Friday, April 30, 2010

Music and a little Sci-Fi...

Okay, here are the last two songs performed by the Rock Bottom Remainders in Boston on April 24, 2010. (The "final" song, then an encore added in at the last minute. Sam Barry is bringing the amazingness on vocals and harmonica.) Pardon the shaky video, but I was at the foot of the stage, being jostled by dancers (and yes, bopping a bit myself), plus I was three margaritas in. You understand. Fortunately, you probably won't be able to figure out which of the cheers, screams, and singing in the background are mine...

Also, I got another piece of Tweet-fiction published in Thaumatrope last week! Check it out: cold-hearted.

Next week I'll be blogging about my weekend at Grub Street's literary conference, the Muse and the Marketplace.
See you Monday!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

He's a big bestseller, baby.

Did I mention that I got signatures?

So, The Rock Bottom Remainders concert on Saturday in Boston benefited WORLD VISION's efforts on behalf of Haiti relief and the AMERICA’S PROMISE ALLIANCE (according to the website), and apparently also was affiliated with the WE GIVE BOOKS campaign... I caught one of the free t-shirts that were thrown into the audience by the band (shown above), and later found out that proceeds from all Rock Bottom Remainders merchandise was going to support that same campaign (I bought an RBR t-shirt).

My friend and I hung around the stage after the show and as you can see, I was able to get signatures from Ridley Pearson, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, and Amy Tan (on the penguin). My friend tried to get a cell phone photo of me getting the signature from Amy, but the light was too low.

You don't care! You want more video! Here is Greg Iles, singing another RBR original tune (once again I'm sorry for missing the first few verses) with the help of "ringers" Sam Barry (Dave's younger brother) on harmonica, and Erasmo Paolo on saxophone.

I'm a Big Bestseller

(There's an official band upload/higher quality version of this song from the Philly show here if anyone's interested. But there's no possibility of hearing me cheering drunkenly on the audio, so it's up to you which version you want to mark as your favorite in your own YouTube accounts...)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Even Stephen King gets the blues.

On Saturday night I went to see The Rock Bottom Remainders live in concert at the Royale (formerly the Roxy) in Boston. Author-friend Debra Schubert got to see the band a little more up-close than I did, since her city (Philly) had an option for "VIP" tickets with a meet & greet cocktail hour before the show, but I managed to get some signatures anyway, and I had a thoroughly wonderful evening.

Band members on Saturday included: Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, Dave Barry, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Amy Tan, Greg Iles, and Roy Blount, Jr. At the end of the night I asked the band's sound guy if there was any reason why Steve King didn't make it, and he said that King was behind on a deadline, and owed 6,000 words to his editor and needed to be home writing. Yes, even Stephen King still has deadlines. Yes, he has to skip fun events to get his word count in. I said that was the best excuse I'd ever heard, and the sound guy didn't believe me, but I was totally serious.

I expected the band to just do covers ("Paperback Writer," of course) but was delighted by a couple of their original songs! And I hope you will be, too. I'm going to quit writing now and just give you the video. In fact, I have enough video to last ALL WEEK. Come back on Wednesday and again on Friday for more.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Amy Tan sings These Boots Were Made For Walking

The bearded gentleman on the left is Greg Iles (guitar). To the right you'll see Ridley Pearson (bass) and Dave Barry in the blue t-shirt (guitar). Mitch Albom is barely visible here (keyboards) but you'll see more of him later.

Mitch Albom sings Buddy Holly

Sorry, I didn't get video of him as Elvis. This isn't the best clip, but I assure you the man can sing. The man way on the end in the stars-and-stripes top hat is Roy Blount, Jr. He can't sing (he said it, not me!) but he was a great MC, and if you see a man in a weird hat in any of these videos, that's Roy. Amy Tan is rocking the white wig, and between her and Mitch you'll see Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who is married to Sam "the talented brother" Barry (again, they said it, not me!). You'll see Sam featured prominently in the Wednesday and Friday videos.

Dave Barry is in love with a Proofreading Woman

I sadly missed filming the first verse of this (original!) song, but it went something like:

Some men like a woman with a sexy body
Some men want a woman with a beautiful face
I like a woman with a big vocabulary
Who never leaves a comma out of place.

Okay, I've had it dealing with Blogger and YouTube, so you'll get more video on Wednesday. See you then!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why Not?

Today Rachelle Gardener asks, Why Do People Want To Be Published? She asks why "so many" people want this, and theorizes about the primal urge to be heard and the possibly-more-recent desire for celebrity...

Wait a minute. Why wouldn't we want to be published?

Now, I realize that there are a wide variety of motivations that underlie the thousands upon thousands of query letters sent daily to literary agents. And I'm quite sure some people are planning to be celebrities with the next Twilight-level breakout novel, but I'm also sure that those people are delusional. But this doesn't mean that the desire for publication is such an odd and wondrous thing that it must be explained.

I went to law school to be a lawyer, not just so that I could better understand Supreme Court decisions in the privacy of my own home. And before that, I wanted to be on television and in movies because acting was my job. I didn't give a crap about celebrity (indeed, I saw enough celebrity around me to view it as high-risk and potentially damaging rather than fun and exciting).

I helped run the lighting in an off-Broadway theater for a period of time in high school (we had a theater troupe that worked as stagehands in exchange for being able to perform in the location later on), and I got paid the same as the adult actors: $5 per show. Five dollars per show in 1990. No money for rehearsals. That's NOTHING. I don't think a single one of them wanted to be on Broadway for the "celebrity." Those actors loved acting in a way that I never did, were willing to make sacrifices that I was not.

They loved the art form, and the only reason they would ever want to be on Broadway would be for the joy of the art: (1) because a Broadway show would mean more money to pay the bills so they could spend more time acting instead of doing the day job; (2) because a Broadway show would mean more exposure, which would mean more acting gigs, which means, again, less need for a day job; (3) because there are some freaking amazing shows on Broadway, and who wouldn't want to act in the best plays available; (4) because it would mean they were Broadway-worthy, among the best in their field.

They wouldn't want to be lousy actors on Broadway, just to be able to say that's where they performed. They wanted to do the hard work and be extremely talented, and so of course then they would want the financial rewards and recognition that come with being superb at one's craft.

I think that writers who take writing seriously want publication like those actors wanted Broadway. It's the prize at the end of a long road, in an art form that these people are passionate about. It's not about celebrity, it's not even necessarily about being heard or seen. It's about doing a job you love, and doing it well enough that people want you to keep doing it, and will pay for you to keep doing it, so that you can do it some more.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Blog Schedule

That's right, I've got a new schedule now. Starting NEXT WEEK, I will only be blogging three times per week, on Monday / Wednesday / Friday.

"Of course," you mutter to yourselves. "Only days after she does a contest and a big push to get followers, she announces that she's going to be blogging less. Typical."

But! I really think this will be for the best. First of all, this means I can visit your blogs more! Because let's face it, I only have so much time in the day, and when I joined (read: got addicted to) Twitter I ended up spending too much time over there and not enough time leisurely browsing the blog updates in my Google reader like I used to do, and I definitely missed out on some great blog posts and discussions in the comments, and I want to get that back.

Also, I hope that this means that my own blog posts will be able to be a little bit more well-thought-out from now on, and therefore will be more entertaining and useful to you. (No promises, though.)

Finally... well, something had to give. I've got my latest Grub Street class that actually requires a lot of writing (and the reading / analyzing of 11 other people's work) every week, and I'm trying to spend more time focused on my family (Serious Girl in particular), and oh yeah, there's the WRITING OF FICTION that I'm supposed to be doing...

I'd already given up entering any blog contests or challenges that required any actual thought or planning, but it's not enough. I need more time to write, without writing cutting into the rest of my life.
"Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."
-Stephen King

So I hope you don't mind the change, I hope that we end up having better chats in the comments of all our blogs, and I hope that my new emphasis on writing means that I'll get some more short pieces published... because you all really want to read my fiction, not just my blather, right? Right?!?

