Monday, May 31, 2010

On setting the pace and Broken Bells

I'm listening to Broken Bells this morning. It's a change of pace. Lately I've been rotating among my Jeremy Enigk playlist, Local Natives, and The Jealous Sound. JE because I always listen to him- it soothes me somehow, Local Natives because they're my new obsession band (there's always one of those when I'm writing- last book was Silversun Pickups), and The Jealous Sound because I really love them and titled my new book after one of their songs (Above The Waves). Anyway, every now and again I'll throw in something different, a little something to mix things up. Sometimes The Big Pink, sometimes Band of Skulls, sometimes Blitzen Trapper. Today Broken Bells.

*Aside* I do not claim to have OCD or anything, but I do tend to like bands in phases based on the first letter of their name. Like the last two years I went through this HUGE "S" phase and almost everything I listened to began with the letter S. And this year I'm listening to a lot of B bands. This is not something I do intentionally, and I never notice it until much later. I also tend to organize all my playlists alphabetically. Songs just sound better when they're organized. True story. Anyway, I like to think this is a charming little quirk and not an indication of a major personality disorder.

Back to Broken Bells already. Sweet Jesus, KB, you distract. I really like this album. I remember first hearing about it, on MySpace, on The Shins page (a really good reason to keep your MySpace account, IMO) and thinking, James Mercer, could you please make more music with your already awesome band? Maybe more frequently than every 4-5 years? Or a tour for the love of God? And I was kind of pissed that he was doing the Danger Mouse thing. But then I heard their first single and was ashamed for being such a music snob. I get that way sometimes and need a lesson in humility. Here it was.

The album is pretty chill. Like I could dance to it, but not crazy. And it's a little slower than I like to workout/run to, but I listened to it this morning when I ran. I was only going to go on a short run because I have a lame cold and my lungs hate me, not to mention (but I just did anyway) the thick, warm air I hate breathing. It's like running through soup. But this morning, this album was just perfect to run to. The beat's slower and set my pace slower than usual, but allowed me to run farther than I planned and I did my usual run.

Sometimes I'm having that kind of a day, where I'm not feeling up to par. Where I'd like to take it easy on myself, or I feel no confidence and my self-talk just sucks. Days where I know I can't perform to my own standards. And I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. If it's not going to be the best, I'm disheartened. Actually, I have these days a lot lately. And I think my writing is suffering because of this. But I'm glad I had this Broken Bells morning. Because it reminded me that it's okay to slow your pace. And that sometimes a slower pace is all you need to be able to achieve what you wanted to, but didn't think you could.

xo. kb.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The players.

So I've done most of my blogging on MySpace, and realize that, if anyone is reading this at all, you probably have no idea who I'm talking about when I refer to the people in my life. Here's the cast:

S- Husband
GG- Gravy Girl, my 8yo daughter
FB- Fire Boy, my 6yo son
MG- Milk Girl, my 4yo daughter

*My kids picked their own superhero powers, all of which are expelled through their fingertips, similar to how the Emperor shoots electricity/the Dark Side of the Force out of his.

An unexpected rant.

The first song I heard this morning was "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors. While maybe I should feel embarrassed for liking that song, I really don't. It's one of the most upbeat and fun songs I know. I turned it up and the kids and I had a mini-dance party in the bathroom while getting ready for the last full day of school. I love it when the morning starts off in a good way like that. Like one week, swear to God, every morning we heard "1901" by Phoenix. If you can listen to that song and not want to dance, something is seriously wrong with you, and, frankly, we should never be friends.

So today is the last day of one of the most difficult weeks ever. Or I hope it's the last day. A week ago I found out S made a ledger mistake and we were at a negative balance with a week to go before pay. First thing I did was to check the fridge and freezer- truly close to empty. I asked where we were with the credit cards- maxed on all but one. Awesome. We made a very minimalist grocery list, took the Easter ham out of the freezer to thaw, and planned a week of cheap eating. And no booze. (NOOOO!) Fine, okay. When things get tough, I can handle it. I am a put your head down and truck through it kind of girl. Like running uphill. If you put your head down and just look at the few feet in front of you, it doesn't feel as difficult. Because you're not looking at the long-haul, you're just looking at the short-term. I do this with life, too. And I did. And it was going alright, until the credit card companies started calling. And then the bank decided to post some pending charges after clearing a large check, causing us to go into overdraft on 7 charges at $35 a pop. And that's when I started to lose my cool.

