Grumpy Words

April 2, 2009

Y’all, it has been MONTHS

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…since Shira or I posted here. Which is obvious, if you look at the date of our last post.

Anyway! Lots to share, in the book, writing, and Girls Write Now worlds. First of all, HUGE CONGRATS to Shira for winning a GOLD KEY in The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards!! Her short short story, Riding Unicorns, was amazing and she’ll be reading it at the upcoming Girls Write Now spring reading in June; plus, it will be published in the GWN anthology. Yay!

Meanwhile, I’ve got some things up my sleeve, and even though I don’t write here much, you can find some of my work here, and Shira’s work here.

Happy spring, y’all.


January 4, 2009

writerly resolutions

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Sorry this is way after-the-date, but I forgot how to post on the blog so please pretend it’s New Years Day again…

It’s Shira, your long lost blogger here (well, if writing two entries a year ago makes me a blogger…), but I plan on being very present in ’09!

My junior year craziness has made me lose sight of what it really means to write as a form of therapy, to write purely for the sake of writing, to write to make sense of myself. Without Morgan or Girls Write Now, I seriously fear that I would never take a pen to paper for the sake of original thoughts.

So, this new years, I am not making a self-improvement resolution (face it: those only damage the self-esteem of the creative); I am making a self-acceptance resolution. The act of writing allows me to accept myself as I am in the present, no strings attached. The reason I, as a writer, struggle with self-improvement resolutions is because writing is about documenting the past and present. Self-improvement is about being ashamed of the past, dumping it, and reworking the present to shape the future. But that is not how writers write. Whether it is fiction, poetry, or journalism, I do not write to predict the future; my writing unravels the future.

I did a few things here and there for New Years Eve, but nothing big and I was a little restless. Then, at around 11pm, I accepted myself. I accepted that I was inside on this freezing New Years Eve and that I was inside specifically to write.

The residue of trying to push unwilling words out from the keyboard when writing my application essays for a summer program, I was faced with writer’s block. Upon exploring my packed bookshelf, I emerged with my glorious copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Though I have read these pages before, they seemed like new possibilities when I perused them last night.

I chose the first writing prompt on Goldberg’s list of 15: Tell about the quality of light coming in through your window. Jump in and write. Don’t worry if it is night and your curtains are closed or you would rather write about the light up north—just write.

And that is just what I did. I wrote two beautifully pointless original pages in my relatively new journal (an amazing gift from my two great friends for my seventeenth birthday) and I understood what I needed to understand: that my presence lies on the page, that I have an amazing writerly support system in this book and in Girls Write Now. Knowing that I have this support to rely on, I can resolve to write for the present, to write for me (and, of course, for this blog of which I can hope for new readers).

Does anyone else have any readerly or writerly resolutions for ’09?

November 18, 2008

Finding time for fiction

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I never thought I’d say this, but…

I have too many books to read.

I know, it’s blasphemy. And it’s a good problem to have! But I’ve just been signing up for some new blog assignments for my corporate life, and most of them require me to read some awesome new books that are coming out early next year. Plus, a coworker friend of mine has a book coming out in March, and she’s just given me a hot-off-the-press copy. So my pile keeps growing, a nice blend of yet-to-be-released YA books, some highly-reviewed contemporary novels, and a bestseller or two.

In between them, though, I’m trying to write my NaNoWriMo stuff (uh…trying would be the operative word there), and to organize my “real” novels I’ve been working on for a year+, and now, I’m obsessed with villanelles and sestinas after Saturday’s Girls Write Now poetry workshop. It’s tough, y’all. There is no time to do all of this, but it’s all so amazing, that I’m trying my best.

I have a sinking feeling that I won’t get anywhere near the 50K word deadline for NaNoWriMo, though, but I had fun trying. Maybe I’ll post bits and pieces of what I’ve done here when the month is over.

November 14, 2008

It’s been a long time…

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And we are sorry for neglecting you (all two of you who occasionally check this site :)!

Here’s what’s up: Shira and I (Morgan here, btw) are back together for another exciting season of Girls Write Now. In fact, just yesterday Shira was in my office for our weekly mentoring session, where we caught up on our latest goings-on and went over some recent writing Shira had done (as usual, it was great. She doesn’t need me! Sob!). Tomorrow, I will be teaching the poetry workshop for all the mentors and mentees, which should be fun – we have an excellent guest speaker and some awesome poetry exercises (villanelles, anyone?).

We also talked about the Twilight series, because Shira had kindly lent me books 2-4. I liked 2, I despised 3 because I hate, hate, hate Bella, Jacob, and Charlie so much (that deserves a post all on its own, so I won’t bother with it here) and I’ve just started 4. Plus, I am absolutely going to see the movie next weekend. Don’t judge me!

Other than that, I am deeply mired in National Novel Writing Month. Yes, that’s right – I am writing 50,000 words this month. However, it’s already mid-November and I am only at about 7,000 words. But, I have all day Sunday scheduled for writing, so my goal is to get up to about 20,000 by Sunday night. We’ll see.

What’s new with everyone else?

September 14, 2008

Twilight post #2, in which I may have been wrong about post #1

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Well, what do you know. 

I might in fact be a Twilight fan after all! 

I finished the book. By the time I got to the last third of it, I could not put it down. 

I still think the writing is atrocious – if I had a few free hours, I would go through and count how many times Bella “grimaces” since I think it’s a world record. And the gender roles are hugely obvious and insulting, and the vaguely religious undertones make me uncomfortable. But yes, Twilight was a captivating book. I guess this means I need to read the rest of them. Anyone want to loan me a copy?

September 9, 2008

Ok. Let’s Talk Twilight.

