Monday, September 27, 2010

Music at the Metro.

I was fortunate enough to go to the Metro on Saturday night to see three amazing bands: Tu Fawning, Suckers, and Menomena. Seriously, it was a great show. I'm putting it down as number three on my list- the first two are Sunny Day Real Estate and The Jealous Sound (Sept. 24, 2009), and Built To Spill (Keep It Like A Secret tour in 1999). It's funny, because each of these shows were at the Metro. In fact, my first club show ever was at the Metro (The Breeders 1992). It's my most favorite place ever to see a band and if you're ever in Chicago, you should make a point to go there.



Tu Fawning

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guacamole in the first person present tense.

I like to cook.

I like to cook a lot of things, from old family recipes I know by heart to really intricate recipes I find in my Food & Wine magazine. My favorite, though, is Mexican, and my favorite Mexican thing to make is guacamole. If you've ever eaten over, you've had my guac. I make it at least once a week. God, just thinking about it makes me drool a little. And I made some the day before yesterday, so it's not like it's been a while.

The first time I had really great guacamole was at a upscale Mexican restaurant, where they made it to order, table-side. It was pretty awesome to watch, as our waiter added all the ingredients, pre-measured in small bowls, into a large mortar and pestle and mixed it all up into this beautiful green delicious mess. It was so absolutely amazing that I wanted to eat it again the very next day, but I had no memory of what all he put in so I just bought some from the store. It was horrible, of course. Nothing packaged is as good as homemade. So I looked up a bunch of recipes and got a basic idea of what goes in guacamole, then gave it a whirl.

My first couple attempts weren't bad, and each time I made guac I had a little better idea of what I was looking for. And each time I make it, it's different, depending on my mood or what I'm serving alongside. (For the record, and in case you were wondering, I do avocados, red onion, cilantro, sea salt, serrano, and lime juice. Sometimes garlic. All chopped course- I hate avocado puree.) I know not everyone loves guacamole, and not all those who love it will think mine's the bees knees. I'm certainly not going to stop making guacamole because of that- just because it's not your thing doesn't mean it's bad.

There's been a lot of talk about present tense in contemporary fiction, mostly because of a email quote from Philip Pullman to the Daily Telegraph. (BTW, he wrote a response in the Guardian UK that explains with more depth.) Whatever. Agree or disagree. I really had little reaction to it all because, although I enjoy Pullman's books, his opinion on tense has no bearing on my writing. Until today, when I saw a retweet from a lit agent intern that claimed "1st person present tense is a privilege, not a right. To earn that right: 1st land big book deals & sales numbers"

Wait, what?

This is wrong on so many levels. Okay, first, writing creatively is not a some kind of privilege that is handed down from the GODS OF WRITING. To stipulate that I have to write in a specific tense, or that I have to write in a specific form, is taking away my ownership of my writing. It's akin to telling me my story has to be written in iambic pentameter. That's not how I write, and you don't get to decide for me. And to earn the right to write a certain way by selling? Elitist. Plain and simple.

Second, I'm bothered that this kind of advice is being read, retweeted, taken to heart by many writers, who think this is Gospel. Listen, you write what you write. You choose your characters, your plot, your perspective, your language, your tense. You do this because it fits with your vision. The work could be beautiful, just okay, or it could totally suck. But don't make your choices based on someone else's formula. That's called Mad Libs. Great fun while your drunk, but not anything truly original.

You may guess that I have something at stake with this topic, hence the hot and bothered. You're right. ABOVE THE WAVES is written in first person present tense (FPPT). It didn't start out that way. My first two manuscripts were written in first person past tense and I started ATW this way as well. It never occurred to me not to. Then maybe a third through, I wrote a scene in FPPT without even thinking about it. I didn't even notice I'd done it until the next day, reading through. At the time, I was surprised because, I'll admit, I'm not a super huge fan of FPPT. I've seen it really work and I've seen it as a distraction. But this scene did really work for me, and I spent the next two days experimenting in my text with FPPT. I realized that it was right for what I was trying to do with my MS, and it totally sucked because I had to go back and revise the whole freaking thing, which took literally days. And I am not an edit-as-you-go kind of writer, so this drove me crazy. But I emphasize, IT WAS THE RIGHT TENSE FOR WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO WITH THIS MANUSCRIPT.