Let me say this: I have dealt with the death of both of my parents to cancer, my mom the day after my 19th birthday, my dad last year. I recently lost my grandmother, who cared for my sister and me when my mom was sick. She was one of the most beautiful people in the world. In spite of these, THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN HAVING NO MONEY.

Death is one of those things that happens. I'm not saying it's not difficult, especially when it's sudden, but death is universal. Everyone dies, rich or poor, ugly or beautiful. And because of that, we can work through those feelings of loss. But what is there to work through when you are broke? How do you come to terms with buying white bread, sweetened with HFCS, filled with hydrogenated oils, and made with bleached flour, and then actually using it to make sandwiches for your kids' lunches? All the while knowing how awful those things are for their bodies. All the while knowing how important whole grains and natural fats and sugars are instead. And still packing those lunches and buying that bread because you know you can get 2 big loaves of it for the price of 1 small loaf of good bread. How do you come to terms with that?

And even worse, this is just one week for me. Sure, I'm looking for a part time job so this won't happen again, because it was, seriously, just God-awful for me. But I think of people who live their lives this way. In communities where there aren't grocery stores, just convenience stores with no fresh produce. Where WIC approves Wonder Bread and Skippy Peanut Butter and Doritos and hot dogs, but nothing organic. Where "Get a job" means McDonald's if you're lucky. And I'm no better. Because the p/t job I'm looking for certainly won't be at McD's. And as soon as the check posts in the account tomorrow I'm going straight to Target. Stupid consumerist that I am.

I recently read DESTROY ALL CARS by Blake Nelson, and, while his MC was kind of over the top in that way that teenagers are (and definitely not a reflection on the author at all, because I LOVE BLAKE NELSON), I get where he was coming from. We have established our society to depend on the things we build. Our families are so scattered, we can't visit each other without driving. Our food isn't local (unless you live in *those* communities and can afford it). Our buildings lack windows and force heat or cold air at us. And we destroy our world in the process. And two days ago I finished INTO THE WILD. Made me want to take my family and live off the grid. But I think of our social responsibility, and I don't know that it's right to be so individualistic when there is so much need in the world.

So what am I doing about any of this?

Yeah, good question.

Listening to: Local Natives "Gorilla Manor" on my laptop, through iTunes, while I sit drinking non-organic, non-Fair Trade coffee, with the air on and while MG watches Max & Ruby on our flat panel television.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Really, I'm very inconsistent here.

You should see my myspace. Full and ridiculous. Or maybe you shouldn't see my myspace. Highly personal. Anyway.

I took a brief break from writing. About two weeks. I mean, I've been blogging and writing a bit, taking notes or whatever, but not a whole lot. And I've been reading like it's water and I'm on a hike. In the last two, maybe three weeks, I've read every Blake Nelson (re-read GIRL, one of my fav books of all time), all but one Laurie Halse Anderson, the new Jane Green as well as her first, JANE EYRE (loved it much more than when I read it in HS), BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, INTO THE WILD (oh my God.) and... I think that's it. A ton of this is YA, which I love and was thinking, maybe I'll write a YA novel. But no, I don't think it's in me.

Besides the crazy reading, I've been revising and sending out queries for WHERE CURRENTS PULL. It makes me nervous that I haven't had any requests yet. With JUST A LITTLE RAIN my first letter out got me a request. While it was the only request, and though I stopped querying when I really got into writing WCP, it gave me a hopeful feeling. I've sent out a few letters with WCP and all form rejections. I really like the writing in that book too. I feel like Nat has a very distinct voice and is relatable, so I wonder if my query sucks? Or the query's fine, but my writing sucks and I have no objectivity? Sometimes I wish an agent would send back a rejection with, "Honestly, no one's going to want this. Your book sounds horrible." Or "The book sounded like it could be okay, but your query is so God-awful there was no way I'd request anything." At least then you'd know. You could get on with things and maybe get a job at the Gap or something. Certainly, I'd be dressed better and perhaps have some more money...