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So, I caved. I bought Twilight. I’m sticking to my story that it’s for work purposes (and it is – I’m blogging about it) but I confess I had been considering reading it anyway. 

I’m about 1/3 of the way through, and here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Stephenie Meyer? Not so great a writer. I hate to be all judgey, and clearly she’s doing something right, but I’m actually finding the bad writing (and trust, it’s bad) to be distracting. I like the story so far, and I like Bella as a character, but I’d wager that Meyer won’t be winning a Pulitzer any time soon. 
  • The Cullens are pale. Bella is pale. I get it. I got it the first 432 times you mentioned it in chapter 1 alone.
  • Bella gets distracted when she looks directly at Edward. Surely there must be a million other ways to describe that feeling – poets have been doing it for millenia – and yet Meyer can only think of that one way. Peculiar.  
  • I’m having an issue with how ALONE Bella is all the time. Her dad is never home, not even on weekends; she never talks to her mom, only emails and only, seemingly, once a week or so; she cooks dinner alone, goes shopping alone, walks to and from classes mostly alone, etc. Bella’s characterization of her life just seems to foreign to me, because even when I was a teenager, I didn’t know anyone who had that luxury of space. 

I’ll stop there, even though I have other issues with the book. But the truth is, I am enjoying it so far, despite the messes I’ve been noticing.  We’ll see if I splurge on part 2.

August 29, 2008

English teachers to blame?

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Confession: the first time I visited my older sister’s fourth grade classroom, I wondered if I’d made a mistake by not majoring in education in college. I paced her carefully decorated room with its high windows and deep closets, its blackboards and tiny desks and bookshelves, and though, “Crap. What am I going to do with this English degree?”

Suffice it to say, I love teachers. I still keep in touch with some of my high school and college professors, and I know they have an extremely tough – and usually underpaid and undervalued – job. So when I came across this article in the Washington Post, I posted it to my facebook, and immediately got some reactions. 

Essentially, the writer is saying that the constant and unchanging tests, stock writing assignments, and focus on book trivia has taken the love out of reading for students. I can see her point. I’ve been a devoted reader since second grade, and even I would sometimes roll my eyes at the multiple choice tests (what’s more important: grasping the themes of Gatsby, or memorizing what happens in each chapter?) and standard essay questions. But I worry that this article blames the teachers a little too much. And considering teachers already get all the blame for most things that go wrong with students, I’m not ready to jump on board with this, too.

August 1, 2008

What’s the Spanish word for writing?

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Welcome home to Shira, co-blogger here at Grumpy Words, who just got back to New York after spending the month of July in Spain on an exchange program! If I knew Spanish, I’d translate this entry. But alas, it took me three days in Ecuador before I realized the differences between good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. Je parle francais, mais oui!

So Shira, when you’re settled and over the jet lag and have indulged in food you can only get in America (deep-fried Oreos? deep-fried anything?), please leave a post telling the world how your trip was. I can’t wait to hear!

July 22, 2008

Going back in time…

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Ever since I started working at my current job, a children’s publishing company, I have been swimming in nostalgia for the books I used to read growing up. I even ordered a raft of Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twin books from eBay (and I’m a bit shy to admit how much I enjoyed re-reading them!). It’s like every day, I remember another book that I loved.

The problem now is that I’m remembering fuzzy characters and strange sentences, and I cannot, for the life of me, remember which books they’re from. One in particular is driving me crazy; so, any people in their 20s or 30s who read a lot as a tween or teen, you may be of assistance:

There was a 3- or 4-part series I read back in 1993-ish. The books at the time felt pretty modern, so I doubt they were much older than that. It was a mystery series for Young Adults, and the narrator, a teen girl, was trying to figure out who killed her cousin and best friend April. As she uncovers clues, she realizes April had some secrets — including a secret boyfriend, Spike, whom she used to sketch often. There was also a character named (I think) Lacey, who was popular and rich and friends with April at one point. They used to swim at Lacey’s pool and drink diet soda and eat cookies. (Sidebar: it’s amazing what stands out 15 years after reading a book…I remember specifically that the Lacey character would always say “save the calories for the cookies, babe”!)

I am desperate to recapture this series. I don’t have a name or an author, and since I borrowed the books from the library I don’t even have a visual for the book cover. If anyone has any leads or answers, leave a comment!

June 20, 2008

Summer Reading, Summer Writing

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Shira here. My main summer reading tradition for the past 5 years has been Harry Potter. I’m talking the hard core over-excitement for the new book to come out that I just get too impatient to wait excitement. I then proceed to reread the books backwards until the new one FINALLY comes out. As for now, adios to Harry, Ron, and Hermoine for this summer. With the help of Facebook’s Visual Bookshelf (don’t laugh), I have created a list of my hopeful summer reads. Plus, with my I’m-going-to-Spain-and-therefore-have-no-cash issue, I  cleared my debt at the public library AND learned how to reserve books. This library need is heightened by the closing of my favorite local bookstore: Paperbacks Plus. It’s a sad literary fall to start off the summer with, though I encourage everyone to support it in its final days.  On my list for this summer are Sisterhood Interrupted by Deborah Siegel, young skin Wise Mind OLD SOUL by Amanda Diva, Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith, and The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. In other words, a lovely mix of feminist lit and tudor novels.

I, like Morgan, also hope to WRITE MORE over the summer. Now that I am finally done with school and have over a week until Spain, I hope to immerse myself in my old and rough GWN portfolios to do some polishing, revising, and developing. If I get around to this between packing, shopping, and readying, I hope to drag all my unfinished pieces to fields of Central Park or Wave Hill. I am very excited!!! Also, I hope to start a chapbook with Morgan for the GWN summer project. Do you have an exciting summer writing itinerary?

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