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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's true: I don't know how to write a book.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.  --Richard Bach
Here is a reenactment of that time nine months ago when I decided to write a book:

Me (interior monologue): Hey, I think I want to write a book.

Me (also interior monologue): Oh, cool. Do you know how to write a book?

Me (still interior monologue): Not really. But I know how to write...stuff.

Me (la la la): Great. So. Write a book then.

Me (out loud): Okay.

Person Standing Next to Me in the Elevator: What?

Me: Nothing.

Why do I share this highly fictionalized anecdote with you? Well, the crux of the truth is there, which is that: I hear voices in my head. Only kidding. Which is to say: when I first decided to pen my debut memoir, Unnaturally Green, I had absolutely no idea how to do it. But still. I knew I wanted to do it. So I just...went for it.

Indeed, putting the cart before the horse is my fave thing to do. Because, when it comes to writing, there really is no other way. You have to believe you can do something, even though you have no idea how to actually do it.

Like many other artistic endeavors, long-form writing is very mysterious. How does it work, you might wonder. What is the actual process supposed to be like? How do you know if you're doing it "right?"

The most disconcerting part of asking these questions, my young aspiring writer-readers, is that you won't know the answers until you get out there and just do it. I mean, Nike knew what was up. Because there really are no rules. No instruction manual. Just my thoughts and the blank page. Just do it.

For me, I've enjoyed giving you all an insider glimpse into the process. I've enjoyed using my blogs and mailing list to create a forum through which I can share what I'm working on, get feedback, and keep readers engaged. It's been said that every writer should have his or her audience in mind. Hearing from you, testing the waters, putting my writing (strengths and weaknesses) on display -- this has helped reinforce just how important my audience is. Not only will you be the ones reading the finished product, but you're the ones motivating me along the way!

So, thank you for your involvement and interest! I promise I'll do my best :)

In summary, here is a picture of me* right now.

*This is not actually me, as is evidenced by the long brown hair and questionable scrunchie. But still, the spirit is there.

Well. Time to go write.

It's really freaking hard.

But not impossible. No, definitely not.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Book Excerpt (Holier Crap!)

Hi, little nuggets of fun! I recently shared a new Unnaturally Green excerpt with my smokin' hot mailing list subscribers (along with other life-altering news, like that my book is now being written in the past tense -- I know: try to contain your shock and amazement). And, after much soul searching, I have decided it is high time I delivered this exclusive content to the cruel, unfeeling world (that's you).

Behold! A new excerpt! 

(Click here to read a previous excerpt. Or click here. Or just stop depriving yourself and join my amazing mailing list already.)

Bryan, our conductor and music director, was like a distant, power suit-wearing father. No matter how much he scared me, I just wanted him to love me.   
At 6:30 I swung by the Vocal Rehearsal Room, whose door was propped open, and caught Bryan sitting on the miniature couch, eating a dinner of what looked like falafel and French fries. 
“Come in!” he said, not looking up, even though I was already in the room, at which point I considered backing out, then walking in again, so as not to upset him. 
Instead, I boldly took to the center of the space, a mere foot from where he was sitting, and set my binder on the music stand. 
“Thanks for coaching me,” I said, as Bryan glided over to the piano bench. 
"No problem." 
Without a moment to spare, he began to play, the familiar vamp of rolling chords—the ones I’d heard at my audition, my callback, then every night through the dressing room monitors, over which Teal Wicks, as Elphaba, would sing: 
“STOP!” Bryan spun around on the bench to face me, frowning like I had mustard, or boils, on my face. “You weren’t thinking, were you? I mean really thinking.” 
“Uh—” I shook my head. 
“What were you thinking?” 
I am so scared of you, that is what I was thinking. 
“Uh, I guess,” I said, stalling, “I was focusing on my notes and breathing, just, trying to focus, for now.” 
“You inhaled way too early.” At this he closed his eyes and looked down, as if pausing before my open casket. “Your breath should come with the sound, directly before you phonate. If you’re present, this happens naturally. If not, your breathing is totally off.” 
“Oh, okay. Right. Thank you,” I said, wondering if he’d learned this subtle giveaway in the guidebook of Evil Music Director Detectivery. 
Rolling cords. Steeled mind. Think of something, anything! 
“What were you thinking about?” said Bryan, this time not even turning to face me. Without waiting for the answer, he asked, “What does ‘unlimited’ look like?" 
I furrowed my brow. “Uh…"  
How could such an unspecific word mean something specific to Elphaba?   
I was learning the hard way that singing wasn’t just breath, posture, or vowel placement; singing was acting. And acting wasn’t black turtlenecks and berets—acting was specificity. Specificity was your imagination, channeled concretely. But imagination was risky, because it involved decision-making, deciding what a character—a person—might think, feel, believe, experience.   
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and inched onto the ledge of my imagination.   
Time to take a risk.