Small rant aside, the writing has recommenced on ABOVE THE WAVES. I realized that I'm at the 50 page mark. Here I've been, feeling stuck and wondering what's wrong with me, and it occurred to me that, with each book, I get to the 50 page point and get stuck. Then each time I've skipped ahead with much success, then went back to fill in, before writing the last chapter. I've forgotten I do this when writing both #2 and #3. Even though I've left myself notes about this. Ah well. So I'm skipping ahead today. And very excited about it because it's right in the meat of it all. Nothing more thrilling than skipping the build-up and getting directly to the juicy.

Listening to: Jeremy Enigk and getting back into my writing groove.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On being a woman.

I've been reading a lot of YA lately. I mean, a lot. And mostly Blake Nelson, of whom I have a HUGE author crush on, really, ever since I read GIRL way back when. If you haven't read that book and you are literate, you should be ashamed of yourself. I identify with Andrea Marr in that way I identify with Jane Eyre. Anyway, in the last two weeks I've read PROM ANONYMOUS, THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL, ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR, DESTROY ALL CARS- all by Blake Nelson (PARANOID PARK is next in queue) and WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson. Also JANE EYRE and DUNE ROAD (Jane Green)- those are not really YA, just giving a complete list here. And I picked up KARMA FOR BEGINNERS by Jessica Blank. I'm trying to get an idea for the genre to see if it's something I think I could write. I know I stepped into that territory for a bit- the first 3 original chapters of JALR all take place in high school- and, actually, it was pretty fun.

Here's what I love about YA: These teenagers have problems. They have complexion issues. They have trouble fitting in. Their clothes are all wrong. They're misunderstood. They can't find a boyfriend/girlfriend. If they do, they worry about having sex. They drink or do drugs and it messes with them. Or not. Anyway, it's a hell of a lot like being an adult, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, if we're honest, we worry about this shit just the same. Or maybe that's just me, and I'm somehow "special." But the lovely thing about it all is, despite all the problems, despite the trauma/drama, there's so much hope. Even in WINTERGIRLS, where the protagonist nearly kills herself with an eating disorder, there's *FUTURE* looming ahead, filled with possibility. Like graduation. Or college. Or that next big love.

Here's what I hate about being a woman: Upon entering the realm of adulthood, the idea of possibility is cruelly snatched away, something like the rug being pulled out from under you. When you're a woman, becoming an adult is the end of you. If you choose to strictly have a career, you are not a caring person or something must be intrinsically wrong with you to not have had a family. If you have a family and work, you are not spending a) enough quality time with your kids; and b) enough quality time at work; and are therefore a failure at both. If you stay home with your children and devote your life to them, you are a soccer mom who has lost her sense of self. If you stay at home with your children but try to have outside interests, you are selfish and a horrible mother. How do you win at this? How is it possible to recognize these facts (because that's what they are) and have any desire to do anything at all? When whatever you do is wrong.

I know this. I feel it. I worked ridiculous hard before I had kids. I was criticized for being too involved in my job. I got pregnant, had a baby and stayed home for several years. I did the homegrown thing in my house, all for the sake of my kids. I stopped going out with my friends because I found I had nothing besides all my in-home projects to talk about. I went back to work and felt the pull of my job and my family. I could never give enough to either. I quit again to be home and to write, but again feel the strain. When I write, I'm taking my time away from everyone else. When I don't write, I'm miserable. Where's the middle ground?

There isn't any. Because there's no win. There's guilt and condescending attitudes. There's anger and resentment. There's sadness and invisibility.

I write a lot about choice. About taking back control of our lives. Truth be told, there are a lot of times I don't believe a word of it. Still, like those YA books I so adore, I like to believe in the possibility. I like to think that hope isn't just something we feel in vain. That maybe it just sucks because I'm in the middle of it, and there's some kind of a graduation looming ahead to look forward to.

Listening to: Headlights "Wildlife"

xo. kb.