Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King

The gang rape victim from Delhi passed away. I can't get her off my mind. Though I'm hours from there, protests  have erupted throughout the country. I don't know what it takes for change to occur but I hope that proper action is taken to ensure these types of atrocities stop. Why do women have to accept fear as a part of their lives? This could have happened to anybody

She told her doctors she had the will to live, to keep fighting. Her spirit has made thousands take this issue seriously.  Somewhere in the midst of law, politics, and stark human persistence, maybe there's hope. People are already taking action. I pray that they don't distill the importance of this tragedy with time. 

May she rest in peace.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Until 2013: what I've learned

"I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of."
— Joss Whedon

Tomorrow, I'm heading to India with my family, so this corner of the internet will be hushed for a bit. 

Last year, I reflected on courage and this time, I want to shed some light on looking back. The entire year felt like practice, whether it was in writing, medicine, the intersection between the two, or other areas of life. I made the usual list of long term goals and then some shorter term ones (finish editing novel, exercise more routinely, research women's health issues, connect with others who are into similar causes, etc.) As much as I grew from each of those, I always felt like I could do more. More. More. More. An inherent flaw in thinking. When is it ever enough
There's sometimes a fine line between ambition and pessimism. 

It's easy for all of us to beat ourselves up for what we haven't done or how difficult our own struggles are but every once in a while, it's important to remember what we've learned along the way and how far we've come. 

Here's my list of not resolutions but reflections:

-(From a post in early 2010 but reflected on more this year): It's important to view patients as individuals instead of populations. While the latter is helpful for understanding public health solutions, the former is imperative for providing the best care. 

-It's possible to write without pushing pen to paper. Sometimes the best words come while folding laundry

-The writing process demands patience. Just when the manuscript is done, it may need a rewrite. Just when those are done, the first half seems too slow. Then there's queries and partials and fulls and waiting and revising and starting over at any point.

-Long distance friendships have their own brand of meaning because they require effort, not convenience.

-Uncertainty---the kind that puts pressure on your sternum---builds character

-A bad mood can skew judgment

-The right type of love gets better every day

-Many beautiful things were created out of heartbreaks (of every kind)

-Empower others to empower oneself. Empower oneself to empower others. Teach fellow curious people about the causes worth fighting for in the world. 

What have you learned?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Patience and December

Something about December always brings a sense of urgency. Maybe it's my birthday, that tangible awareness of another year passing by, or that the calendar is about to shift.

As my mid-twenties have ended, I've realized that patience is a value that deserves to be cultivated. Everything worthwhile takes time. Malcolm Gladwell even quantified this idea and concluded that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at any craft.

While I can read and comprehend this, I've often struggled with embracing it. The usual questions commence:
Why am I always becoming? When will I be? 

Recently, I met a woman with advanced colon cancer. Because of grueling chemotherapy, she was weak and struggled to ask for Jell-O (the only food she could keep down). Before I left the room, I asked if there was anything else she wanted.

"I don't think so. I think I'm okay just to be." she said.

At one point, she and her doctors believed her illness could kill her. But then, against science, against even her own plans, more time came to her. She survived a risky surgery and slowly began responding to chemotherapy.

"I had already given up. And then, the world just didn't let me."

I thought about her for the entire day.
That night, I went and wrote this in my journal:

Put in your best effort and when you're ready to give up, put in some more. Somehow, the distance between those two spaces isn't as much as we often believe it is. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

1. Take care of your good health. Make it your greatest investment. You'll thank yourself later for the choices you make now.

2. You have control over your thoughts. Use this to change how you view failures. They're not an indication of what you can't do; often, they're just a sign that you need to improve and try again. Let them motivate you.

3. Don't use "I'm busy" as a convenient fallback. You will always be busy.

4. Read when you're bored. Read to improve yourself. Read to learn about the world outside your own. Never stop reading.

5. You'll translate your pain into words. Writing will be your way to understand your past and build your future.

6. Fill your days with things that get you: poetry, cherished friendships, causes to fight for. They'll sculpt you just as much as, if not more than, your time in the classroom.

7. You'll meet strong, inspiring people who will encourage you to keep refining and improving. Don't discount them. Don't forget that both the men and women in your life will help you embrace feminism.

