Friday, April 30, 2010

My Magnetic Youth

Over the weekend, my husband and I were sorting through some old things in preparation for a yard sale (Get this, we just get to take our stuff to the sale our friends are hosting--is this not the best way to yard sale or what?!)

One of the things we found was an old zip storage case full of cassette tapes. More to the point--mix tapes.

Now I am not usually one to long for the past. I love modern conveniences (to the point that I fantasize about how fabulous it would be to move to college in the age of laptops and iPods). And I still make a mean playlist. Don't believe me? Check here, here and here.

But seeing these mix tapes gave me a pang of regret. Regret for today's teenagers, who don't know the experience of sitting on the floor, surrounded by a pile of CDs, tapes, or even the radio (hey, desperate times call for desperate measures), and plotting out the perfect collection of songs to express the moment. Whether that moment was for yourself, a friend, a crush, or the love of your high school life, there was a soundtrack. And in my world, the song selections were just the beginning.

Next came the title. I poured over quote books, scoured the inner corners of my mind, chewed the end of my pen as I tried to out-clever myself.

These titles are:
Beatles for Beginners
"Rock and Roll is the Hamburger that Ate the World."
Elizabeth's Extra Tasty Crispy Yummy Tape
Adrenaline, Anyone?
It Makes My Estrogen Want to Tango*
*(note the terrorist-like use of cut out words/letters from magazines)
Beatles for the Advanced Listener
La Cantatrice Chauve
Joe's Rockin' Mix Tape o' Kick Ass Songs

And once that sweet, sweet mix was laid out and named, I took on Cover Art. My medium of choice? Stickers. Inside and out, cassette and its case.

So dedicated was I to the art of the Mix Tape, that I occasionally even made liner notes. Yes, there are more stickers.

Here was a laundry list of my thoughts about some of the selections for Beatles for the Advanced Listener. This particular mix was made for the man who would become my husband.

And I'll never show you what was inside the liner notes. A girl needs some secrets ;)

I was never, and am still not a journaler. I didn't even have one in high school. These tapes--the deliberation, the dedication, the art, and science of distilling a state of mind into two reels of magnetically coated plastic--these are my journals. Or as the Barenaked Ladies might say, "This is me in Grade 9, baby, this is me in Grade 9."

- Liz

Monday, April 26, 2010

More About Me Monday

I feel that I have been a lax blogger of late--and I've got the passive-agressive self-snipes to prove it--so I've decided to start planning my blog days a little better.

So, from now until further notice, Monday will be known as More About Me Monday. I'm hoping that writing about whatever is in my head on the first day of the week will jump start the blogging machine in my head for the week.

Today I'm giving you some random thoughts and facts.

I'm fairly certain that I ate at least three dozen cookies in the last five days. All I know is that I bought a box of 42 from Sam's Club on Wednesday, and there are now two left. Unless my husband has been at them a lot more than I thought--it's all me. Gross, but I'm strangely okay with it.

Today, sometime between 11:31 and 1:31 CDT, I'm getting a new bed delivered to my house. It's making me feel very adult. I haven't had a new bed in almost ten years, and my last one was part of my graduation from college gift. I slept on a futon in college, so it was a huge step toward adulthood at that time. But today, my very own bed that I picked out all by myself (okay, the husband was there) and some big burly delivery guys are going to bring it to my very own house and even cart away my old one. I'm going to sleep like a baby tonight. Scratch that--I'm going to sleep like the dead. Anyone who's had a baby will tell you they don't sleep that soundly.

Walgreen's made me feel old last week. Sitting at a stoplight by a store I don't frequent, I had enough time to read their scrolling LED sign. One of the items the store felt compelled to share with the public was: We process 35mm film. Which, I can only assume, means it was in question. My first camera used 110 film, and now there is a question about whether or not a national chain will process 35mm? I am not that old, am I?

I am.

Today's final thought: I'm having a series of weird tests done on Thursday (I should be a case on House M.D., but that's a story for another day), and in preparation for those tests, I have to stop taking all of my prescribed medications. I also have to stop taking any antihistamines, pain relievers and caffeine. I assume that means I shouldn't be hittin' the booze, either, though they didn't specifically say. So--of course--today, I wake up with a head ache. This is going to be a long four days. As Joanie Mitchell once said, "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"

How was your weekend? What do you think of More About Me Monday?

- Liz

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Way Back Machine

I'm currently revising an older project in the hopes of revitalizing it for agent interest. It's made the rounds once before, without much success--a fate I attribute largely to my poor query letter. This time, the letter is going to kick ass and I'm going to be more careful about which agents I go after. It can be done.

