Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why I write - part 2

There is another part to the why I write question--what book made you a writer. Many people read a book and it inspired them to write. They thought "I could do this" or "I want to do this." It's a common question--what book inspired you to write.

There are a great many books which have influenced me, but none of them caused me to pick up a pencil while I was still a child. That honor goes to my mother. Her favorite way of punishing me was to send me to my room, sometimes for hours. That didn't bother me. I could still do my favorite thing, read. She could put my body wherever she wanted. My heart, mind and soul lived in Narnia and Oz. She decided it wasn't a real punishment if I could still enjoy myself, so she took all the books out of my room.

She couldn't stop my very active imagination. I would sit by my window and imagine a prince coming to rescue me from the witch who stole me from my parents. Many imaginary friends kept me company and we came up with stories together. Eventually, I started writing down my stories as a form of rebellion. I told my mother I was doing school work.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's official

Back in high school, I was an active member on the Speech and Debate team. I was the only girl on it and it was my first experience with sexism, both from the judges and my team. Things could get really bad. One of my team's favorite activities was to see if they could make me blush.

Then I received my first major loss. It was an incredible speech and unlike most of my competition I had it memorized. My teammates who were there congratulated me on winning, even while the judges were in another room deciding. Then the results came in. I didn't win. I didn't even place.

The next day at school was hard. I almost didn't go. I wanted to stay in bed and hide, but my parents said I had to go. The whole day tears were behind my eyes, and I felt like a dry brown leaf crumpled up and ready to blow away. I resolved at the end of the day, I would leave the team.

Right after the final bell rang, the debate captain came up to me at my locker. There was no way I could put up with the shit he was about to give me, but before I could tell him that he looked at me and said, "It's official. You're part of the team now. You've received
your first shaft."

The team still harassed me, but it was more good natured, and I developed a much thicker skin. By the end of the year, I could make them blush. I learned to play the sexist games of the judges.

I'm telling this story because yesterday I received my first rejection. Not one, but two. There should be a rule that your first two rejections don't come on the same day. I'm not saying the agents were wrong. One was a very nice personal letter and I see where I can improve the story greatly. I'm looking forward to it.

But the feeling I got with those letters was the same I felt after I suffered my first crushing defeat. On the bright side, I'm officially a writer. I've received my first rejection letter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If humans can change, so can weres and vampires

It is generally accepted that weres and vamps represented various aspects of human sexuality to repressed Victorian England. These aspects were feared, as such, weres and vamps were scary.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the present. I believe there is a reason women are the ones who have most changed weres and vamps. These same aspects which were feared and repressed are now accepted and even openly celebrated. As women's relationship with sexuality changed, so did the creatures which represent it. I do not believe this evolution was entirely conscious. Symbols work best when they speak to or for our unconscious.

Many writers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance have weres and vamps as integrated parts of society. Few have them as necessarily evil, or if the race is inherently evil, there are those struggling not to be or are motivated by the heroine to be good. This parallels our feelings about sexuality.

There was a recent article about how the popularity of vamps can be explained because women want to have sex with gay men. The writer missed the point. There are many reasons weres and vamps are popular now. If there weren't, they wouldn't be so popular. It takes many individual reasons to make a phenomenon. I would put having sex with gay men very far down the list. Near the top is modern weres and vamps are a statement of female sexual liberation. They are a way for us to externalize the rapid changes going on within us. By externalizing it, we can better understand it.

Which to me is the highest goal of writing--to help us understand something, hopefully ourselves. You will see me write about this topic often. Even escapist literature, or most likely especially escapist literature, bypasses conscious thought and can speak to the unconscious. This happens both to the writer and the reader. Weres and vamps are two popular vehicles for this currently.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Even my daughters are unconventional

Last year, searching for Halloween costumes was a pain, to say the least. My youngest daughter wanted to be a cowgirl faerie. I loved the idea and spent several hours going from store to store looking for a cowgirl outfit. We already had wings. When we had been to every store and came up with nothing, my daughter decided to change her costume. She found a way too bright psychedelic costume and decided to be a hippy faerie. She is my flexible daughter.

Not so with my oldest daughter. She's a tween, a very tall one. She no longer fits into kiddie costumes. After going to every store, I was tired and wanted to go home. I let her get a Dorothy costume that cost way too much. Her father said she had to wear it the next year.

Now is that next year and my daughter doesn't want to be Dorothy. I told her we could play with the idea. She could be Zombie Dorothy or my favorite, Vampire Dorothy. Dorothy strayed off the yellow brick road and was attacked by a vampire. She didn't like these ideas. Hubby and I tried to convince her how cool this would be, when mother's intuition told me she didn't want to wear the wig again. I was right. After being told she didn't need to wear the wig, the idea wasn't so bad. Hubby said we would get her ruby slippers.

"Daaaaaad," she said in that voice tweens start practicing, so when they are teens, they have it perfected. "Dorothy didn't wear ruby slippers. She wore silver ones."

That's my girl. I told her we could get her silver shoes and she could explain to everyone why she wasn't wearing ruby slippers. She loves the idea.

So my youngest this year is going to be Bat Girl. I think she just wants to go POW and BAM every chance she gets. My oldest is going to be BOOK Dorothy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why I write

When most writers are asked why they write, the standard answer is "I have to" or some variant. One thing you will quickly learn about me is these types of answers never satisfy me. I always have to know why. In this case, why do I have to. There are as many answers to this as there are writers, but here's what I figured out.

After I got out of the "I want to be a faerie princess" stage, I wanted to be a paleoanthropologist. I loved the idea of working through the puzzle of human evolution. That is until I decided the actual field work was the last thing I wanted to do. Next I wanted to be a geneticist. I loved figuring out the puzzle of the human genome. Again, that is until I decided I hated lab work. Next came psychology. I loved puzzling through the human psyche. That is until I decided I would want to slap most of my clients.

The common thread is I love puzzles, but I hate what I have to do to collect the pieces. Not so with writing. Writing is one big puzzle, but I don't collect pieces. I create them. If X isn't working, I can toss it out or create something to make it work. I love the actual process of writing and love working with the pieces I create.

Another common thread is I love puzzles that deal with our very humanity. That is what books are. They tap into our collective unconscious and touch us on a profound level. Writing is not just dealing with any puzzle. Storytelling is encoded in us and one of the things that makes us human.

I am a paleoanthropologist who studies what environmental pressures affect my story. I am a geneticist who explores the various building blocks of my story and sees the results of various combinations. I am a psychologist who need to understand my characters and why they act the way they do.