8. Travel to grow. Discover the people who live off of very little but still manage to preserve their dignity and ideals. Use medicine to improve their suffering.

9. You may not live in the same place as some of your old, close friends but whenever you reunite, things will fall back into place, as though time is irrelevant.

10. Sometimes things won't work out the way you wanted them to. Sometimes they'll work out much better than that.

Some final inspiration for anyone doing NaNo

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For anyone doing NaNo: things to include in the beginning and middle of your work

     -Introduces the protagonist and provides a glimpse of his/her character, goal, and conflict.
     -Sets up the world of the book.
     -Shows "before" of the world and the protagonist, what they're like before the story events.
     -Hints at backstory, or at least indicates there is some relevant backstory.
     -Sets up the major story questions (external, internal, interactional) and probably poses the external story question.
     -Initiates the external conflict.
     -Hints at the internal conflict.
     -Shows the start point of the central relationship.
     -Ends with the inevitability of change.


     -Shows how protagonist initially responds to the forced change.

     -Shows how the world of the book responds to the threat and event of change.
     -Forces more protagonist/antagonist action/reaction through events.
     -Forces protagonist to confront (but not yet resolve!) internal conflict.
     -Forces protagonist to begin to understand the cost of not resolving internal conflict.
     -Gradually reveals the "secret" or the backstory as needed.
     -Heightens conflict through events requiring greater emotional risk from protagonist.
     -Suggests what the crisis might be– what the protagonist fears most.
     -Produces reaction by antagonist/external conflict.
     -Increases interaction within central relationship, heightening conflict but also increasing the intensity of the caring. With each event, the nature of the relationship shifts a little.
     -Creates the point of no return– the event or action that means the protagonist cannot turn back.

**From this site, if you're interested in more:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Sometimes there's poetry in your errands.
The last couple weeks during grocery shopping, I've picked up a bouquet of roses. Just because. 

(When I stepped outside with the first bunch, it was as though someone spilled sunshine across their faces.)

As they dried, I saw that most of them became sad, turning dark and downwards but one----
One became lighter and more upright. When it was deprived, it chose to extend itself further. It showed its ability to adapt when its nourishment was gone. 

Kind of a metaphor for how we can be during adversity, don't you think? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tips from a wise writer

"When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. When an adult, read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would."

"Don't confuse honors with achievement."

"Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even those who are most important to you."

-Zadie Smith 

P.S. On Creepy Query Girl's blog, I read her post about a fellow writer's work being stolen from a friend. This is one of the most devastating things that can happen to one of us and unfortunately, occurs too often. Of course, when it occurs with a friend, that bond is likely corrupted for good.
 With the internet, it's become easier to steal someone's words and ideas and then just conveniently disappear, like in this case. Still, Wendy is handling her situation with an admirable grace. Go show her some support and remember, be careful with your work but as Wendy noted, don't allow one negative experience to taint future relationships. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Quotes of the moment

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." 
George Orwell

"Keep a diary and someday it'll keep you." Mae West

"What you are is a complicated girl with simple needs. You need your books and time to read and you need a few friends and you need someone---not to take care of you but to care for you. If you have all those things, you'll always be all right." Brian Morton

Lastly, for my favorite feminist:

"Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry." Gloria Steinem

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Reading your work out loud and other life lessons

1.) In the fertile land of editing, I've found that there's a lot of trial and error involved (but maybe that's just life as well?). Many fellow bloggers have mentioned reading their manuscripts out loud so I decided to try it. That is one of the benefits of living alone, right?  To be able to speak to yourself and not worry about looking crazy. 

It turns out that this technique works wonders for the "rhythm" and tone of a written piece. Are there too many shorter sentences? Is there irrelevant detail? Reading your words out loud can help answer these types of questions.
Tell me, do you have a go to editing technique?

2.) I'd like to say I fell for Samir over our many candle lit dates at restaurants with thick, linen tablecloths. While that's true to an extent, there's another side. He learned about how much I hated doing dishes the night we met. Every time we've been together since then, he races to the sink to finish them (and like an eternal gentleman, pretends it's a coincidence). Last time, while I observed his soapy fingers, the growing stack of plates by his side, and the hum of an old slow song leaving his lips, I knew that's where love happened.
Take home: life occurs in those banal, daily moments that are too often overlooked.