The major task of this revision is changing the timeline. Originally, it was written as a series of flashbacks laid out between present-time scenes. I thought it was a nice structural device. However, I got a very thorough critique from a very nice agent (who no longer has the time to offer such extensive readers, sadly) who told me that flashbacks are inherently weak story telling. He said there is no tension in them, because we already know the characters have lived to tell the tale.

Sidenote: The 3 year-old is in charge of the iPod right now, and he's chosen Kings of Leon. My kid is the coolest.

It's an interesting point. We see flashbacks in movies fairly often. In fact there was a movie a few years back that told its story in much the same way that my project did. It was called Definitely, Maybe. Starring the adorable Ryan Reynolds, it told the story of a man's romantic past as his daughter tried to guess which of the names-have-been-changed-to-protect-the-innocent women was her mother. Not the greatest piece of cinema ever made, but certainly passable. (did I mention Ryan Reynolds?)

There is also an entire sitcom based on this structure. How I Met Your Mother, which oddly, also features a father relaying the story of his dating youth to his (very bored) children. I happen to love this show, but not because of the structure. It's funny, and that's enough for me. Neil Patrick Harris is a bonus, 'cause, you know, sometimes he sings. And I love that.

All of that being said, the mystery agent is correct: we already know these characters have lived to tell these tales. Does that destroy the mystery, or does it just ease the tension?

As I slog through the middle of these revisions, I find myself wondering if I'm doing it all for naught. Part of the reason romance (or romantic comedy in my case) is popular is that readers know what they're going to get. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. We love it. We want it to happen that way. Do flashbacks mean we're not interested in the details? The details are the very reason we're here.

So, I am at a crossroads and I am confused. To flashback, or not to flashback? I just don't know. At this point, I intend to slog my way through to the end in chronological order, because I've started it, and I'm just stubborn enough to see it through. But will I be happy about it? That remains to be seen.

What are your feelings on flashbacks? Clever structure, or weak storytelling? Your input will mean the world to me.

- Liz

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Will Never Martha Stewart. able to throw a baseball without looking like a sissy. new blogs on a daily basis, or even three times a week.

...stop watching too much television.

...workout for fun.

...pass on a good chocolate chip cookie.

...understand football.

...enjoy potty training my son.

...think ground beef in a frying pan doesn't stink.

...want to go to work.

...stop reading Young Adult literature.

...regret my years in undergrad, even though I don't use my degrees.

...abide snakes. War & Peace.

...stop writing.

- Liz

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lessons from the Weekend

1. Julia Child was 6'2". Also, a really fascinating woman if
Julie & Julia is any indication. Great movie, and I expect to add it to my will-watch-it-anytime-it's-on list.

2. When cleaning out the toy box, I really need to get the toys out of sight before the boy starts playing with all of them again.

3. Sometimes, I wish antidepressants were available in blow dart form. I'd hit the streets loaded for bear.

4. I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever want to be in a ground war in the Pacific. Thank you, HBO for giving me another glimpse of a life I never want.

5. Butter sauce risotto ROCKS.

6. Warm weather is a rare jewel to be cherished and admired when you live in Wisconsin.

7. I need to stop slacking on my blog. (That particular lesson is one I've been learning over the last few weeks, not just the weekend.)

What did you learn?

- Liz

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Wanna Be a Sophomore

I'm a Labor & Delivery nurse in my so-called "real" life. In obstetrics, we refer to a woman who has already had babies (one or more) as a multip. They are the most desireable patients, because they know what to do, their bodies have proven themselves and things tend to go more smoothly and quickly. One of the doctors I work with used to joke that it was her life's ambition to be a multip (she is now).

In the record industry, an artist's second album is often called their sophomore album. I honestly don't know if that term is used in publishing, but it's certainly the same idea.

I want to have my first book published and be shopping a second one. I've even heard some agents say that they are harder on their slushpiles than published books. To get out of the pile and onto the shelves, you have to stand out, be amazing, wow everyone with your first page, first paragraph, first sentence. You have to have an amazing query letter, a synopsis that doesn't suck and a book that doesn't need a complete overhaul.

My first impression has to be better than a published author's second, third, or forty-eighth.

So what I want now is to be making a second impression. That's my new goal. Obviously publishing my first novel is a huge part of that process, but now I realize that getting that is a stepping stone. I want a career.

I want to be able to pitch a weird idea and have my agent and my publisher nod enthusiastically and tell me it'll sell.

Is that so much to ask?

- Liz