Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ideas, by Rilla Alexander

Howdy! Just discovered this and thought I'd share, it's so spot-on. SOUNDS A LITTLE FAMILIAR! The lead-in quote: "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." Yeah, I'm the 99%. I mean, heck, who isn't, really? There are some genuine 1%ers out there but they're so fleeping rare. We all want to be one, but we're just not, so there's no point whining about it. Just buckle down to the perspiring. It's not glamorous, but it works. 

There, right there, that's my best advice for achieving your creative goals: 

If you are not a genius, or suspect you may not be, don't worry about it. Just do the work as if it were, you know ... work. Because it is. Sit down and do it. You can. That's all.

(If you are, in fact, a genius, I don't know what to tell you. Yay, you!)

That said, before I keel over sideways, falling asleep on the way down, I think I'll read some of this yeah-damn-it-he's-definitely-a-genius book I'm in the middle of: SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson. Dang. This guy. Some kinda smart and seeeeeeriously original. Yeah? 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Strange, Fun, Lovely, Peculiar, and Entirely Random

(Below: this is great, a mirror reflecting this faux facade, for fun & hijinx. Paris, I think.)

(Above: cool subway floor, below: trompe l'oeuil!)

(Below, don't overlook the person for scale. This whole installation is just euro coins!)

Space-filling post from pinboards. So much wonderful creativity-fodder out in the Universe!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Trailer Contest Update & Belated Premiere Photos!

Sorry for the silence, trailer-makers! I've posted on Twitter and Facebook recently but not here to say: 


But I'm pushing back the deadline because I haven't had the time to spread the word or organize the logistical things. But I am really excited about it and hope that there are some entries in the works! If this is new information to you, please see HERE. (There's a really good prize!)

I'm going to say that the new deadline is May 1. Again, sorry about that. PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE WORD TO CLEVER AND CREATIVE FRIENDS! Thank you!

Meantime, I've been meaning to post pics from the Les Mis premiere since before Christmas, and yesterday I had a great reminder. I was in my writing room, writing away, when I heard loud music coming from downstairs, where Jim and Clementine were playing. It sounded like "I Dreamed a Dream," so I stepped into the hall to hear better, and you guys, I'm not even kidding, standing in the hall hearing Anne Hathaway from downstairs, I still started crying in like five seconds. That performance is just that powerful.

Mopping my eyes, I slunk back to my desk, and when the song ended, Jim texted up (yes, sometimes we text each other at home) to say that five seconds in, he was crying. And here's the thing: he hasn't even seen the movie yet! (All our babysitting plans have been foiled in recent weeks, we're starved for movies) AND he hasn't seen the play, and doesn't really know the story, so he's reacting purely to Anne Hathaway's delivery, which is so freaking wrenching. I am in awe. 

So I thought, how's about I finally gloat this picture:

I met Anne Hathaway! I met Anne Hathaway!

And Eddie Redmayne! I met Eddie Redmayne!

with my agent Jane Putch

Both were just so lovely. And so freaking talented. Did Eddie Redmayne kill you with his voice? Incredible. This was at the afterparty at MoMA, shwankety shwank shwank. Have you seen the movie yet? I'm so eager to see it again--with Jim this time. Soon, I hope. Going to the premiere was just one of those crazy experiences, and thank you so much to folks at Universal Pictures for the invite. It was a thrill!

All right, now back to work! XO!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

FILM NEWS! Meet the producer ...


Hi all! I only just realized that I never shared this highly thrilling news on my blog, only on Twitter and Facebook, though I'd been dying to tell you for months

Joe Roth is producing the Daughter of Smoke & Bone movie! 

I am excited beyond belief by this. Here is someone who knows how to make a big fantasy movie, and I really could not be happier, moving forward. Yay yay yay!!!!!! 