3.) My poetry professor had the best, succinct truths that he exhaled throughout class. One I remembered today:
Me to a fellow student: "I wouldn't worry about the test too much. I think that whole class is pass/fail."
Professor: "Yeah, life is pretty pass/fail." 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Keeping it Fresh

Ah, another post for the incredible support group Alex created. 
Sometimes Often I worry that when it comes to writing, I'll never meet my full potential but really, I later find that this, like so many other worries, is irrational. 
Because our potential as writers is entirely within us.
I recently read a great NY Times article about the importance of "cleansing your literary palate" in order to keep your own work fresh. What we soak in influences us. The words we read become folded within and seep out while we work. This is why reading things from all genres is essential. Stepping out of our comfort zone is crucial in our reading and the rest of our lives.
It's important for us to keep pushing ourselves to not only meet our potential but continually redefine it. There are enough things in life that are out of our control. Our writing potential is not one of them. 

"Basically, earlier patterns in what you say or read or write “prime” you to repeat them when you’re acting automatically. Our tendency to say the same sorts of sentences as those around us was first studied by someone looking at, of all things, walkie-talkie conversations between burglars. Our words and sentence patterns are also primed in the same way, such that the words we chose are the words we will choose later.
 As a warm-up activity, you might try actively imitating a writing style different from your own. It’s hard to do and highly unpriming.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

on humility: wise words from a writer

"Do you know what that is to be humble? The word comes from the Latin words humilis and humus. To be down low. To be of the earth. To be on the ground. That’s where I went when I wrote the last word of my first book. Straight onto the cool tile floor to weep. 
 I’d stopped being grandiose. Which meant I had to write my book. My very possibly mediocre book. My very possibly never-going-to-be-published book. My absolutely no-where-in-league-with-the-writers-I’d-admired-so-much-that-I-practically-memorized-their-sentences book. It was only then, when I humbly surrendered, that I was able to do the work I needed to do." 

**All of the people I look up to share that trait: humility. They are aware of their own limitations, the failures it took to get where they are, and that there will always be a way to improve, a way to evolve. Before we become disappointed for not accomplishing a goal, it's okay to remind ourselves that a lot of them take time. Expecting something to occur quickly is dismissing the very nature of the process. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

On a long distance relationship

It's Friday night and time to take a break from the monotony of studying. I received an e-mail from a reader a couple weeks ago and wanted to answer it through a post. Here's a clip of it:

Dear Saumya,
How do you handle a long distance relationship? What's it like? 

So, honestly, how is it? This might come as a surprise but it's wonderful. Now, a lot of that has to do with the fact that I'm with the most understanding man I've ever met but from what I've experienced---and everyone's story is different---long distance has served as a magnifying glass for what's already there. I am more present because of it. He forces me to value myself, to indulge. We put each other on a pedestal---on the phone and in person. Since we rarely see each other, we make the most out of our weekends. 

Also, I get to live alone during this time in my life, which is a privilege my own mother didn't even have. I know this isn't for everyone but I'm grateful to have the choice to marry later in life. I've been able to cultivate a relationship with myself (cue lame, Sex and the City dialogue) that doesn't worry about loneliness.

He's following his career while I'm doing the same. Just knowing my personality type, I'd be resentful later if I chose something solely because of his location. Whatever little free time I have, I can be with my classmates or write or learn something new. A lot of relationships suffer when one person enters medical school and I realize how lucky we've been. 

Different people have different preferences so it might not be ideal for everyone. I get that. 
And of course, I miss him all the time and often long for the days I was in New York, scrambling to finish a feminist philosophy paper while he rubbed my shoulders. But I'm also grateful. And fortunate.

So, to conclude this post, these are three big things I've taken away so far:

1. It'll hurt like Hell when you leave each other. As in, there will be a real ache and too much space and silence and a graying resentment towards circumstances. But with a little time, life picks back up and if you're lucky, it's pulsating with things only you've established. No, you'll never stop missing them but you'll learn to build a more fertile life on your own because of it.

2. Distance won't be to blame if things don't go well. I was in another long distance relationship before and thought that was the problem. It was only a highlighter for the other issue. The sacrifice is not only worth it for the right person but it'll also be smooth. Yes, smooth. Long distance doesn't have to equal disaster.

