Friday, November 30, 2007
Backspace is this great, great place for writers. In fact, it was named one of the 101 best websites for writers from Writer's Digest. Their mission is "writers helping writers." What could be better or more karmic than that? Karen Dionne who helps run it (and who has an article on the International Thriller Writers website, "I am Not a Scientist"about what it is like to write about science without being a scientist,) is completely wonderful. She's the author of FREEZING POINT, a science thriller ala Michael Crichton about an environmental disaster in Antarctica, set in the present day (coming Oct. 2008 from Berkley.)
Backspace features blogs, book reviews, tips, tricks, contests, agents news--everything except how you can tell the difference between a molecule and a compound. They have a great newsletter (which featured my friend Clea Simon's fabulous new book Cries and Whiskers--and Clea will be guest blogging here, probably next week), lots of member news (and the roster is star-studded!)
But my big news is that from December 10-12, I'll be there as an online guest speaker. I'm going to be talking about what it's like for a writer to also be a book critic, and how each one impacts the other--and I welcome zillions of questions, comments and complaints. So please, log on, come join Backspace, and come talk to me, and ask me anything except what is the difference between a double replacement reaction and a combustion reaction or where the semi-metals are on the periodic table. (My 11 year old is taking Johns Hopkins gifted program in physical science--he's brilliant at this but my brain fumbles.)
In other news, the Writers Strike continues, and I just got my alumnae copy of Brandeis University magazine--which comes out about twice a year, and yep, they had the old pre-Writers' Strike news that I gave them six months ago--that I was writing a film. Nope, nope, nope. All on hold. Not until the strike is over, which I support absolutely and positively.
And you should, too.
Monday, November 26, 2007
And yes, they will and they are going to, in a few seconds!
I feel so less anxious.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I don’t really know beans about YA fiction, though as my son Max approaches the magic of twelve, I bet I will soon be learning. One of my friends, the novelist Rochelle Jewell Shapiro (Miriam the Medium) recently gave me a just finished draft of a fantasy adventure she’s written called Altivar, the Quest. I wasn’t sure how to read it or what to say—but within sentences, I was enthralled. How could you not fall in love with a story about a moody Prince who befriends a fool, a marauder, and (my favorite) a highly intelligent rabbit named Rowena? It’s really a book about the ties that bind families and the bonds of shared experience that create new ones.
No one showed up. No one.
My husband Jeff was there to hold my hand and offer solace, and then this whippet of a woman with long hair showed up with a box of cookies and a megawatt smile. Leora.
The Fragile Mistress strikes me the same way--and right now it's out making the rounds of publishers, agented by Tim Seldes and Jesseca Salky at Russell & Volkening, Inc. It’s a breathtaker, a deeply intelligent and darkly hypnotic novel. Adrienne’s a young woman admitted into a mental hospital in
Every writer should learn to knit. It's very Zen and it helps to figure out story problems ALMOST as well as Truby story structure, but not quite, because really, that is the gold standard, and the diamond.
Behold my shimmering black silk with tiny little sequins scarf made out of Tilli Tomas yarn. (Great name for a character, right? Didn't I tell you knitting helps novelists?) This is one of the extraordinary yummy yarns carried on Kpixie.com, a site specializing in exotic yarns. I admit it. I am in love with this site. The yarns are so delicious you want to eat them or ask them to marry you. And the staff is amazing! When I emailed in a panic about a problem I had, not only did I get a response in five minutes, but they instantly solved my problem, and they were warm, friendly and soothing. I'm devoted to the site, and a friend has already bought me yarn for Xmas! (Hint, hint, hint, yarn makes a GREAT gift for a writer. Really! What better way to wait out the Writers' Strike or think about your novel?)
Friday, November 16, 2007
The Women’s Verses by Linda Lafferty, which is just now making the rounds of publishing and is agented by Kimberly Witherspoon and David Forrer at InkWell Management, came to me first for a blurb. I didn't know Linda. I wasn’t sure I was going to read it because I don’t really read historical dramas. I don’t expect to like or even love them.
But I did.
I got twenty pages into this novel before I was intoxicated. It’s part Scherezade story and part dazzling historical drama, and truly like nothing I’ve read before. This book just tugged me into this strange, vivid and intoxicating world of the Ottoman Empire and a real life heroine, Esma Sultan, who could be the first feminist of the Islamic world. This was a woman who had her own harem –and a drowning guard to dispatch the lovers she grew tired of. A story of role reversals in the early 19th century, set against one of the most repressive eras of all, including the struggle between the Christian and the Islamic world, The Women’s Verses was so richly intelligent, and so original, that it really did what I want all the books I read to do—it kept me entranced in its world, and it made me keep thinking about Esma long after I shut the page. These characters are so intelligent, so multilayered and so alive, that reading was a kind of hypnotic enchantment. (By way of a fun fact, Linda Lafferty was tutor to the Royal Family of Spain!)
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Truby, first of all, is a bonafide genius. He also has a wonderful dry wit and the most soothing voice I have ever heard, which is just what any writer contemplating hurling her computer out the third story window and herself after it, needs to hear in order to calm right down. He ignores three act structure and instead focuses on the moral needs of the characters, and seven basic story elements (there are really 22, but the seven matter most for a novelist, I think) and slowly, patiently, and brilliantly, he shows you how to shape your story around your characters, how to find the deeper meanings that transform a good book into a great one. I had 400 pges of mess. I reoutlined it with my Truby notes and I was not just able to finish, I saw my theme shimmering up at me, I felt my characters were breathing on the pages, too. He saved my writing life.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Which means I am immersed in reading Truby story structure and thinking about my new novel and writing parts of it, which oh God, is the best kind of joy. For the first time, the ending of my latest novel came to me right after the first chapter. I had no idea how to get to it, and of course, it changed during the writing, but I wrote it in a fever and it changed the whole way I wrote the novel. This was so exciting that I forced--um, I mean, required--my UCLA students to show me their last chapters of their novel first (their whole novels or 7/8 had to be written to get into the class.) Some grumbling. Probably some people questioning my abilities. But then I got a lot of emails from people who also felt their novelistic world had opened up.
I'm a little unnerved because I can't think of a last chapter for this new novel or even a name for the novel. Traveling Angels, the name of the novel I just finished, came from this old story about two traveling angels, one of whom keeps saying, "Don't think you know the whole story, because you don't. Things are not what they seem." It also comes from Truby story structure where he talks about traveling angel stories--the stranger who comes into the midst and changes things in unexpected way, but is this stranger good or not? I was tempted to start a name Leavitt's novel contest, but I can't. It has to come from me, me, me. Sigh and alas.
I was going to post Halloween photos of us (Jeff was Allen Ginsberg wearing a Howl t-shirt, carrying ON THE ROAD, a black beret over his long curls and a fake mustache I inked on, Max was a Yankee fan, and I was a sock farm in a pink wig (I spent hours sewing on socks to my jeans and hoody.) But everytime I see myself in the pink wig, I have serious doubts about showing this face to the world again.
Tomorrow is the chocolate show in NYC! Speaking of which BLACK BOOK (chocolate plays an important part) is a fabulous video. Some inconsistencies and I wasn't wild about the framing device, but it's a movie that really explores the moral choices of its characters. The heroine is a Jewish woman during WWII who is in the resistence but falls in love with the leader of the SS--a man she is supposed to seduce to get his secrets and free a lot of people. He's not brutal--the film makes him very human, and everyone is really not whom you think they are.
See you later, alligators.
Friday, November 2, 2007
She's absolutely wonderful and so are her blogs, so I hope everyone will obsessively go there again and again and again.