There are other exciting things going on in the process, which I will happily share as soon as they are settled and I am allowed. For now I'll just say that I am massively excited as this film takes another step closer to becoming a reality. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Misty Noon

I finished a chapter before lunch so I took a walk in the woods by my house, always good for sorting thoughts. Showers and walks are great for ideas. I've been really low energy the rest of the afternoon though. Clementine and I sewed baby monsters, until she lost interest and started acting out The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with her toys. We've just finished reading it, kind of a fluke. She saw the theater poster and inquired, so Jim started reading it to her online, and she was riveted. We bought the book, and raced through it over the course of several bedtimes, making some major adjustments toward the end, as you may imagine. Ahem. 

But aside from the violence of that one part, it's really little-kid friendly and such a speedy read. I'd forgotten how simple and streamlined it is. And fun. I wish I had a video of how giddy and spastic with delight Clementine was when we got to Susan and Lucy's ride on Aslan to the White Witch's castle, where he goes around breathing all the statues back to life. She was kicking her legs in bed, giggling madly, triumphant. Peals of laughter, grin so giant it was comical, unreal. Especially for Mr. Tumnus. It was the most awesome response to a story that I think I have ever seen, ever, from anyone :-)

I haven't read it in ages and ages. And I have to say that, having heard so much over the past years about the religious themes, I kind of expected to be annoyed by it, but I wasn't, for the simple reason that it is not intrusive or heavy-handed. It may be there, I don't feel like analyzing it, but it can easily be ignored, if one so chooses. 

Not much of a post here. Just some fog and fatigue. Early bed, I think. *yawn* 

Good night!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


I don't do nearly enough book reviews, but here's one, or several, all involving this little girl:

Hi Hilda! 

They're child-friendly graphic novels that are totally fun and enjoyable for all ages, adults included. They hit the perfect sweetspot, and in such a wonderful way. They're filled with offbeat folklore and humor and also heart, and have been described as a meeting of Moomins and Miyazaki. Well, you kinda couldn't give me a better pitch than that! Moomins and Miyazaki??!!?? And it's true, but really Luke Pearson (writer-illustrator from Britain) totally has his own thing going here with these wonderful books, of which there are currently two, with another coming in April. (Can't wait!!)

First is Hildafolk, a short staple-bound (but still lovely edition, nice paper etc) intro to the character. (Though we discovered the second book first, and it doesn't make a huge difference, I'd read in order if I had the choice.) 

Hildafolk introduces this young girl Hilda who lives in an isolated, enchanted valley with her mother. The strange beasties of the place are taken entirely in stride in a lovely melding of fantasy with the mundane. It's the kind of story that will get children looking at odd-shaped boulders as though they might indeed be trolls who need bells hung on their noses.

Hilda and the Midnight Giant is a longer book and it involves tiny invisible people, snippy eviction notices the size of a pinkie fingernail, and one mountain-high mysterious giant with a certain melancholic air to him. There's hitching rides on migrating airborne "wuffs" and visiting a wooden man in his treehouse, and dealing with elf bureaucracy. And oh, it is sweet, so sweet, such a satisfying story.

And this one's coming out soon, can't wait! Hilda and the Bird Parade:

Clementine loves them, and so do Jim and I. I'm such a fan of graphic novels for kids, and I wish there were more. Some of Clementine's consistent favorite reads have been the book adaptations of Miyazaki's more kid-friendly movies, and they're just really great immersive long reads for younger kids who may be on the verge of chapter book read-alouds but still want images. They're a great bridging of the gap between picture books and chapter books (and still great for chapter book readers and adults!!!). Beginning reader/I can read books tend to be too basic, you know (though will have their place when the time comes) and even the illustrated chapter books might not have enough art to satisfy. But graphic novels are ... well, they're a vastly undervalued art form in our country, and I encourage you all to delve into them a little. (I shall have to do a post at last on Jim's kid-in-candy-shop experience of graphic novels in France!)

Jim and I have a project we want to do, a graphic novel for young kids with a particular boy-friendly bent. (That said knowing that girls read anything and everything, but boys sometimes need boyish subject matter; this is great for both.) I've done a script, and Jim has sample art, and I really hope we'll be able to pursue it while Clementine is still little! 

Oh, last thing, check out this lovely poster for Flying Eye Books, the new children's imprint of Nobrow Press, the UK-based publisher who does Hilda. Love it:

Cheers, and happy weekend!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

For Smythe, Who Loves Hand Shadows

In September, Michael Chabon wrote a piece for Rolling Stone magazine that begins this way:

"A novel in progress is a box of holes. As you go along you keep trying to fill them, until you run out of stomach, patience or box. You never run out of holes. When I was writing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the biggest hole, unfilled for the longest time, was the super-powered costumed hero dreamed up by my eponymous protagonists. Every gambit had already been played, often several times: all the animals, all the colors, all the power sources, all the gems and legends and meteorological phenomena, all the synonyms for "amazing" and "fast." Furthermore, I needed the hero invented by my heroes to reflect, embody or at least offer ironic commentary on their struggles, their conflicts, maybe even on the theme of the novel itself. For years I plugged that particular hole with a crude stopper -- a wielder of light-blasts with the lame moniker of Captain Sunbeam. Then, one random day fairly late in the game, the muse tossed me a life buoy ..."

He goes on to say that he read something that gave him the idea he'd been searching for and hoping for, and if you have read the book then you know: the superhero in question is: the Escapist. 

When I read the above, I was floored. I was absolutely floored to learn that the Escapist hadn't been in the mix from the get-go. I haven't read Kavalier & Clay for a few years, but in my memory, the Escapist is rooted so deeply in every aspect of that book, I can't imagine how the author could have been working on it for years before that piece fit into place. How much revision did he do to sink those roots down so exquisitely? A lot, I assume, but you would never guess there had ever been a hole. Chabon says above that he hoped the hero would embody the theme of the novel, and he does so perfectly, that ... I'll say it again, I'm just floored that he wasn't there all along. 

(If you haven't read this magnificent novel, treat yourself. It's one of the best books I've ever read.)

Anyway, I've been meaning to write something about this ever since I read Michael Chabon's article, because it was one of those moments for me, one of those silly moments, you know, when you feel temporary kinship and solidarity with an icon because of a serendipitous small similarity? You know, like: Oh my god, Angelina Jolie likes cake too! We're so alike! Ha. Seriously though, I get this little twinge of happy satisfaction whenever I'm reading about an author I admire and discover that there is something we share, like that we both write in the morning with our monkey in our lap, sipping melted ice cream out of an antique silver soup tureen. (That is my process, if you're wondering. Every. Day. And my monkey's name is Smythe.) 


I know it's silly. It doesn't mean there is any real similarity, or any connection at all, but I guess we're always sort of feeling for connections whether we mean to or not, little validations, little see I'm normals.  (I'm so normal.) And this was one. Me and Michael Chabon are like this

A novel in progress is totally "a box of holes." Oh, so many unknowns. It's crazy how much you don't know when you sit down to write the book that you think you have all figured out. I feel like writing a book is, before anything else, a sounding of the depth of one's own cluelessness. You know when you hear those crazy factoids (like there are a hundred billions neurons in the brain, the same as stars in our galaxy**) that make your brain fold in on itself? Well, if you were confronted with the number of THINGS YOU DON'T YET KNOW ABOUT YOUR BOOK it would be like that too.

Sometimes the holes are tiny little gaps you'll fill in later, but sometimes they're major things upon which the resonance of your book will depend. There was a major hole in DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT. It was ... well, it was the thing that is revealed in Chapter 65. It is a revelation, something that changes the whole tone of the rebellion and pretty much gives Karou a leg to stand on, impetus to stand up and get herself together and be defiant. It is a really important Thing, and you want to know when I figured out what it was? THE DAY I HAD TO SEND MY EDITOR ALVINA THE FIRST DRAFT. 

Yeah, in the first draft, there was a big gaping hole. There was no Thing yet, no Very Important Thing*** to propel Karou toward her MOMENT. Basically, when Alvina received the manuscript, there was a bracketed apology, like [I'm so so so sooooo sorry but there is a big hole here!!!] I was mortified. Mortified. Oh, also, I hadn't written the ending yet (!!!) but believed I would by the time she got to it in a day or two (I did not.) I was up against a deadline, I was so close to the end, and I was still going on blind faith that I would figure out how to GIVE EVERYTHING MEANING AND RESONANCE AND TIE IT ALL TOGETHER. And I did, truly at the last possible moment. Geez, self, give me a heart attack why don't you? 

This is always the case to some degree, and for the most part, I have faith in myself that I will figure it out. I don't expect to or want to try to fill every hole up front. So often, for me, the important things arise organically out of the writing. The more you write, the more you know. For me, the planning, brainstorming, outlining stuff (I rarely outline, and only in times of desperation) is done from outside the story, looking in. The writing is done from inside the story. It's like the difference between looking into a house from the sidewalk outside, and being in the house, maybe lying on the carpet in your pajamas, making hand shadows on the wall. For Smythe, who loves hand shadows****. You can't truly know your story from the outside. You just can't. So for me, I trust that the story will build itself toward the knowledge and understanding I need to fill the holes. And if it doesn't, I have a brainstorming session and think at it from every angle. And if that doesn't work, I have another brainstorming session and think at it from no really every angle because I missed some last time because there are an infinite number of angles, and so on. Keep working till I figure it out, that's how it goes.

Smythe says good night. 

*not really. 
**I cannot verify this claim with the rudimentary scientific instruments in my laboratory.
***"Thing" and "Very Important Thing" are examples of my highly sophisticated writerly vocabulary. Another such is "cool."
****And now I want to write a book called FOR SMYTHE WHO LOVES HAND SHADOWS. Don't anyone steal it. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Writing Room

Hello! Because a little tidy-up has occurred (love a newly cleaned workspace!), I thought I'd post some pics of my writing room, which was once a balcony.

You see, it is small and mostly windows. On sunny days, I have to retreat to the bedroom because it is too bright in here! But, you know, this is Oregon, so that's not too frequent an occurrence :-) 

Those curtain wires strung across the window are for the primary purpose of holding chapters in sequence at a particular stage of writing when it's all over the place in my head and I need to be able to see it all before me. Here's what that looks like. (IKEA Dignitet wires)


(Owl art by Johanna Wright, doll by me, long ago)

Ooh, look at this! Christmas show 'n tell! Jim (who is visible all sexeh in the photo there), got me THE BEST PHONE CHARGER IN THE WORLD. I love this! Look! It's a copy of Pride & Prejudice (a beautiful one) sitting on my shelf. Oh no it's not. It's a phone charger! (by booksi)

Random wildlife calendar decals walking across my desk.

Aurelie Fronty mobile thingy I found in Paris:


Remember that night I discovered Society6 and spazzed utterly? I said then that I was in love with the cushions but couldn't attest to quality. Well, having now received some, I can say that the quality is good! And man, the selection. I sense an addiction coming on ... I mean, how better to quick-change a room?! And they're totally reasonable. Cushions can be stupid-expensive, and these are not.

Some more, downstairs: 

Also, a Society6 canvas I got for Jim, for our weird superhero art collection:

And a Society6 phone cover that Santa put in my stocking. Love it! 
(This post has turned into a Society6 advertisement!)

That's all! The other half of my writing room is basically a bookshelf (mostly folklore, war, and British Raj books) too messy to be displayed. I sometimes daydream about getting it beautified. Some day!

Okay, now I'm off to watch Downton Abbey! YAY!!!!

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