3. Relationships take work no matter where partners are located. They also demand a sense of independence and optimism. If long distance isn't for you, then so be it. But if you've decided to commit, then do just that. Don't let distance take away your gratitude. Don't give it the power or weight to  make your days seem empty. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Alex's Genre Blogfest

As part of Alex's blogfest, I have to list my favorite genre in music, books, and movies AND a guilty pleasure from one. Here it goes!

Movies: Old, black and white. Roman Holiday is my favorite. I love how Princess Ann waltzes out of her life because of curiosity. I love how she keeps that day as a secret folded in herself. I love the innocence, charm, and fear that only comes with falling in love for the first time, with finding someone who stretches you in new ways. 

Music: Classical Indian, especially when it uses the tabla. 
A little background: Tabla is a pair of hand drums commonly used in Kathak music. Kathak is the North Indian style of dance I learned growing up. Of course, tabla is used in many Indian songs (cue impromptu Bollywood scene in a meadow with the rain).

Books: Women's fiction--literary, upmarket, or commercial. 
Guilty Pleasure: Justin Bieber (cringe). My sister and I might have become addicted to "Boyfriend" this summer. 

What are your favorites? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

When you're too exhausted

A word that navigates through my mind on a daily basis. There are moments when I wonder if I want too much out of a day. Sometimes the words just don't flow. Or other times they do, but the energy isn't there to document them. 
I often come back to the same wishes---more time, more energy---fully aware of how greedy that is. Sometimes I'll see the women in the clinic and hospital, wishing I had the prowess to treat them but aware that before that, I have to do a lot of blatant memorization. 
Or I'll flip through a book, hoping I can write anything and everything. 

But then, those brief moments of awareness wriggle through, and things are wonderful again. 

For example, I remember how fortunate I am to have a man who respects me; the me I am now, the me who I hope to become. A man who inspires and indulges. 
Then I think of the patients who come to the hospital. Patients who are vulnerable enough to share their struggles, understanding towards my lack of skill. They just won't let me give up.
And often, I'll open my Word document of unfinished thoughts; fragments of ideas or dead ended nothings, that serve as a reminder that we are never, ever done. 
We never have to be. 

All of these elements are reminders that the brightest lights emerge through bleakness. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quotes for the week

Medical school and editing have been especially grueling this week, so I thought I'd pass along some motivating quotes. Words, from those who are far wiser and more experienced than I'll ever be, have gotten me through a lot. 

"Don't let perfectionism paralyze you. If you're not failing, chances are, you're not trying hard enough." 

For it would seem - her case proved it - that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” 
 Virginia Woolf

“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”

—Enid Bagnold
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”

—Allen Ginsberg, WD

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: holding on and letting go

Ah, my first post for the lovely and necessary group Alex made: The Insecure Writer's Group! Today, I wanted to discuss if it's ever clear when it's time to hold on or let go.
Anyone who has ever written a story knows that most of us are figuring things out as we go along, right? Before I had the blogging community, I only had Google. No, seriously. I typed "how to write a novel" into that dependable search bar. Once I completed my first project, I sent all of it to an agent. She enjoyed it but thought it needed a rewrite. 
A rewrite? That's my work! That's my time! That's my effort! 
Instead of taking advice from those who knew a lot more than me, I struggled with clutching my words. The weird part? I knew that the agent was right. I did need a rewrite. I did need a fresher take on my themes. There were certain lessons I only grasped with time.

1.) You can rewrite an entire story and still keep the themes that made you write it in the first place
2.) Starting over can be difficult but is sometimes the only way to make a stronger piece
3.) Knowing when to hold on and when to let go is a case by case decision. There's no clear cut answer and there never will be. 

Of course, when everyone in my life asked how my writing was going and I told them I was starting over, they scoffed, as though I had been twiddling my thumbs the entire time. That, I realized, is where to let go. Let go of the doubts from others, from yourself. Let go of any white noise that comes in the way of your goal. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What are your get-to-work essentials?