QUESTION FOR YOU: WHAT TOPICS WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO COVER IN THE NEAR FUTURE? I like it when I get lots of comments. What topics inspire you to debate and respond? Tell me, and I'll try to make it happen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cat's Away

Things I do when my husband is out of town for the evening:
  • Wear those jeans I like even though I haven't had them hemmed yet and have to roll them up, which he thinks makes me look shorter and dumpier than I am;
  • Wear that sweater that I love and he hates;
  • Eat takeout Thai food for dinner instead of cooking;
  • Write blog posts instead of, say, making the bed;
  • Plan to stay up late finishing a short story;
  • Instead stay up late watching a movie that we both love, but that we've both seen a billion times (I have a higher threshold for re-viewing than he does);
  • Miss him terribly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

10 Weeks, 10 Stories

So, I'm not sure if it will be valuable to you for me to do my usual "Cliffs Notes" style posts based on the Ten Weeks, Ten Stories class I'm currently taking at Grub Street. The class format has assignments every week followed by discussion of all twelve students' stories every week, which means that the vast majority of the discussion in each class will be assignment-specific rather than broadly theoretical. I'll make sure to bring you any fungibly useful tidbits, but whole posts may not be warranted or practical...

Here are some small thoughts from last week's class: STORY is just the things that happen, whereas PLOT is the arrangement of story events for maximum dramatic potential. STORY would be: The king died, then the queen died. PLOT would be: The queen died of a broken heart. PLOT causes the reader to ask why?

I'm still pondering how to interweave this definition in along with the other ideas we've discussed about how character is plot and conflict is plot... thoughts?

If that's not enough to get you thinking, allow me to share our first two writing assignments:
  1. Write a 55-word story, in which the first sentence is 10 words long, the second sentence is 9 words long, and so on until the last sentence is only 1 word long.

  2. Write a complete story in a single sentence: the sentence must be at least 300 words long, and you may only use one semi-colon.

As a final note, I'd like to say that I'm thrilled to have some of my Monsters & Mayhem classmates in this class as well. Hi, Steve! Hi, Boris!

Friday, April 16, 2010

More housekeeping

Yup, the weather STINKS here today.

Once again, I would like to thank EVERYONE who entered my contest, by commenting, blogging, and tweeting. Really, thank you so much for sharing the love and helping me boost my numbers a little bit. I more than doubled my Twitter following and I got a 16% boost in blog followers, and that is AWESOME. I hope you all stick around!

Musical updates! Tonight I am going to see Steve Almond in concert, a music-and-reading extravaganza for his new book Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life. And next weekend I will be going to see the Rockbottom Remainders. Aw yeah.

Writing updates! I have to get a short story edited and out the door tomorrow for a contest deadline (which is why today's post is just "housekeeping" instead of something substantive), plus I have a writing assignment due for my 10 Weeks, 10 Stories class at Grub Street. The assignment is to write a 55-word story, in which the first sentence is 10 words, the next sentence is nine... all the way down to one. Yeah. That's gonna take some thought. And next week (probably Monday) I'll finally write my as-promised Cliffs Notes-style "what I learned in class" post... topics include story vs. plot.

Okay, I have to run if Serious Girl is going to make it to her playdate, so I'll see you on Twitter, and again on Monday! Thanks again to all who played along with my contest. You made my week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Forty-five people entered, with 204 total entries. The random number generator picked:

Interestingly enough, I ran the random number generator twice, first based on the total number of entries and then again based on the total number of people who entered (because, you know, it's a fun little program) and it picked E.R. both times. Freaky.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered! I hope you find me amusing and stick around...


THANK YOU so much to everyone who entered my contest! I am calculating and will be back later today with the name of the winner.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CONTEST and random photo

Told ya.

Okay, everyone, this is the LAST DAY to enter my contest! For those who might be new here because a fellow blogger or Twitterer sent you over: I'm Carrie, a recovering attorney / former child actor / mom of a three-year-old who wrote a women's lit novel. Feel free to check out my writing online, and see what work I did as an actress. I'm two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. That about covers it.

Okay! Here is a recap of the contest details:

What are the rules? Well, this one's gonna be easy. No genre-blending, worst first lines, or flash fiction writing requirements. This time, I'm going for the followers. You know how it goes: you get points for following me on this blog and/or on Twitter, extra points for referring people directly and/or for passing on word about my contest on your own blog or Twitter account. I'll put the specific details at the bottom of the post.

What's the occasion? On April 15th (TOMORROW), it will be the one-year anniversary of the day I sent out my first-ever query letter for my novel.

What's the prize? I will be giving away a copy of Steve Almond's amazing self-published chapbook, This Won't Take But A Minute, Honey. Thirty flash fiction stories on one side, then you flip the book over and get thirty short essays on the craft of writing on the other side. The stories are good, no question... but these essays, people, are GENIUS. It's an MFA program in the palm of your hand. You need this book. I will ALSO be giving away my amazing secret fudge recipe, which has only ever been shared with winners of charity auctions and/or my blog contests.

Please also note that the book that I'm giving away has been SIGNED by the author. He doesn't know your name, but he knows what you need to hear, and he inscribed it just for you.

  • You must comment on THE CONTEST blog post to be entered. That gets you +1 point.
  • You get +2 points for being a blog follower.
  • You get +1 point for having commented on my blog at any point before today. (I wanted to reward those who've been with me for a while, but was afraid I'd lose track of which people are new blog followers and which are already following as of this writing. So, I'm rewarding participation instead.)
  • You get +1 point for following me on Twitter.
  • You get +1 point if you've retweeted me or my blog at any point before today.
  • You get +1 point for Tweeting about this contest/retweeting this post.
  • You get +2 points for blogging about this contest.
  • You get +1 point if someone writes in their comment that YOU are the reason they found out about this blog/contest. (Please do give credit if you were referred here by someone! It doesn't lower your chances that much, really.) You can get unlimited extra points this way.
  • You can obviously un-follow me again at the close of the contest, but I'm really quite amusing, and I'm sure you'll want to stick around.
And you don't need to provide links as proof -- just tell me how many points you get and how you calculated it when you post your comment. I will check up on the winner to make sure that person's points were all honestly claimed; if I find out you didn't really earn one of the points that you said you did, you will be disqualified, and I'll pick another winner.

Please, please, go blog & tweet and all that good stuff.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Trivia

Whatever, I know you're all just desperately finishing up your taxes instead of reading blogs anyway. Although, maybe you're reading blog posts as a form of procrastination... at any rate, here's my trivial updates post:
  1. Tonight I start my "Ten Weeks, Ten Stories" class at Grub Street. I'll let you know how it goes.

  2. My blog now features turtles, because my daughter is a lunatic for turtles, especially water/sea turtles. (Future herpetologist! Marine biologist!) You can see them way down at the bottom on the right, and you can click to feed them. You can also get the turtle widget for yourself if you like!

  3. New Year's Resolutions! Getting more exercise is clearly the red-headed stepchild of my resolutions, as I am just failing miserably on that front. On the bright side, we are eating a bit better, the house is reasonably clean, and I showered today and am wearing something halfway presentable. (But if Harley May still wants to come over and live with me so that I can do all the laundry and she can do all the ironing, I will totally accept that deal.) I haven't read as many new books as I'd like, but I have been writing more than usual, so that's awesome. And I'm doing a much better job of embracing my various roles: being a focused mom when I'm with Serious Girl, and not feeling guilty when I close myself off to write. It's an ongoing balancing act, but in the last couple of weeks it's been working.

  4. We are in the LAST DAYS to enter my contest, which closes at midnight (EST) on April 14, tomorrow!!! The winner gets my amazing fudge recipe AND a lovely SIGNED chapbook of flash fiction and essays on writing: "This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey is a quirky resource for budding writers, a sort of freaky Strunk and White. Read through in one direction to find tiny little short stories of a page each. Flip the book over and find mini essays on the psychology and practice of writing. Whichever way you look at it, you're sure to find a nugget of inspiration for your next project."
Remember, you get extra entries in the competition if someone comes by and says you sent them. I currently have 168 Twitter followers... can we get it up over 200? And 158 blog followers (you guys rock, seriously)... can we get that up to 170? If we hit those numbers, I'll post a pic of myself standing on my head or doing a cartwheel, how's that for motivation?

