Monday, August 5, 2013

Sanity Patrol Critique Partner Insists on Conflict

Yesterday I had a work meeting with my CP (Critique Partner). I came away from our 3-hour session filled with insight on how she perceived what happens in my screenplay, and also a little miffed.

For one, as an American she "reads" stories that take place in my home country in a different way than people who have grown up on the same soil. History connects country folk and creates a natural bond. People close to me lived through one or two World Wars. My peers and I grew up in the aftermath of WWII. If you weren't there, if your folks weren't there, or even if they were, but became Americans, who chose not to share, you won't have the same kind of understanding as my country men and women.

On top of that, apart from non-fiction and philosophical works, and the Bourne Identity etc. series, my CP doesn't care much for the kind of novels I read, or movies I watch, and therefore the kind of writing I do. Not really. Meaning, even if she appreciates my voice, the way I write, and the stories I tell, she prefers to read, write and watch what I consider weird fantasy stuff, whereas I'm into realism.

Notwithstanding our differences in taste, the woman knows how to critique, and to ask questions. This makes me think —I beg your pardon for going off on a tangent— of the time that I worked as an assistant buyer for a small, classy department store in Amsterdam. I learned about craftsmanship, quality of materials and design, and that none of those elements needed to have anything to do with my personal taste. I learned to judge an item for the way it was made, how well the object worked, and not whether I liked to give the thing a place in my home.

My CP saw an extended metaphor in the liquids shared by characters in my screenplay, where I had recognized only the solid food as such. No, this is not a metaphor in itself. So, in a way we agreed. She reinforced what I already knew, but needed to hear from someone else. Nutrition or in other words food, is important in this screenplay, and let's face it, in all of the books I hope to deliver in the near future.

Talking to folks who write —fiction from life— I always stress, "don't get too stuck on how something really happened." So imagine my surprise when my CP shakes her head and says: "Oh, you and your, 'this is how it happened'."

"What? Really? I'm stuck on that?"

And yet I immediately knew she was right on the mark, and that I've been waiting for the sign that I can go beyond the reconstruction of what I've perceived as the truth. My attempt to recreate the lives of people I knew, knew partially, or could not have known, has landed me with a good jumping board. I've got the scenes of the story in place the way I think they occurred, and now it's time to give the folks something to sink their teeth in. The characters that is. Trouble, they've got, but they need to show some serious emotion, they need to express that serious, underlying itch that they want to scratch real bad.

This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Taming the Dragon May Provide Solace/ Remedie for Wary Writers Paws After CampNaNoWriMo

This morning I woke up with my hands stiff. Half asleep I noticed how painful it was to make a fist. This is what always seems to happen by the end of a NaNoWriMo run. Camp NaNo Day 28, and I have 5,799 words to go. Minus the 433 I wrote this morning before breakfast.
That pain in my hands is worrisome, and while dozing (off), I started thinking of the Dragon speech recognition program. Years ago, I played with the trial version, and discovered the program had a problem with my accent. However, the Dragon can be tamed, or at least trained to recognize the particularities of my tongue. Still, the learning curve is what I fear, for Dragon as well as myself. I dream on, about dictating interesting parts from my journals, now wouldn't that be convenient?

After my first cup of jasmine green tea, I tried the Dragon App on my iPhone, speaking Dutch. Not bad, although some words went missing, and the App clearly is made for short runs, for more wordy dictation Dragon Dictate for Mac must be the way to go. Then I changed the language back to American English. Surprise, surprise, in the years since my first encounter with the Dragon my pronunciation has become more recognizable.