I am not previously published. No three-book deal with some majorly huge publishing house. Hell, I don't even have an agent. But to tell me, or anyone else for that matter, that I can't use FPPT because of those things is like telling me I can't make guacamole because I'm not Rick Bayless. Sorry. You're just wrong.

Listening to: The Smiths


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Maybe it's the heat that gets me all riled up. Or the lack of sleep. Or the restlessness that comes with not being very productive (read: my house is a mess, the laundry is out of control, I haven't edited more than 3 hours since Friday, and I still don't know what to make for dinner). Maybe it's a combination of all those things. Regardless, I'm raging today.

So I have an extra large (Venti) case of the grumpies today. I'm not generally a retail-therapy kind of girl (I'm not including my pajama/sock obsession because they are needs and not wants), but today I decided to make an exception. When I buy for fun, it's always either books or music. That sound of a book opening for the first time, the same kind of crack a CD makes after you get all that obnoxious tape off, it's as exciting as the cork popping off a bottle of champagne. And don't even get me started on the smell of a book or the cardboard cover of a record. (If you were to see me right now, you'd notice my eyes closed, I'm inhaling deeply, and I have a slight smile on my face. Not embarrassing. Not at all.)

Anyway, I bought a crap ton of books last week, checked out a crap ton more at the library, am beta reading for a friend, and have FREEDOM glaring at me from the coffee table, so I figured I would buy a CD or two. Most of my CDs in the past few years have been purchased online through iTunes. While I really enjoy the instant gratification of music when I want it, probably like some people like the convenience of ebooks, it's just not the same as holding a CD or record in your hands. I love reading the liner notes. I love finding a spot for the case/jacket in my collection. I love the feeling of ownership. The music I have strictly on my computer doesn't really feel like it's mine, more like I've borrowed it.

MG and I put on our shoes and got in the car. It was then I realized that I had no idea where to go. My recent music purchases have been at Disc Replay, but it's such a crap shoot there and I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to take home. The only other place I could think to go was Best Buy, because I knew Target wouldn't have what I was looking for. So we went in and found NOTHING. Not my first choices, not even my second or third. Lame. I left disgusted.

When I was younger (OMG, I'm turning into one of *those* people) there was a record store down the street from my house that had so many options. I would walk there almost every day after school, and wander the aisles with my notebook, listing the albums I wanted. Then, when I got my license, my friends and I would drive two towns over to this place called Sound Warehouse, where they not only had gobs of CDs, tapes, and vinyl, but a giant import section. Like dying and going straight to heaven. If heaven is a live recording of Nirvana in Japan or a bootleg of Malfunkshun. Where are these places today? Why do I have to drive 45 minutes to Chicago to find them?

And that got me thinking about the latte I really wanted. Where are all the local cafes? The ones you can sit in without feeling like they want to push you and your loud kid out? The ones that *feel* like a coffee shop and not some over-designed space? I hate to say this, because I worked there for 10 years, but Starbucks has gotten increasingly sterile and it's not a place I feel comfortable hanging out in anymore. So I went through the drive-thru. Because there isn't anything else around, and I needed espresso.

Maybe it's not all suburbs. Maybe it's just here. But I feel like everything is so homogenized. And it's such a bore. There's no fun in seeing fifteen Top 40 titles on a shelf, with no other options. There's no sense of community at the drive-thru window. I never saw myself as a city girl. I like space and I like quiet and I like green. But I also miss options, and I miss people. And I wonder if maybe a move is a good idea.

Listening to: Ryan Adams "Rock N Roll"

xo. kb.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Birthday Post.