Hope you all are having a grand day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Serious Girl Turns 3

S.G. and her party guests watching a fire truck

We had the party yesterday, but at precisely 11:16am this morning, my daughter (the one in the chef's hat) will turn 3 years old. So, I'm off to help her watch cartoons and bake cookies. See y'all tomorrow!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hot Stuff

Image found here: Sex in the American College

Disclaimer: if you don't want to read about the craft of writing erotic scenes, come back next week. These posts will not themselves be pornographic.

This is the second post inspired by my Wednesday night Grub Street class, "Go Deeper, Baby: Writing Meaningful Erotica" with instructor Sue Williams. Please note that I really plan to respond to yesterday's comments IN the comments thread, but my computer yesterday wouldn't let me. Le sigh.

So! Yesterday you got some quotes from the experts, today let's talk specifically about craft.

Sue says that you need three elements for a scene to be especially resonant: feeling (emotions), thought (intellect), and sensation (the five physical senses). If the reader learns what a character is thinking, feeling, and sensing in a given situation, well then, the reader is right there with the character, and that's what good writing is all about, isn't it? This should of course also apply to writing about erotic encounters: if you shy away from the "good stuff," if stay on the surface because it's hard to write about or because it's embarrassing, then neither you nor the reader will really connect with the characters (no matter what they're doing). Get in there. Bring out the feelings, thoughts, and sensations of the moment. And maybe you don't have to use all five senses in the scene, but I think you should at least consider all five. (People don't write about smell often enough.)

Consider your meter and line-length. (Line length, you horndogs.) A longer sentence can build momentum and longing. Short sentences can reflect faster action. How are your characters breathing in a given scene? Could they say the lines you've written, in that moment? Is she holding her breath with anticipation, thereby able to let a long line play out smoothly? Is he hyperventilating, only able to let out short phrases?

Don't be afraid to be direct in your language. There's nothing worse than a bad euphemism. (Well, unless you're trying to be funny. Sex can be funny, just make sure you're only writing it that way on purpose.) Also, don't feel any obligation to be graphic. If you write your scene well, and then write, She reached for him, well, we all are going to know which part of him she reached for, aren't we?

The last craft suggestion is one I'm going to quote directly from Sue because she says it so much better than I ever could: "An orgasm can be hard to show-not-tell because it's a charged, internalized experience, which is not easy to communicate. One helpful technique can be to show the sensation through other objects. Put the power of the climax onto the way a desk bumps against a wall, the way floorboards squeak or the way fingers clutch at blankets... this communicates the inner pleasure more powerfully."

Finally, here are the writing prompts I promised yesterday. My favorite part about these? They don't have to be remotely sexual if you don't want them to be. They're just particularly interesting if there is a sexual component.
  1. Write a scene/story in which one of your characters tries something s/he's never experienced but always secretly longed to do.

  2. Write a scene/story in which one of your characters decides to break social rules for the sake of a powerful experience or encounter.
As Sue would say in her lovely British accent... have a go.

And once again, please enter my contest and spread the word! The winner gets my amazing fudge recipe AND a lovely SIGNED chapbook of flash fiction and essays on writing, and you get extra entries in the competition if someone comes by and says you sent them...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Let's [Write] About Sex

Art by Deanna Staffo, found at the Baltimore City Paper

Disclaimer: if you don't want to read about the craft of writing erotica, come back next week. These posts will not themselves be pornographic.

So, last night was my superbly awesome Grub Street class, "Go Deeper, Baby: Writing Meaningful Erotica" with instructor Sue Williams. I'm going to make this a 2-part post, so that I can just share some lovely quotes from the experts today, and we can chat more tomorrow.

"Erotica is art and/or literature that arouses, or seeks to arouse, the reader."

"The more loved and understood our characters are, the more they encourage self-acceptance and reflection in our readers. And that's meaningful, baby."

"Meaningful sex does not have to be clean and pure."

"Desire is often more arousing than sex itself."

You don't have to be doing it to write about it: "Consider how many overweight, chain-smoking, clumsy reporters cover sports with complete devotion. No one asks them if they are great athletes, or if they have even the smallest interest in physical fitness."

