Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snowflake: a high-resolution image.

Actual snowflake, magnified 162x -- image found at Cosmic Log

I resolve to look at ordinary objects with new eyes.

I resolve to see the beauty in the everyday.

I resolve to pay attention to detail.

I resolve to respect the fragility of the world around me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The best story you're not listening to. (And a CONTEST. Or is it a raffle?)

Mur Lafferty's Marco and the Red Granny is an utter delight. Imagine a world where aliens have revolutionized art by combining the senses, such that wearing a certain suit can make you taste strawberries, or sipping a certain drink can put an entire Sherlock Holmes story into your head. Imagine a frustrated writer-artist who finally gets his chance to go to the moon and produce his art under an alien patronage. Imagine that his only friend is a little old lady who is the winner of a deadly reality television show.

Get the free audio podcast through Hub Magazine's iTunes feed (it's 7 episodes, but episode 4 is in there twice due to technical issues), or directly from the Hub website: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. Read the story for free at Mur's website, or buy the Kindle version, or buy it on Smashwords.

So here's the contest/raffle: the audio version is running on a donation system, and there's also a donations button on Mur's website. If you send me your receipt for a donation IN ANY AMOUNT to Hub Magazine for Mur's story, or to Mur's own website for the story (you may also get free goodies for donating to her directly, depending on the amount), or if you send me a receipt showing you purchased an electronic version of the story, I will enter you in my contest to win a copy of Mur's superhero novel, Playing For Keeps, which is also awesome. I know the holidays are upon us, and y'all are busy, so I'll keep the contest open until Monday, January 3rd, midnight EST. After that, I pick a name at random, and someone gets a book.

I've written before about the Total Awesome that is Mur, especially her I Should Be Writing podcast (for which I am the show notes writer), but I don't know that I've talked about her fiction before. I should have. She has a number of podcast novels, plus at least one of her novels was given away for free as a PDF as part of her podcast feed... she writes great stuff and gives it away for free, y'all.

Go listen to a great story. Then send the author some cash for her talent and hard work, IN ANY AMOUNT, and you might get another great story, for free. You can email those receipts to carriekei [at] gmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Prodigy vs. Genius

I'll explain this image in a minute.

Okay, everyone. The time has come for me to make a shameful admission: I was a child prodigy.

Most notably, I was able to read at the age of two. This is not an exaggeration. My parents weren't sure if I was really reading or if I had just memorized all my books, so for my second birthday my mom bought me a copy of Go, Dog. Go!, a book I had never seen before, and I read it on the spot. I grew up hearing versions of this story over and over again: how my mom apologized to a preschool admissions director that I read "painfully slowly" only to be told that most kids my age TALKED "painfully slowly." How I stunned elevator passengers at age 3 by pointing out the No Smoking sign and telling everyone that it said "No smoking under plenty of law."

As a result of this impressive start, it was assumed that school would be easy for me. I was raised with the philosophy that anything less than an A was unacceptable because that would obviously mean I wasn't really trying... because I was SMART. This seems like a recipe for achievement, but it really wasn't. In the gifted elementary school program, sure. But once I got into my crazy-advanced magnet high school where I personally knew 16 kids who got perfect math scores on their SATs, "really trying" was not always good enough. And it hurt to have to "really try" next to other kids who didn't have to try at all, because calculus (for example) came so easily to them. That was supposed to be me.

So, when things got too hard, sometimes I'd stop trying entirely. After all, better to say you didn't really try than to say you tried your best and still failed. To try my best and still fail would mean I wasn't SMART. And being SMART was more important that working hard.

What a total crock.

Listen, all of this was subconscious, okay? My parents would never in a million years have said that I shouldn't work hard to achieve my goals... but at the same time it was kind of assumed that I would find my goals pretty quickly and have some kind of head start on the work because I was gifted.

Look at the world around you right now. Do you hear people talking about how hard that sports celebrity guy trains, or do you hear about how he's so naturally gifted? Do you hear them talking about the pianist who spends hours at the keyboard, or do you hear about the wunderkind who's amazing despite having "no formal training at all!"


Sharon Stone once said it took her ten years of paying her dues to become an overnight sensation. I think Jim Carrey said something similar. People notice the breakout, and gloss over the failures. Even stories that seem to discuss past failures and hard work often end up glorifying the moment when things became easy. Would J.K. Rowling's personal story be as exciting if she had been a mid-lister for several years before Harry Potter? No. Her years of living in a car and working her butt off while single parenting have been reframed as, "She was secretly gifted all along, and just needed to be discovered." (Note that Rowling herself does not pitch her story this way. She talks very openly and eloquently about her failures and hard work.)

Here's what people forget:
...there's a stark difference between prodigy and genius.

Prodigies can very quickly learn what other people have already figured out; geniuses discover that which no one has ever previously discovered. Prodigies learn; geniuses do. The vast majority of child prodigies don't become adult geniuses.

-- An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
I was a prodigy. So. Freaking. What.

I'm 37, and my peers? By now, they have also figured out how to read. I'm probably still at an advantage for standardized testing, but again... so freaking what? That doesn't mean I'm immune to office politics, or nationwide economic factors, or fear of failure. In fact, it probably makes my fear of failure worse than average, because failure doesn't feel like a single event, it feels like a reflection on my entire person.

What a crock.


I caught myself a couple days ago telling my daughter how smart she is. I stopped myself. I told her how proud I was of her for working so hard, for practicing, for being resilient, for trying again.

Write. Revise. Revise again. Fail better.

Submit. Be rejected. Submit again. Fail better.

I don't know what 2011 holds for me. But I know I'm going to try to do things that are hard. Things that are SUPPOSED to be hard. And maybe, somewhere along the way, I'll start being smart enough that it won't scare me anymore.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Can't... stop... laughing...

My favorite line... "So, do you think that being able to read and write your native language makes you qualified to write a novel?" (Sue Williams and I were talking about exactly this over the weekend. Yes. Yes, some people really think that.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You say it's your birthday

Hooray! I'm so glad to see you! Did you come back for my party? We'll be posting photos of ourselves at age sixteen, talking about the good old days... or maybe chatting about how we would rather die than be 16 again and how we in fact have very high hopes for age 37... or is that just me?

So, did you bring your photo? It's okay if you didn't, but if you did, I've created a Shutterfly account JUST FOR US to use today: of course, if you want to post your photo on your own blog, or in an existing online photo album, and then put the link in the comments, that's totally fine. But, if you don't have any place like that already set up, you can just log in to Shutterfly using the email [deleted for security]. I've already got a few photos in there just for this "event."

Now, before you see my sixteen-year-old photo, here are a few disclaimers:
  1. Turns out, we actually can't confirm my age in these photos. Sorry about that. I might be 17 in these. And the ones with short hair in the Shutterfly album might be from when I was as young as 15. Close enough, right?

  2. My mom took these photos.

  3. Some of you may remember that I used to be a child actor. Accordingly, these photos are actually part of a series of headshots my mom took for me to use professionally.

  4. My mom was semi-professional. These disclaimers are actually not to explain why the photos look bad. They're to explain why the photos look good.

Yes, yes, there are dozens of high school photos where I look like crap. There were ill-advised haircuts. There's that charming group photo in my high school year book where I didn't realize that my shirt was basically see-through with the light behind me... and there's nothing to see. There are the photos where I've tilted my head down and given myself a double-chin. But it's my birthday. I feel like looking good today.

This may be my favorite photo taken of me, ever. Would it be wrong to use it as my author photo, given that it's two decades out-of-date?

Okay! Wish me a happy birthday! Post photos! I'm off to find myself some cake.