Monday, May 29, 2017

Found My Funny


I was invited to a book launch a few weeks ago that left me in awe. Prosecco poured liberally, prizes and giveaways, talented guest speakers, the fattest blueberries you’ll ever see, but my favorite part was hearing the author read snippets from her book, The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-LyleBook of Failures.

I knew instantly I had to buy the book. Then I reached out to the author.

Between reading the book and connecting with the author I’ve been absolutely spoiled by funny in the past few weeks. Which is exactly what I needed. It’s what the world needs more of. When tragedy dominates the news I tend to slip into a mild funk. Humor is one of the only things that has the ability, the chutzpa, to lift me out of it. And man, oh man, did Amy Lyle’s book bring the funny!

It’s my favorite kind of funny too. Honest, vulnerable, life story humor—candidly shared moments that leave you feeling thankful you’re not alone, as soda (or Prosecco) spurts out your nose after laughing too hard and fast. I read several scenes aloud to my husband. I reread other scenes, certain the author hadn’t just written what she did. I was wrong. Lyle holds nothing back. And I have to say it’s refreshing.

Do yourself (and the world) a favor and buy this book. Read it (and don’t skip over the footnotes…you’ll thank me later).

Go find your funny!


*Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Necessity to Create


There are days when I’m overwhelmed with a need to create something—anything. This isn’t a rare occurrence either. My fingers itch to make something out of nothing. And sometimes, the more “nothing” the original thing is, the more rewarding the final product. A blank page. An ugly furniture item. An unlikely canvas.

Last Friday, I searched our basement until I found a piece of drywall nearly severed in two. I stood back and put my imagination to work. I decided the drywall would do just fine. I whipped out whatever paints I knew existed in the house. I found inspiration online, then went to town.

Here’s what I painted.







I’m no Michelangelo, but nothing compares to the time I spend creating. A calm sweeps through me, somehow managing to simultaneously settle me and revive me. I’m not ashamed to admit creativity is my sanity.

“I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories . . . Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” 
Ray Bradbury


Monday, May 15, 2017

Personal Space



We recently bought a new TV. And it’s great. It is. However, I’ve noticed something that feels a little strange and I’ve finally put my finger on it. There’s almost too much detail. There are times I click it on and I feel like the actors are hanging out in my living room. It’s taken me a while to adjust. I’ve gleaned something else from this new TV watching experience and it’s mildly off-putting.

The screen doesn’t leave any room for my imagination to kick in. All the pixels and minute details are filled in for me.

This happens in books, too.

I read a cool quote the other day that touches upon this exact point. Annie Proulx emphasizes, “I think it’s important to leave spaces in a story for readers to fill in from their own experience.”

I wholeheartedly agree. An adept novelist gifts the reader with their own reading experience. The act of writing for me is an intensely personal exploration. The act of publishing is a sacrificial process of letting go. Why letting go? Because it’s up to the reader to fill in the gaps, to filter in their own life experiences as they read. The story ultimately becomes theirs to interpret.

The following are indicators an author has neglected to leave enough space for the reader.

Too Many Details
Like my TV, the author has inundated the reader with a litany of details. Every unnecessary one inserted in the story slowly robs the reader of identifying with the plot and/or characters. Details should be chosen wisely. Use them, absolutely. Details can do wonders to bring a book to life. However, make sure not to pixelate the reader to death.

Formulaic
If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know I’m not a huge fan of math. It shouldn’t surprise you then that I also don’t love formulaic writing. It’s another imagination stealer. Plot your heart out. Know where your story is headed, but don’t color-by-number your writing. It limits all that your story can become, at the same time as dulling down the impact for the reader.

Pretty Little Bow Writing
I’m all for an uplifting or satisfying ending that provides resolve for the reader. I think an author does a reader a disservice when they insert a tidy, clean ending or plot path, assuming that’s the only way to do things. Life is muddy. I’m not suggesting authors need to royally screw up the lives of all their characters (although that certainly can help strengthen a plotline). I am suggesting an author will seriously want to consider their motivation for making things pretty. If it’s too pretty and spotless, readers will struggle to identify. Imagination will suffer.

No Room for Reflection
Even in the best suspense novels (especially in the best suspense novels) authors find a way to allow the reader to digest what’s going on. They play with pacing so the reader has a moment to reflect upon what the main character is going through—they’re given an opportunity to really feel it. To empathize. That is the crux of good writing. Nuanced pacing. It’s writer’s gold.

Premature Solutions
Don’t resolve problems too quickly. Let suspense grow yeast-like in the reader’s mind. Give them time to make guesses, to fret, to become more invested in the story. If an author doles out rapid fire solutions the story loses its ability to root inside the reader’s minds. Connection is lost.

I love a realistic, gripping story, but not at the sake of sacrificed imagination. I still want to read and wonder. I want my own memories and moments to fold into the stories I’m reading. It’s difficult for this to occur when an author has unintentionally impeded a story from strumming imagination. Sometimes, as authors, we’re so obsessed with making things communicate as real, we forget to leave space for the reader. It’s worth paying attention to. Your readers will thank you.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Starting Somewhere (My Initial Reaction to 13)


I’ve spent the past few days a little heartsick after watching the 13 Reasons Why series on Netflix. No, more than a little heartsick. See, the thing is I have been wrestling with how much of a reaction to reveal, with how I want to respond and I still don’t think I’m ready to. Not yet. Not fully. Maybe never fully.

I watched it because two of my favorite people on this planet were interest in watching and knowing more. I knew what I was getting into. I read the book. I’d heard and read enough about the series. 

I watched and endured flashbacks of so many moments in my childhood and teen years when I feared my sister would actually, this time, be successful in her attempt to take her life. I watched well aware of my own stubborn demons.

I watched and I came away feeling more things than I’m even able to put into words at this time.

I will. Someday.

And I have. With and for two of my favorite people on this planet. We’re talking about it.

And that, as with so many things for me in this life, is a start.



“This is motherhood for you,’ said my own mother. ‘Going through life with your heart outside your body.”
―Jennifer Weiner

Monday, May 1, 2017

Navigating the New


It’s been over nine years since I’ve moved to a new area and even then, as I found myself surprisingly returning to the state where I grew up, it didn’t exactly feel new. The smells, mannerisms, landmarks, and expressions all felt a bit like coming home.

Moving this time conjures an undeniable and unavoidable newness. Southern hospitality is as welcome as it is startling. My brain hurts trying to log the names of roads, classmates, schedules, and restaurants we’re told we have to check out. Even the grocery store, something I used to tackle in under a half hour, now takes almost an hour.

Everything is new.*

There are days I crave the familiar. The comfortable. The things and people I know and love.

But you’re an adventurer I remind myself. This is exciting. You love the prospect of all that’s yet to be discovered—to be experienced.

True. But I’m also human and I find, not only for my sake but for the sake of my whole family, it’s good to be honest about the deluge of change. It’s exhausting at times. And scary. And lonely.

I’ve decided to take my time. To dip my toes in, when in the past I might have leapt in. I have no idea if this is an older, more mature me emerging. Or if it’s the evidence of my scars. Or if a maternal muscle is flexing. It could be an amalgamation of both wisdom and caution. Whatever it is, it makes sense for now.

Instead of flinging my doors open and taking the world by storm, I’m tilting my head to the rain and letting the droplets fall where they may. Because like Mary Oliver once wrote, I too believe

“…the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things
.”

*I lived in Georgia twenty years ago, but for less than a year…not quite long enough for much to root.

**Told you I’d be back. ;-)