"Real sex is compelling to read about because the participants are so utterly vulnerable. We are all, when the time comes to get naked, terribly excited and frightened and hopeful and doubtful, usually at the same time. You mustn't abandon your lovers in their time of need. You mustn't make of them naked playthings with rubbery parts. You must love them, wholly and without shame, as they go about their human business."

And a poem from Susie Bright's How to Write a Dirty Story:

There is no such thing as a person without an erotic story.
I don’t mean a tall tale, or a punch line, or a story about the one who got away.
I’m talking about our personal erotic history, what you might call our “sexual philosophy.”
Take a look at your own erotic story,
and you’ll see that it’s a motion picture of everything about you that is creative;
the risks you’d be willing to take,
the weightless depth of your imagination,
your attraction to the truth,
and the things that would make you go blind.

Anything you disagree with? Anything you care to add? Come back tomorrow for some more thoughts on crafting erotica, and two lovely writing prompts.

And please don't forget to enter my contest. The winner gets my amazing fudge recipe AND a lovely SIGNED chapbook of flash fiction and essays on writing by Steve Almond -- yes, the very one quoted above. You know you want it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I only have a moment...

I'm solo-parenting my daughter and her best friend from school today. I have plopped them in front of an episode of The Backyardigans just so I could post here for you today. (Parents, it's a great series. Good pacing, fun songs, cute storylines, and it will not drive you insane if you watch too.)

So, I've just dropped in to let you know about the exciting Grub Street class I'm taking tonight, which is called "Go Deeper, Baby: Writing Meaningful Erotica." No, I have no particular plans to write erotica in the future, but as some of my long-time readers know, I am on a quest to expand my genre horizons, and I think that learning to write a quality sex scene is an extremely valuable skill to have. I mean, if I leave sex out of a novel, I'd like it to be because the storyline calls for restraint, not because I'm scared of writing the kissy bits because I think I don't know how.

Also, instructor Sue Williams is a rock star, and I'd pretty much take any class she taught.

So, come back tomorrow for the sex talk, as I share some of the things I learned in class.

Questions for you: Do you write the sex scenes or finesse your way out of them? Do you do research like Tawna Fenske, or do you you operate on pure imagination? Come on, I'm surrounded by three-year-olds, I want SOMEONE to be having an adult conversation today...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

PROOF that Wordle can help you edit

I made it in Wordle.

Okay, everyone, remember back in September of last year when I blogged about how you can use Wordle to edit your works-in-progress? I specifically asked the question:

Do you use fiction's "meaningless words" too often:
apparently, very, or really?

Right then. Please observe the concordance/word cloud that Wordle gave me after I pasted in the text of James Franco's short story that recently appeared in Esquire. (I excluded all character names from the Wordle for this exercise.)

Authors, the words LIKE and JUST should under no circumstances be that prominent in your writing. I would also suggest you read your stories aloud at some point, which will make it that much more likely that you notice such clunkers as "black gaping gap" (paragraph seven).

Oh, and be glad that you aren't famous enough that Esquire accepts your stories in such condition, thereby exposing you to internet ridicule (Le R. and Salon, respectively).

Now go enter my contest! A lovely chapbook and amazing fudge recipe await the winner!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dealing with your muse.

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter/Passover/whatever-other-holidays-you-might-be-observing-that-I-don't-know-about! Today I am sharing a message of commiseration for all writers everywhere:

It's not just you. That is all.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Dating Scene for Writers

You have assigned reading today: Le Rejectionist explains why queries are like personal ads, and Kit Whitfield explains why certain "pick up" moves won't work on a publisher. Le R's post is fresh as of minutes ago, and that second one has been in the "must read" section on my blog's sidebar for ages, but who the hell knows if anyone's actually been clicking through.

Go. Read. Learn. Laugh.

And then go enter my contest! There's an excellent flash fiction/essays-on-the-craft-of-writing chapbook as the prize, I only have 18 people entered right now, and ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS POST A COMMENT ON THAT BLOG POST!

I will also give away my famous fudge recipe to the winner. It's amazing, it's easy to make (no stove required if you have a microwave), and it has only been shared via charity auction or blog contest. Enter now, find out if you won on April 15th!