Sunday, August 31, 2008

So THAT'S What They Meant...

Today I listened, delighted, as Hot Stuff told an enthusiastic and riveting version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff to Nayna. She watched him, grinning, helping with the sound effects. It was adorable. Then, when the story was over, Hot Stuff looked at Nayna with an earnest expression on his face.

"And do you know what that story teaches us?"


"Always take advantage of small people when you get the chance."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Hope I Won't Win

I often wonder if there is a hierarchy of death story status in the afterlife.

For example, one man may be basking in his newfound glory, enjoying the horrified admiration of his listeners as he tells them of how he was decapitated in an accident on the freeway. He's certain of immense popularity, until he notices another man nodding, with a smug, sly grin.

"Well," the nodder says, "That certainly sounds terrible. A quick and painless death. Boy. I'm sure glad I was bitten in half by a great white shark and bled to death in the middle of the ocean."

The decapitated man's face falls. He knows he's lost, and his crowd shifts toward the great white's dinner with a collective gasp of shock.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Got a Review!

This is why you should regularly google yourself! The review is for Tangle, my story that was published in May. Go read the original, or trust that I'm quoting it exactly here:

"'Tangle' by Kiersten Brazier is a well-written retelling of 'Rapunzel' with rounded characters. It subtly explores issues of growing up, parental sheltering, and the way misconceptions are born. Brazier’s use of 'local sheriff' and then later a castle in the woods was a bit jarring, but I found 'Tangle' enjoyable, and Sandi Johnson’s illustrations nicely complement it."

--Z. S. Adani

The Stuff of Nightmares

I was seventeen. Out of the country for the first time in my life, but a resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, probably didn't count for much. Still, it was like a microcosm of the world--the weathly Western world, at least. Watching the racial dynamics was both interesting and depressing. The whiter the employee, the more interaction with guests. Some exceptions were made for being very goodlooking, but in general, if your skin was too dark, you were relegated to the kitchen or maid duty. Why present anything other than a white face to the guests? Heaven forbid that you should have to, say, interact with Mexicans while in Mexico.

Ah, those guests--every European nation was represented, with some Americans thrown into the mix. It was odd watching all of those stereotypes in one small area. The Americans were loud and dressed obnoxiously. The British were pasty white and complained a lot. The Italians made sleazy comments to any girl they saw. The Germans were stoic. Sure, I'm making generalizations, but it seemed like a resort of running gags.

But I get away from myself. The point of the story is not to examine preconceived notions, and how when we expect to see people act a certain way, we nearly always will. No, the point of this story is the atrocity of nude beaches.

When, as a young, innocent girl, I heard about nude beaches, I always thought they would be dens of lasciviousness. Beautiful, toned bodies parading around, showing their assets (ha!) for all the world to lust after. I couldn't understand anyone being brave enough to wander around nude, but surely only those most perfect of bodies would be willing to. However, other countries lack my nation's puritanical roots. Nudity on the beaches is not a sensual thing; it's a practical thing. As I discovered when, on those Mexican stretches of sand with no regulations, the European women regularly discarded their tops.

Oh. My. Heavens.

It wasn't the young, firm bodies that opted to lose clothing. No, no indeed. For the most part I didn't see much--partly because of diligent eye-aversion on my part, and partly because not many took the clothing-optional option. However, the worst was yet to come.

I'm not a strong swimmer. I have a hard time fighting currents. I was out in the water with a boogie board, when I saw I was drifting ever closer to an area that was, for whatever reason, roped off. I began paddling to shore. After a bit I realized that I wasn't moving in the direction I wanted--I was being pulled closer and closer to the ropes. And, in between me and the beach, was a woman. A large, large woman. A large, large woman with no top on.

It was like something out of a horror movie. There I was, kicking desperately, but it was like the woman had created a whirlpool of currents around herself. The panic set in as those two, humongous, pasty white floating monstrosities loomed ever larger and closer. Please, I thought, please whatever happens--don't let me touch them.

That trip I dodged a kiss, hid from a psycho Dutch stalker, and got stung by a jellyfish. But I avoided the horror of those hideous natural flotation devices--if only just barely.

No wonder I'm scared of swimming in the ocean.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Risk Avoidance

I've always been a cautious person. I don't think I willingly went in the deep end of the pool until I was ten; I could swim well, but figured, why risk it?

In school I constantly played to my strengths. Rather than pursue Philosophy, I stuck with English--I knew I could sail through in three years, and keep a scholarship.

While I was visiting my family I found some old medals from the state Academic Decathalon I competed in during high school. (Yes, it's true. I designed our team sweatshirts--they read, "Don't Mess With These Nerds.") Hot Stuff was asking me about it, and truth is, I don't remember how many events I placed in. Four, maybe five? First place in at least two. But the sad thing is, I didn't study, at all, for any of it. And now that I look back on it, I wonder how well I could have done had I actually, say, applied myself for once.