It's my birthday today. I am, gasp, thirty three years old. I will tell you, it feels no different from thirty two or even twenty two, except for the fact that I have three more kids than then and my body is, ahem, a little softer than those days.

Birthdays are a crazy sort of day for me. I am ridiculous in my desire for my family members to have a great and memorable birthday. I am the mom/sister who plans a big meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, decorates the house, agonizes over the presents, and makes the homemade cake. I never feel like it is enough.

Growing up, my mom was a birthday fanatic. She did all of those things I do, but somehow managed to make it a special day. The best day. She created the birthday that I wish I could. And maybe my effort counts for something, but with her it was so effortless, and I am trying too hard.

My mom died fourteen years ago tomorrow. We got the call, on my nineteenth birthday, to come to the hospital. Her cancer, the chemo, the bone marrow transplant had so weakened her immune system she'd contracted pneumonia and they'd had to put her on a ventilator a week before. I'd thought it was temporary. It was, I guess, just not the way I'd hoped. My birthday morning they called and informed us she was seizing. We needed to come in and say goodbye.

It kind of ceases to be your birthday when you get a call like that.

My mom lasted the whole day. She held off until the next morning, something like a last gift to me. I tell you she made birthdays special, and I mean it. What would my birthdays have been if that had also been the day she died? Not that it matters, though. Me being me, I've managed to turn it into sap-arama and hate the day.

Fourteen years feels like yesterday, and sometimes I feel like I stopped right then. Stopped enjoying, or getting excited. Stopped living. This birthday was a little different. I've been feeling the itchiness that is healing over the last couple years, the idea washing over me that, though it wasn't better yet, it would or could be. In grand Kate overkill fashion, I spent today in lock-up mode, reading a book all the livelong day, but then pulled out a Mom and made my childhood birthday dinner of ravioli and garlic bread. And though I normally rather dislike chocolate, made myself a chocolate cake (another childhood staple). And then even more like my mom, I am well on my way to finishing a bottle of red. You know what? I'm okay with all of it. Not super, but okay.

Maybe that's progress.

Listening to: the ever wonderful Jeremy Enigk and his birthday present-worthy "World Waits"

xo. kb.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Feedback and Freak-outs.

I've been pretty absent lately. It's been a rough week and I try not to blog when I'm internally freaking out, just so you all won't know how the extent of my strangeness. Don't worry. I'm contained now. I think.

I have ABOVE THE WAVES out to three people right now, my critique partner and two very literary friends. This is about the most nerve-wracking thing in the world. At least when you send out a query it's a pass/fail. And you can always tell yourself with the fail that it's the query letter and not your writing. When people are actually reading your work, it's always the writing, and I've gotten some feedback about it already.

Feedback is the worst. You always hope, in any kind of a review-type situation, that it's going to be all positive. Like, "This is the best story I've ever read! I love your style, the inclusion of symbolism, the characters." Or even, "There were a few places where the tenses didn't match up, and you used the word 'comfortable' a lot, but otherwise this is a winner!" You hope for that. And when the feedback is more like, "I see a lot of character and not a lot of plot," you think Oh hell. How am I going to fix that one? and Maybe I have no business writing.

And that's exactly where I go. I, like my MC Amanda and why I wrote her to begin with, feel the freak out coming and either can't or don't know how to do anything to keep it from washing over me. I become insular, stop talking to people, stop existing in real time, and spend a lot of time working out or walking. It's not exactly giving up, but it's... no, it's exactly like giving up.

The thing is, my intention with writing the book I did was to show that freaking out happens, depression happens, but when you just try to get through it, when you fail to learn the why behind it, you limit yourself. You become a cycle of a person. You fail to grow and you stunt yourself from healing.

I am not good with feedback. At first. It takes me longer than I allow myself to digest it and understand it, and I'll admit that, in the past, I've taken feedback to mean that I'm worthless and then quit what I was working on. Not always, but enough times that it's kind of a pattern for me. But I'm not allowing that this time.

In an attempt to thwart the usual pattern, I forced myself out Friday night. I went to a show (Hot Hot Heat, if you're interested), forced myself to talk to the other people around me at the bar, and met a new friend from Twitter of all places. I will not say that I wasn't totally awkward, because every single part of me wanted to be shut up in a small room, and I know I bit the hell out of my nails, but I did it. I changed my routine. I gave myself a distraction.

It was exactly what I needed. I am sitting here at my computer writing after several days of dejectedly gazing at the keyboard. I know that there's a huge need for action in the first half of ATW. I also know that doesn't mean I suck, it just means I need to write some. And I'm not really sure how that's going to work, or what I even want to do with it, but I'm not going to give in just yet. I want to be that person who learns and grows.

And I hope I didn't just freak out my CP for writing this. Really, your honesty means a lot to me, even if it takes me a while to be comfortable with it. Thanks for telling me the truth.

Listening to: my JUST A LITTLE RAIN playlist

xo. kb.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Every book needs a playlist.

I wrote recently that I wanted to go back and rewrite JUST A LITTLE RAIN. Last night I got the BIG IDEA! I figured out how it's going to start. It's perfect, and I'm excited to write. The only problem- I've been inside Amanda's head for so long, and before that Nat's, I don't know if I remember what Eliza sounds like in the first person. The best way for me to get to know her again is to listen to her music.

Every MS I've written has its own playlist. Each character I write has their special songs, or songs that I listened to on repeat while I was writing her book to help me set the tone. So I put on her playlist. Except it was a big mess, full of songs that didn't really follow the story well, or that were so overplayed that I can't stand them anymore.

It needed editing. And since I was going to refine it, I had to go ahead and complete the other two as well, because I couldn't leave them unfinished. It's taken me all morning, but I think they're ready. I'll share them with you now. Get excited!

Rain Song- Sunny Day Real Estate
Red House- Shudder To Think
Wouldn't It Be Nice- The Beach Boys
Unravel- Bjork
Lover, You Should Have Come Over- Jeff Buckley
Tearing In My Heart- Sunny Day Real Estate
Buildings & Mountains- The Republic Tigers
Transatlanticism- Death Cab For Cutie
Carry The Zero- Built To Spill
Run- Amy MacDonald
Rhinoceros- Smashing Pumpkins
Ghosts- Sleeping At Last
Tatseo Show- Jeremy Enigk
Big Jumps- Emiliana Torrini
Just Like Heaven- The Cure
The Rain Song- Led Zeppelin

Chocolate- Shudder To Think
Kool Thing- Sonic Youth
Theo B- Sunny Day Real Estate
Anxious Arms- The Jealous Sound
Positive Bleeding- Urge Overkill
Head Over Heels- Tears For Fears
In The Garage- Weezer
Martha My Dear- The Beatles
From A Balance Beam- Bright Eyes
How Soon Is Now?- The Smiths
Abigail Anne- Jeremy Enigk
Broad Shoulders- The Jealous Sound
Gigantic- The Pixies
Falling For You- Weezer
You Were Right- Built To Spill
Learning To Fly- Pink Floyd
Currents- Sleeping At Last

Coat Check Dream Song- Bright Eyes
Abandon! Abandon!- The Jealous Sound
Growing Old Is Getting Old- Silversun Pickups
Save Me from What I Want- St. Vincent
Something Of An End- My Brightest Diamond
A Dream For Us- The Appleseed Cast
Cannons- Jeremy Enigk
I'll Never Leave You- Rogue Wave
Burning Photographs- Ryan Adams
Wish You Were Here- Pink Floyd
Creature Fear- Bon Iver
A Skeleton Of Something More- Sleeping At Last
Cubism Dream- Local Natives
Ahead Of The Curve- Monsters Of Folk
My Life Is At Home- The Promise Ring
Bowl of Oranges- Bright Eyes
Above the Waves- The Jealous Sound