Dragon's misinterpretation of certain words is understandable and funny. See below. NaNoWriMo becomes nano rhino, and iPhone becomes Twitter. This could be an unexpected and useful extra for  ESL speakers to check on their pronunciation.  That my "dozing" is spelled with an "s" reminds me of the father of a friend up north in the Netherlands who claimed he could hear I was from Amsterdam, because of the way my zees sounded like esses. Which I could not imagine to be true. There was no way on earth my parents would have let me get away with that.
No "We gaan naar Sandvoort aan de See," where it should be "Zandvoort aan de zee" in our home!
This morning I woke up with my hands stiff half-asleep I noticed how painful it was to make a fist this is what always seems to happen by the end of the nano rhino run camps nano date 28 and I have 5799 words to go minus the 433 I wrote this morning before breakfast that pain in my hands is worrisome and while dosing I start thinking off to Dragon speech recognition prep program I play Twitter trial version and discovered the program had a problem with my accent however the Dragon can be changed or at least trained to recognize the particularities of my tongue still the learning curve is what I fear for Dragon as well as myself I dream

Dragon does well by me. Still, I'm not confident enough about my tongue to connect the Dragon App with Facebook and Twitter, imagine the trouble I could get into ...
Meanwhile, the old paws have unfurled, while writing this post, there's hope, with or without Dragon.

This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Audio Book Listener Charmed by Elizabeth McGovern's Narration of The Chaperone

The ChaperoneThe Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since I was looking at chauffeur duty for a good month, I thought to do what a librarian told me works for her, listen to an audio book in her car, and read whenever she can. Take it from me, the combination of listening and reading worked like a charm. Twice a day, in the morning on my way back home, and in the evening back to the city, Elizabeth McGovern kept me engaged with her narration of the story of Cora Carlisle, and in between the rides I read.
Was it a coincidence that the main character's name is the same as that of the character our narrator Elizabeth McGovern plays in Downton Abbey? For some reason I kept on thinking, I know that voice, and I started to expect a certain behavior, and in a way Cora Carlisle and Cora Crawley née Levinson do have something in common. The times, the corset, their roles as wives and mothers in society, even if their station in life, their lifestyle and the era is (slightly) different, and one is the wife of a lawyer, the other of a British Lord.
The story of both the chaperone, and that of her charge, silent movie star Louise Brooks as a fifteen-year-old going to N.Y. City to try her luck in the dance world is compelling.
The housewife, the teen and people around them all have secrets that color their own and one another's lives.
While a historical novel, much of the subject material in The Chaperone will resonate with readers of today. Adoption, forbidden love and lust, abuse, fame and glory, Moriarty kept me engaged from the beginning to the end.

View all my reviews
This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Young Adult Literature Bridges Generations

If you didn't know about Young Adult novels until now, chances are you're a boomer.
Around age nine I had finished all the books in the children's department of our local library. At the time my parents and I lived in a rural northern province in the Netherlands. Used to reading, or at least looking through my parents' collection, books on history, in particular WWII, Agatha Christie and Pearl Buck novels, I automatically moved on, borrowing books I claimed were for my dad. Claimed, because I was denied access the first time I brought an adult book to the check-out table, and truthfully said I was excited about reading that particular book.

Found out by the librarian at a later time —borrowing books supposedly for my father who was ill, yet reporting on a certain title with the enthusiasm of the reader— I was forced back to the "age appropriate" section of the small library.

Fast forward to 2000 when I became aware of a YA section at the Seattle Public Library, thanks to the display table positioned immediately inside the entrance of the Greenwood branch. The aim of the librarians was to attract teens of course, but I was drawn in as well.

"Is kissing a girl who smokes like licking an ashtray?" was the first YA book I took home with me,
and from there on I kept going back for more. Recognizing yourself in teen lit can help bridge the schism between you and teens in your life. Did you forget how much you relied on the connection with your best friend? Or how lost you felt between being your parents' pet, and turning into a (young) adult? The literature geared toward YA of today can help you recall, and realize, you made it out of those horrid years too. Right? Or perhaps being a teenager wasn't that terrible for you, all the better. At any rate, YA lit can open eyes on both sides, parents and teens, it may be hard to grasp, but you do have something in common.

Many of my writer friends write for the YA market, so while our present
neighborhood library has no table for YA lit near the entrance —their focus groups change from week to week— I'm staying abreast Online of what's out there. YA lit is not a grey area, but colorful and exciting, as you are bound to find out. Explore the list of new an exciting titles on the site of Book-ish, and stock up for summer.

This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.