muses, aka the above-mentioned brain elves, simply don’t work that way, and I have to accept that. I need to stop trying so hard to conform to a random ideal of how I should work, and instead, embrace the process that works for me. Because, this trend of barely writing a (ridiculous, word vomit-y) page during each writing session is getting really tiresome, and it’s not moving me toward my goal.

One highlight in all this self-reflection is that I re-discovered my original author role model, Dean Koontz, whose writing process and mindset resonates with me greatly. He shared this on his website:

On good days, I might wind up with five or six pages of finished work; on bad days, a third of a page. Even five or six is not a high rate of production for a 10- or 11-hour day, but there are more good days than bad. And the secret is doing it day after day, committing to it and avoiding distractions.

Because I don’t do a quick first draft and then revise it, I have plenty of time to let the subconscious work; therefore, I am led to surprise after surprise that enriches story and deepens character. I have a low boredom threshold, and in part I suspect I fell into this method of working in order to keep myself mystified about the direction of the piece–and therefore entertained.

The part I truly loved reading (apart from his tireless work ethic) is the idea of a low-boredom threshold, and keeping himself entertained by being mystified about the direction his story is going. Knowing that, was an A-HA! moment for me. I realized that I stopped looking forward to working on my story because I took away the fun factor, that motivation to keep working on it.

To that end, I have reverted to earlier versions of WIP2, and have reacquainted myself with that MC and storyline to recapture that sense of mystery again.

Road Trip Wednesday #100: Your Writing Journey

I haven’t participated in YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesdays before, but since I’m a sucker for milestones and round numbers, I felt like this Road Trip Wednesday was made for me. 😀

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs.

This week’s topic:

What has your writing road trip looked like so far? Excitement? Traffic jams and detours?

Where are you going next?

My blog is sort of an answer to this question, since I keep it as an accountability tool for myself. Ever since my first posts, (“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” “Prioritizing My Life” and “Music, Fitness, and My Muse“) (I just noticed they were posted on Star Wars Day, May 4, 2010…yes I’m a BIG nerd!), I have been focused on making the most of the time I have, and have challenged myself to finish a novel in a year.

After my declaration to pursue novel writing seriously, I have fumbled my way through my writing process, eventually participating in NaNoWriMo, and winning! My novel wasn’t complete at 50,000 words, but I eventually reached The End in December.

The satisfaction of reaching The End didn’t last since I knew my story was a Hot Mess. After a break in January, I tried to get back into the story and revise it. During that time, another story (Scrap Metal, aka WIP2) begged to be written. After scribbling down the first two chapters on post its and index cards at my pay the bills job, I dutifully ignored The Shiny so I could make my Hot Mess less messy.

I attended my very first writer conference, SCBWI. Though I enjoyed the experience of hearing from industry professionals, by far the best result from that conference was meeting local writers. (I’ve enjoyed many a business lunch with them since that conference. :D)

Then, I went to a John Green reading, and that was the aha moment that “gave me permission” to let go of my Hot Mess (for now) and start drafting WIP2.

With WIP2, I’ve learned the value of slowing down and delving into my scenes (“Stuck” “Stuck, Redux“), and that I can balance plotting and pantsing to design a story worth reading. (I’m still learning the rhythm that works best for me).

I’m currently in the Plotting portion to develop the Act 2 of WIP2. I participated in ROW 80 to keep me on track. My goal is to have a rough draft finished this month, and have a prettier draft by the end of this year.

I know that I have so much to learn about my process, but the best thing is knowing that when I’m creating stories, I am truly happy. All throughout my life, schooling, jobs, relationships, etc, everything seemed to come easily for me. I’m grateful for that, but when I look back at my life, the road seems kind of fuzzy; like, it’s all been one big dream. And then, I come to the point in my path when I committed to finishing a novel. The path from that point on sticks out in high relief. With that decision, I became aware. When I decided to follow my dream of writing stories, I awakened to the rest of my life.