Part of this not-trying trend (which I used in the standardized college entrance exams, papers during college, and all of high school) stems from pure and simple laziness. But a large part of it, I think, was due to insecurity. Not trying was my safety net. Because what if I really worked hard, put all of my heart and soul into it, and then failed? What excuse would I have then? If I didn't try and still did well, great. If I didn't try and didn't do well, hey, I could blame not preparing. It was never about whether or not I was good enough.

But this writing thing is new, it's different. I want this. And I've put my heart and soul into Flash. I didn't just write a chapter here and there, when the mood struck. I devoted every spare thought, moment, and ounce of energy (and hey, with two kids under four, that's a HUGE sacrifice, because there isn't much of anything left over) to this manuscript. And when I was done, I didn't just pat myself on the back, I took advice, thought about it, made some changes. I'm on my fourth edit--going over every sentence to make sure nothing is awkward or out of place.

Here comes the risk. Not only did I actually try, very very much so, with this book, but now I'm putting it out there for the world to judge. It isn't enough that my friends, family, and writing group think it's great. I want to see it published.

And this is what scares me. What if, after finally devoting myself, and putting in the time and effort, nothing happens? What if I can't get an agent to notice me? What if I've finally found something I want, really want (besides Hot Stuff, and I got him ; )), and I can't get it? How do you recover from that?

I don't know how to end this post. I tried for a plucky, "I'll carry on no matter what!" ending, tried for a, "I want to write for the rest of my life whether or not I get paid," tried for a, "if I don't succeed with this, I honestly don't know what I'll do," but nothing quite worked. So, I guess I'll end with hoping that my best is enough in this case. Time will tell.

(Dang, this wasn't funny at all. Quick! Knock knock jokes in the comments section!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Five Stages of Querying Grief

Stage One: Denial

This can't be happening to me! Flash is so good! I was supposed to get an agent within days of sending out that first query! There must be some sort of mistake--it's already been three weeks. Sure, everyone else has to go through a long, drawn-out querying process, but not me! There's going to be a request for a full in my inbox RIGHT NOW, I just know it.

Stage Two: Anger

What?!? [Insert Author Name Here] got an agent on her first try! And my book is at least as good as hers! And WHY won't anyone get back to me? Don't they understand I'm checking my email every twenty minutes? I HATE THIS! QUERYING IS THE WORST THING EVER! JUST READ MY FREAKING BOOK ALREADY!

Stage Three: Bargaining

Okay. It's okay. If I can just get a request for a full, if an agent will just read the whole thing, I'll be happy. No matter what, I'll be happy then.

No? A partial. Just read a partial, I swear then I'll be happy, I won't complain or freak out or want to give up. Just a partial?

No? Just respond. Anything. Just respond, and I'll be okay, really, I promise. Just a response? Please?

Stage Four: Depression

It's been three weeks. This is it. No one is going to want Flash. They'll never read it, so they'll never know how much fun it is, how well-written it is, how much potential I have as a writer. I'll never get an agent, which means I'll never get published, and there's nothing I can do about it. I suck. I suck, I suck, I suck I suck I suck. And the worst part is that I don't suck, but it doesn't matter, because no one will ever know. I'm never going to be an author. It's over. I'm going to bed. And I'm not getting up again.

Stage Five: Acceptance

Well, it is what it is. I know I'm talented, I know I'll be published someday. Maybe an agent will give Flash a chance. Maybe not. It's more luck than anything else at this point, and I can accept that. Either way, I'll keep writing, and someday, someone will represent me. I know Flash is good; everyone who read it loved it. That's enough for now.

Which stage am I in right now? Oh, depression. Very much depression.

Update: Can we have a stage for getting your hopes up again?

*Special thanks to Natalie for supplying Bargaining

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Passive Aggression

My five-year-old arms struggled to lift the rock. Erin, older by two years, stood in front of me, tossing smaller stones into the creek. I couldn't wait to see the splash mine would make. In fact, I was so eager to throw it, I didn't bother moving closer to the stream, or even moving to the side so that Erin wasn't directly in front of me. The rock flew from my hands and time slowed; I watched its trajectory, knowing with a sick feeling in my stomach exactly where it would go. As it smashed into her head and she fell to the ground, I stood in disbelief. What if I had just killed her? My parents rushed forward, helping Erin (who was thankfully still alive) up. She cried, glaring at me, and I probably cried too.

Thing is, I was five. How much of my motivation do I really remember? I think I was aiming for the stream...

Sorry, Erin.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Skill I Lack

"He knew the precise psychological moment when to say nothing."

--Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray