Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Do YOU Like to Write?

Today, one of my professors asked if I had considered taking the Short Fiction creative writing course next Fall. Another professor was teaching it, she said, but it would be a good idea and I would probably like it.

My response: meh. First of all, the short story form and I are not the best of friends. Arguably, that's all the more reason for me to take the course -- but I also happened to know that the professor teaching it does not like "genre fiction." He'll read it, critique it, even let someone do a project on it, but he Does Not Approve.

Most of my short stories are horror, some sci-fi, a couple variations on fairy tales, humor, straight-up adventure or survival, and the occasional abandoned attempt at something literary. While I believe that genre fiction holds itself to the same technical and, yes, literary standards as literary fiction, the general opinion in academia disagrees with me. This isn't the only professor I know who dislikes genre fiction -- compared to some others I've talked to, his stance is pretty mild. But still -- I don't want to take a class where the professor's attitudes might discourage me from writing about whatever the fuck I want.

"Whatever the fuck I want" is a pretty large category. About 85% of it is occupied by fantasy in some form or another.* Then there's the 5% horror and death category. Humor, parody, etc. gets a 6%. 1% each goes to romance, science fiction, historical, and "other."

I could probably entertain you with tentative titles and descriptions of project ideas -- like the space pirate idea or the quest-for-a-magical-amulet-that-doesn't-actually-do-anything-in-the-end idea -- but I'd much rather hear from you. What do you like to write about? What's your favorite thing you've ever written? Do you have a favorite genre, or is anything up for grabs? And would you take a class with a professor who might devalue what you write because he doesn't think it's "serious"?


*I just like magic. Don't judge me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

21 Minus Blogfest Teaser!

As you already know, I'm participating in the March blog tour 21 Minus, which showcases writers and bloggers who can't legally drink. (Sorry. Mardi Gras is making me resent my age.) I don't want to tell you everything, but there will be anonymous interviews and a sort of treasure hunt where readers try to figure out who asked and answered what. Fabulous tour hostess Anna Waggener will be giving away a copy of her soon-to-be-released novel Grim to the winner. But that's not the only giveaway -- I know for a fact that one of the other prizes will be donated by me, and it will be...

...a bag of coffee. Coffee and writers and college students kind of go together, don't you think? ;)

If a free bag of coffee doesn't get you excited for this blog tour, I don't know what will.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's the Worst Thing You've Done as a Writer?

Heh. This should be interesting...

What's the worst thing you've done, had to do, or had happen to you as a writer? Did you kill off a favorite character? Did you delete your unfinished novel in a fit of despair -- or worse, did you delete it by accident? Were you laid off from your writing job? Did you get really drunk one night and write an orgy scene in the middle of your children's novel? Violate Godwin's Law when raging at the publishing industry? Offend someone critical to your career or cite incorrect facts? Yell "FIRE" in a crowded library just to get some peace and quiet? Make horrendous grammar mistakes, misspell your own name in a query letter, or make a really embarrassing typo involving the name "Denis"?

Tell me. I want to hear your horror stories...and I don't mean the Stephen King kind. Although if your Worst Thing I've Done as a Writer story involves Stephen King, by all means, please tell.

Now it's my turn. *evil laugh*

The meanest thing I've done as a writer was create a character, present him in such a way as to be a fangirl heartthrob, let my mom and a good friend read up to a certain point and develop fictional-character-crushes on him -- and then reveal with glee that he dies in the end. I don't think they've forgiven me yet.

The worst thing that's ever happened to me as a writer was getting laid off my freelance writing job, along with a ton of other writers who used to write for the same web magazine. It was an issue with Panda, pageviews, and how many writers they could afford to pay. They basically stripped down their staff to the editors and their content to a few core areas, eliminating everything and everyone else. I don't resent them -- it was probably necessary to stay afloat -- but it came at a really bad time, when I really needed a job. I ended up having to lie that I still had that job in order not to be kicked out of my house.

The worst thing I've done as a writer was get a professional critique. That's $40 and a lot of self-esteem I'm never getting back. Don't get me wrong -- the critique of my query was extremely helpful. I just threw it in because the package called for it, and ended up scrapping the query and starting over based on his advice. However, when it came to the critique of my first ten pages, it's clear in retrospect that they were not a writer of the genre and probably not the best person to get feedback from. They didn't like my voice, and the closing thoughts were degrading and unconstructive. At the time, I took this critique very much to heart -- they were a professional, after all. I can say now that it really hampered my ability to sit down and just write, because I became so worried about judgment and whether I was "following the rules." I still struggle with this.

Your turn!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Quick Note on Whitney Houston, Drugs, Etc.

It amazes me how preachy people can be about the shit that happens in other people's lives.

Especially in regard to celebrities. It seems that celebrities are either upheld as icons or vilified. I know that when you are a public figure, much of your life becomes open for scrutiny -- but still. What we tend to forget is that these people aren't angels or demons. They might be famous, but they're still just people.

On that note, I think taking a moment to talk about Whitney Houston is in order. In particular, the attitude I've been seeing around the Internet that she doesn't deserve to be mourned because of the problems in her life. For example, on Twitter:

"I think it's more tragic when someone who isn't famous for going to rehab dies"
"I find it more tragic when someone who is not a washed-up drug addict who has pissed away their talent and career dies young. #justsayin"

My response: until you've been there yourself, you have absolutely no right to judge the people who have. Drug addiction is hard, whether you're a famous singer or an ordinary person. "A washed-up drug addict who has pissed away their talent and career"? Why such hatred? A better response would be compassion, sympathy, support -- whether the drug addict in question is famous or not. This "anti-Whitney Houston" attitude is disturbing in that it shows disdain and contempt not just for her, but for all people who have been in her situation.

This reminds me of a post I wrote a while back in reaction to the death of Amy Winehouse. I only occasionally listen to her music and probably wouldn't have written a post on it, but I was shocked to see her mother quoted as saying, "It was only a matter of time." Even disregarding that, the general attitude at the time seemed to be that she deserved it.

For crying out loud, people, have some compassion. It could happen to you. It has probably happened or will happen to someone you know. So don't pretend you're a saint; no one will believe you. Anyway, a saint would care. A saint would have compassion.

We are all human. We all fuck up -- some worse than others. But just because you have a steady job and an apartment doesn't give you the right to spit on the homeless guy as you walk past him on the sidewalk. You don't know how he got there. You don't know what he's feeling. And even if you did? What if you knew the exact circumstances that led to the utter ruin of his life? Even then, it's not your place to judge.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Your Comments Are Important

Every time Laura goes to check her blog and sees no new comments, this happens:

Sad face. :(
I don't have that large of a following, but I like to think you guys read my posts every so often. However, pageview counts don't tell me what you're thinking. Comments, on the other hand, do! I assure you, my eagerness to read your comments is not born from a narcissistic need to see my opinions and thoughts affirmed by random people on the Internet. I really value your comments because...

- you do things like correct my grammar/spelling/facts when I have a brain derp
- you give alternate opinions and perspective
- you share your own experiences
- you give feedback
- you click the little "subscribe by email" link to get follow-up comments, and respond to what others are saying
- you leave links to your own blogs/profiles
- ...which lead me and other commenters to your own blogs, there to read and leave comments and maybe become members and consistent readers. So you see, commenting helps everyone!

Mainly, comments turn this from Laura yammering to herself into something that resembles a dialogue. And dialogue is great. Dialogue is fun. Dialogue is, in my opinion, the whole point of social media. Even if you're out to sell a product, you'd better engage potential customers in some kind of dialogue, or you're just another spambot tweeting links into cyberspace.

Notice, I'm not trying to sell you anything. I blog about my wips a lot, but I don't have a finished book. The purpose of me blogging about writing, reading, and whatever comes to mind is to engage in a dialogue with interested people. I genuinely want to hear your thoughts and opinions. I see no comments = I think I'm doing something wrong. As a blogger, I constantly wonder if I'm writing new and interesting content (or if I'm just being boring), and what you think about it.

I know you're busy and I know my posts occasionally get a little long (like last week's YA Friday, which definitely needs some comment love) -- but even if it's just a "this was great!" or a "this sucked!" it will probably make my day. (Yep. I'm that bored.) Remember: Laura loves opinions. All opinions. She also loves talking about herself in the third person. 

Ultimate irony: this post will get no comments.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

YA Friday: Some Good YA Scifi

I could be wrong, but it struck me recently that scifi is underrepresented in YA lit. I could rattle off lists of romance, contemporary, paranormal in every shape and size, fantasy, horror, and other genres and sub-genres. But I don't think there has been a really popular YA scifi book out for a while now. I don't count The Hunger Games. Dystopian novels are "in" right now, but dystopia isn't scifi -- it's its own thing.