I know I talk about writing in almost transcendent terms, but honestly, I don’t know how else to describe it other than an epiphany. A mindset altering, life changing decision. With writing, I have found my purpose in life. How can I treat it as less than a spiritual awakening?

*I couldn’t have gotten this far without my writing partners, alpha/beta readers, and cheerleaders. They keep me refreshed and motivated to keep pursuing my dream, and for that reason I’m ever so grateful for social media for helping me find my writing circle.

So, what has your writing road trip looked like so far? Where are you going next?

Blog Titles and Other Thoughts

Dandelion clock

Random picture. We can pretend it means that time is ephemeral and fleeting, like dandelion fluff held aloft in the breeze. But really, I just thought it looked cool.

Do you ever wonder what meaning or story a blog title may have? Most titles I guess are straightforward, like “So and So Writes!” or “Books Books Books!” or “How To ___.” But, there are those other ones (you know what I mean, I’m sure) that are either titled or domain-named (can that be a verb?) kinda randomly. Or, am I the only one that wonders about these things? Like I’m reaching to find a story where none really exists.

At any rate, I started thinking about bloggery things, and inevitably, blog titles/names since I chatted with a group of lovely writer friends last night about blogs.*

Previously, my blog title was simply, “Reading Makes Me Happy.” (In fact, some wordpress correspondence still shows up that way, which kinda throws me.) Obviously, I love books, I love reading, so BAM! Easy title! (My focus quote was: “I read to find a ladder to heaven.” W. Strieber.)

Well, sometime last year I had an epiphany, and I won’t go into details about it here (feel free to click on that link, though :)), but I realized that my unacknowledged dreams of writing a book and being a published author was in fact attainable, and it was only seemingly unattainable because I made it so. I did nothing to get me toward writing a novel, so why was I surprised that “gasp! I didn’t have a written novel, and I never will, and this will never happen for me.” *wonk, wonk*

All I needed to do was break down my dream (published author) into a more manageable goal (write novels), and break down the action steps to get me to that goal (develop and hone my writing skills, find a feedback/support group, read a lot, etc). With a paythebills job (sometimes, two!), balancing my goals was sometimes tricky, but I never let the “I have no TIME!” be an excuse for me to fall back on. (I have the same 24-hours that Edison, Einstein, and all those guys had! Surely I can “find the time” to write a book!)

“Find solutions, not excuses” is a mantra I embrace, and I’m also someone who responds well to accountability exercises and goal setting. (It’s the Achiever in me.) I wanted to make the most of the time that I have been given, and not just impulsively do things in the moment. I wanted to really create value in the now that I have. Thus the title, “Redeeming the Time.” (Also, it sounds pretty.) 🙂

“Redeeming the time” reminds me to focus on the things that I do control, like working on the craft of novel writing, so that I can eventually see my dream realized. It also reminds me to simplify and let go of those things that distract me from my goals. Sometimes it’s tough, but I don’t count it as a sacrifice. At this point, I find I feel freer because I’m not owned by other time-wasters. I have more ownership and control of my time, and guard that time zealously.

With all that said, I really want to incorporate reading back into my writing schedule, and even though I’ve said that I don’t really do book reviews, I at least want to put a few in rotation. (I plan on posting a book review page soon). Now, the reviews won’t be as fancy or engaging as most out there, but like this blog, it’s mainly just to keep me accountable to reading all the beautiful stories that find themselves in my mailbox or inbox. If my love for a book inspires someone to go out and read it, well, I’ll look at it as a bonus!

Plus, it’s a shame to get ARCs or egalleys and not give at least a little pre-release blurb about the book. Heck, even sharing a “new to me” title would be delightful. Great stories are meant to be shared and loved. The writers who wrote those stories should know that their sweat, tears, and sleepless nights have created worlds for readers to live in.

For a little while, both the reader and writer share the same dreamspace, and that is an experience worth cultivating.

So Tell Me: Any story behind your blog title? Do you like or care when someone blogs (non-spoiler-y) book reviews?

*The other friends I chatted with were: