Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writerly Glee - Thoughts on Sucess & Poetry

I was sitting at my computer, on this past lazy Sunday afternoon, delaying the reality of going for a run by working on designing script frenzy posters, when I heard the 'ping' of a new email.

Being easily distracted, I checked it out. It was a new review of a story I posted a long time ago on FictionPress. The story was a class assignment to write an ending for the purposefully unfinished story The Lady or the Tiger. I had never before received such a long and overwhelmingly positive review of any of my stories.

In fact, the last review I got of this story particular story was short and to the point: 'This story sucks asshole.' I do my best to brush that low level petty insensitivity aside, but it still isn't fun to have someone degrade my work.

So when I get a review that tells me the reader liked my story, is enthusiastic about my story and thinks I'm a good writer, it makes up for everything. Okay, the review was also a rambling mess full of errors, but it's the thought that counts right?

I find it heartening to get positive feedback, because even when it doesn't mean my work was objectively good, it means someone enjoyed it. And since I write for pleasure - my own and others - I think that's the most important criteria of success in the end.

Still, I am not immune to the high of public recognition and publication...

Last night I had more writerly excitement happen when I went to the awards ceremony for a youth writing contest sponsored by my local library. I had submitted the maximum allowed - two poems and two short stories - but only one piece had truly been something I had to write lest it burst out of me. It was a poem entitled "Love at First Fight."

It starts with two lines that came to me during a run last summer when I was musing about the chances of meeting a cute and available guy my age while running.

I want to meet my future husband while I’m out running
And get into an argument with him right away

The last stanza sums it all up:

I want to meet my future husband while I’m out running
So he sees I’m an athlete, not a model
And get into an argument with him right away
Because if we can survive that kind of start
We can survive anything

I shouldn't really (and therefore won't) post the full poem here, as a condition of the contract I signed, since as a contest winner it will be published in an anthology this fall. Even though it's just a local thing, I feel proud to be recognized as a good writer, and I revel in the feeling of being published, however it happens.

Last year I had a similar outcome with this contest, with just one of my pieces winning an honourable mention. That poem was an in-your-face reclamation of the word bitch when used by boys to shame girls for not behaving as boys want. This year my successful poem was an in-your-face "anthem" (as the judge said) to being yourself and finding love anyways.

So from now on, I will focus more on emotion and less on pretty form when writing poetry, because for me at least, the most successful poems are honest, a little bit "bitchy" and most importantly, come from the heart.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Frenzy Nears!

April is Script Frenzy, NaNoWriMo's sister event, and over thirty fun-filled days, participants from around the world challenge themselves to write a 100 page script. I've done this for the past two years, and this year, having just turned 18, I'm also going to ML. More on that later.

Back to writing: 
I have advice for everyone today who has a plot they think they like... keep poking at it. Keep asking those pesky questions that don't have answers, keep looking at the details of actually writing your script/story, not just the cool vision in your mind.
I had a vision of an epic stage musical that would repurpose popular songs to tell an intense story. That didn't work out so well. But I can say in all honesty that I am much happier with my current plan. I'm using roughly half the old plot, with a bunch of new fun stuff, and it's going to be a stage musical - for kids!

I'm aiming for my play to be performable by roughly middle school aged kids, and so the story is undergoing big changes as I focus in on that audience and actor group. I've introduced a big chorus, simpler songs, more bit parts, and more parts for girls (a necessity given that this is a play about a army besieging a castle).

I've gotten a ton of use out of the worksheets and exercises found under "Writer's Resources" on the Script Frenzy website. I highly recommend checking out the 'Boot Camp,' which helped me nail down my characters and plot.

The resource I'm looking forward to using during April is the Hollywood Plot Formula worksheet, even though I'm writing an amateur play. I'm hoping to use their "by this page you should be at this point" guidelines to keep my script moving forward. If you, like me, have a tendency to get bogged down in useless details and digressions as you frantically try to hit word/page count, I suggest you check it out.

Back to ML'ing (if it's not a verb it ought to be):
Both Script Frenzy and NaNoWriMo have local leaders called Municipal Liaisons (or MLs) who organize events, send out encouraging emails, wring every last words out of the writers in their region, foster a social atmosphere in their region and make sure everyone has fun!
Ottawa hasn't had an ML for Script Frenzy in years. This year, being of legal age, I was eligible for the position, and so I'm taking on the exciting challenge. Thankfully the ML section of the Script Frenzy website has tons of helpful resources. Having just gained access to them, I don't feel so alone anymore.
If you're a Frenzy participant in Ottawa, please join the region officially on the website, and get involved on our forum. I should get things a bit more organized with a calendar an such later this week. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I'm @Amethystars.

Thanks for reading & Happy Frenzy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

10 Things I Hope I Won't Regret

I can't remember who now, but someone I follow on Twitter (I'm @Amethystars) tweeted a link to this article, written by author Natalie Whipple, about what she wishes she'd done differently along the road to being published.

It made me think about what I don't want to regret, when (well, if) I get published. So below you will find the 10 things she regrets, and my take on how/whether each one applies to me. If you're trying to be a writer, taking a look at these points wouldn't hurt. I certainly feel it helped me.

1. I wish I didn't query so soon.
Not a problem for me - yet. But I've definitely been tempted to send out queries, just to have done it, just to get that first rejection that says "you tried." But if I know the book's not ready, what kind of try is that? But I will admit that I submit to contests even when I'm not sure my work is polished. Since most of my submissions were pieces I'd written already, since I only submit to free contests and since I've been hugely motivated by doing well in contests, I think it has been for the best.

2. I wish I didn't spend so much time online.
I already have this regret. I spend time online for useful things, like homework and learning about writing, but the internet is also my biggest distraction from actually writing.

3. I wish I hadn't cared so much about getting published.
I don't think I have this problem. But I haven't tried very hard to get published yet, because I know for the most part I haven't made my stories good enough.

4. I wish I'd spent more time studying the craft. 
This one doesn't resonate with me. I study the books I read, the movies I watch, my old writing, and I devour anything that even hints at explaining to me how the whole writing things works. I should spend more time writing, not studying writing!

5. I wish I took editing seriously. 
I know editing is serious and important and vital. I just don't like doing it on anything lengthy, when there's so much rewriting to do. This is exacerbated by the fact that my lengthy works have so far mostly been products of NaNoWriMo, and writing that much, that fast, I tend to see huge improvements in my writing in just a month. So by the time I'm done and ready to think about revision, I know my next project will be so much better. 

6. I wish I didn't follow publishing news so closely.
I don't really, except where it concerns stuff I want to read. Or the Query Shark. I should start, when I get closer to being ready to try and get published. But I think it's good to hold off. The internet is distracting enough as it is!

7. I wish I spent more time living and less time waiting. 
Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) I don't have time to sit around refreshing my inbox as Ms. Whipple regrets. I'm a student, trying to write while still spending time with my family and friends and playing multiple sports.

8. I wish I read more.
Sometimes I wish I read more, but then I get a few days of no school or light homework and make up for it. For example, over the first few days of March Break, I read the newest  three Discworld books (Unseen Academicals, I Shall Wear Midnight and Snuff) and then last night I read the new Tamora Pierce book, Mastiff. I like reading, and this is one regret that couldn't last because I would go crazy if I didn't read.

9. I wish I spent more time with my family. 
Thankfully, this is not something I have to worry about. Except maybe a little bit during NaNoWriMo :)

10. I wish I would have focused on being a better writer sooner.
This is my current issue and thing to work on. Focusing on writing well, not worrying about what people will think or if it'll turn out. Just write, and write as best I can.

It's been interesting for me to see which regrets apply to me... which ones apply to you?

For Natalie Whipple's full commentary, go here to the article.

Until next week (when hopefully I will have a post ready on time), best of luck in all your writerly endeavors!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rave Review of RENT!

I had an amazing Sunday afternoon. Normally I spend the time until about seven o'clock feeling guilty about all the homework I'm not doing, but this weekend I was entranced by Orpheus' production of RENT instead.

I went with three of my friends, and between the need to get four seats together and having left getting tickets until Friday, we had ended up with seats in pretty much the last row of the main floor. But I quickly discovered that there are no bad seats in Centrepointe Theatre. I could see the stage - and the beautiful, multi-level, super neat set on it - just fine.

I've known about RENT for five or six years, even since my aunt gave me the Broadway Cast recording for Christmas. I've loved the music, especially One Song Glory (which inspired the name of this blog), pretty much ever since. I'd even read about the story in the CD insert. But watching the play was still a hundred times better than I'd imagined.

From the first moment of Mark's introductory speech, I was riveted. Watching the play, so many little things finally made sense - the honest living 'squeegee man' for one, the conversation with (and videoing of) the police officers for another. And then there were all the little details of a stage play that make them so much fun to watch. For exampled, early in the second act, when other couples are singing on the stage, Angel is puking over the side of his 'hospital bed' in the background. It's something I didn't 'need' to see and might have missed. But I'm glad I saw it.

The whole show was amazing and the cast was spectacular, but there were a few great performance moments that I just have to point out in particular:
  • Andrea Black as Mimi, during Out Tonight. She was not only amazingly flexible and a very skilled dancer, but she also kept her singing up flawlessly despite a dance that looked like quite a workout to me.
  • Devon O'Reilly as Maureen, during Over The Moon. Her performance/dance was intense, but with plenty of humour to spice it up. I am in awe of her bravery and confidence in performing it.
  • Rebecca Abbott as Joanne, in Seasons of Love. Her solo during this, the opening number of Act Two, was breathtakingly beautiful. The whole song was; the cast did a great job.
The biggest surprise of the night for me was the song Contact. Despite listening to every other song plenty of times, I had only ever heard it once. Out of context and at the tender age of 12, it creeped me out. But within the story, on stage, I really, really liked it.

Overall, the cast did a great job of bringing all the emotions and the heartache of the play to everyone in the audience. When Angel (Jeremy Sanders) and Collins (Maxim David) started singing I'll Cover You so happily, I nearly started to cry, knowing what was coming later in the play. I did cry during the funeral, and the reprise of I'll Cover You. (Thankfully my friend had Kleenex.)

The one issue with the performance was that sometimes the singing was drowned out by the music. The music was fantastic, don't get me wrong, but I wanted (and needed, given how much of the plot is sung) to hear every word being said onstage.

I would recommend this show to everyone. Students can get tickets for five bucks (using the eyeGo program), so don't let price hold you back. I'll be going back next weekend with my little sister and as many other 'RENT virgins' as I can convince to come! If you can make it, you should do the same.

On a non-RENT note, I recently won an Honourable Mention in the "Writer's of the Unemployed" Contest. You can find my story, "Broccoli Choices," here. If you like it, give it a Facebook 'like' please, and help me win a copy of Christopher Profeta's new book.

Then go buy tickets to see RENT. You won't regret it.