I happen to enjoy a good scifi novel. So this Friday, I thought I'd do a short list of YA science fiction novels that I or my friends have read and enjoyed. Please feel free to comment on them or add your own!

The Pendragon series (Merchant of Death, The Lost City of Faar, The Never War, The Reality Bug, Black Water, The Rivers of Zadaa, The Quillan Games, The Pilgrims of Rayne, Raven Rise, The Soldiers of Halla) by D.J. MacHale

Pendragon is a ten-book series about Bobby Pendragon, a kid whose uncle is a Traveller -- someone who can travel to different territories, or worlds, through wormholes. Uncle Press drags Bobby away from a basketball game to become a Traveller, and he reluctantly embarks on the quest to save the world. Or rather, worlds.

I liked these books because of the imagination that goes into the territories, each of which are vividly drawn. My favorite character is from a territory completely covered by water. The Never War is set in 1930's Earth. The Quillan Games is the original Hunger Games. And then there are all the great female characters, which make feminist me very happy. The villain, Saint Dane (Saint? Really? I don't think they ever explain why he's called Saint) is also lovely. In an evil way. :)

Heir Apparent
This is a fun romp through a virtual reality fantasy universe. Giannine uses her birthday gift card to Rasmussen Gaming Center, an RPG company, on the day angry parents are protesting the corruption of children. Said angry mob later breaks in and damages the equipment, trapping Giannine in the game "Heir Apparent" so that she can't be unplugged without risk of brain damage. She has to win before the damaged circuits cause brain damage and death. Heir Apparent is one of the most complicated games, with infinite ways to win (or lose). Her character Janine, an illegitimate child of the late king, has been named heir -- over three legitimate sons. One's a muscled thug, one's a werewolf, one's really cute, and they all want her dead. Also there's a dragon...

Yay for being a 90's child! If you've ever played Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, or basically any other fantasy RPG out there, you will appreciate this. Even if you haven't, Heir Apparent is still fun -- and funny; I like VVV's sense of humor.

Cinder

Cyborg Cinderella! Also, it's ironically truer to the original fairy tale than many Cinderella retellings out there. Cinder the cyborg has the usual evil stepmother and wicked stepsister. She also has an assortment of malfunctioning parts -- so it's lucky that she's a mechanic. Skills that come in handy to a certain Prince of New China...

Shade's Children

Aliens/beings from another dimension have invaded Earth, killing everyone over the age of fourteen and breeding and harvesting the rest in Dorms for use in their war games. (This is what REALLY happens in college.) There is one adult left on the planet -- Shade, a scientist who downloaded his personality into a computer. He leads a band of escaped children, but his motives are, well, shady.

If you like scifi and horror, this book is for you. To be honest, it gave me nightmares. Hell, it still gives me nightmares. That's not to say I didn't like it, but damn...I can understand why it was banned. 

Uglies
Personally, I hated this one, but I've heard enough people rave about it that I feel I should include it. I mean, it's not bad per se (except when it is). I guess it's the "Let's hit them over the head with a moral hammer!" thing again.

In this future society, a city is divided into two parts: one where people have "surged," or altered their appearance with plastic surgery, and one where they still have the appearance they were born with. The surgery takes place once you come of age, and the people who have surged are called "Pretties" while everyone else is an "Ugly." Pretties are air-headed, goofy, and obsessed with pleasure-seeking. Our heroine is an Ugly who discovers a group of runaways/rebels who are trying to accomplish...something; I'd stopped paying attention at that point.

Ender's Game
Decades ago, aliens attacked Earth and were defeated only by chance. Now all the efforts of Earth are focused on preparing for their next attack. Siblings Peter, Valentine, and Ender are child geniuses, but Ender is the one the chosen for Battleschool training. While Ender undergoes grueling training to command the last defense of Earth, Peter and Valentine plot to take over the world via blogs. And it actually works.

I wasn't sure at first whether to include this one, because it's not really YA. However, it is about children, and I know it's commonly read by teens -- in fact, someone in my middle school recommended this, and I've never regretted it. Ender's Game (and its sequels, which are definitely not YA) are on my bookshelf. But apparently Orson Scott Card is kind of a dick, so maybe rent this from the library instead of buying it. 

Questions? Opinions? Scifi suggestions? Comment away!