Psychologists have come up with the term conditioning and apparently, having routines or objects that you associate with productivity can help condition your mind to get into work mode!
Here are some of my essentials:
Philosophy grace hand lotion
and a space to think.
(Also, not shown here, but fine pointed Sharpies, Post Its, and Rosebud lip gloss)

I love knowing other people's working processes.
What's on your desk? 

P.S. “Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” 


Sunday, August 26, 2012

On balancing multiple projects

Let's be frank here. I abhor the sound of my alarm clock and by abhor, I mean, the first thought that comes to my head when I hear it is Must. Go. Back. To. Sleep.
But lately, I've unearthed a novel appreciation for it when it comes to balancing multiple projects. I struggle with balance, that word so many articles are written about, that we all toss around like a prize we'll someday get. 
This past week, I realized that if I set an alarm for each project (say, 30 minutes or 2 hours), it enables me to use that time efficiently. Once the clock rings, time is up!
Now I realize that not everyone has an issue with focusing or procrastinating or anything else that permeates this status update/Tweet culture. But I have different weaknesses on different days. And well, this alarm clock, it just might be the key for now.

How do you balance multiple projects? Do you set time limits? Or just wait until certain tasks are finished? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Push them up (and other tips)

No, this post isn't regarding bras. Instead, as I'm embarking on another round of edits, my agent brought up valuable suggestions for tightening and adding tension:
Push up the scenes that add tension.
More specifically, if there is an "oh my gosh" moment in chapter ten, try seeing if it can happen earlier in the manuscript (maybe in the first several chapters). This keeps the first part of the manuscript as an action packed exposition. 
Ask yourself, if I skipped this chapter, would I still be okay to read the rest of the story? Or would I be confused? 
In my exposition, I introduced the M.C.'s family and then didn't have them really playing a role again until the end. I nicked out their intro (and the rest of the chapter). 
Don't have any two scenes where the setting and action are the same, even if the plot point is different.
My M.C. and her two best friends frequently meet in her apartment and at a cupcake shop. While that's fine to show their routine, it doesn't add an element of freshness to the work.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On plagiarism

Many writers will experience something about this topic at some point. We revolve our lives around words: giving them, taking them, pasting them together.

 I raise this question because of the news about Fareed Zakaria "borrowing" passages from a New Yorker article to write his own. Some are saying he should be dismissed entirely. Don't you think that's a bit harsh? Yes, people make mistakes but should they have to lose everything for it? 

My main question has more to do with the why than what. Why do people do this? Is it a mistake entirely? A simple lapse of judgment? In many cases, it's seen as an attempt for advancement (whether that's personal, one's reputation or image, professional, etc.) and the idea that they'll get away with it. It's crushing to see someone take credit for your spin on your thoughts. But still, that doesn't mean everyone sets out with bad intentions. It's many times a simple mistake, nothing more. 

At least he admitted to his mistake instead of wallowing in denial or blame. Mistakes will happen but it's how they're handled that may show true character. 

What are your thoughts? 

33 Ways to Stay Creative

From here

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Quotes of the moment: some words of wisdom from tonight's yoga class

"Success can be as dangerous as failure."

"Hope can be as hollow as fear."

"There's always an advantage to being underestimated by others, by yourself." 

"Many times, all it takes to be happy is to reinterpret the experiences you've had." 

Happy Tuesday :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My best friend's wedding

This past weekend, my oldest friend married a man who appreciates and uplifts her. She and I met through our parents who went to residency together. We shared dresses as little girls, make-up tips as teenagers, and our dreams as young women. From milk bottles to martini glasses, she's shaped me. 
She taught me that confidence is a trait that deserves cultivation and that often, nothing is as curing as a conversation. 
I never thought anyone would be good enough for her and I'm elated to be wrong.
(Indian weddings = a flood of color, food, outfits, and rowdy laughter.)

 (We had to hide her somewhere before she walked down the aisle and this back office was the only place open!)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rules on Writing

"Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t. It’s like washing the dishes two days later instead of right after you finish eating. Get that draft counter going. Remove a comma and then print out another copy — that’s another draft right there. Do this enough times and you can really get those numbers up, which will come in handy if someone challenges you to a draft-off. When the ref blows the whistle and your opponent goes, “26 drafts!,” you’ll bust out with “216!” and send ’em to the mat."

One of 10 rules from this New York Times article by Colson Whitehead.

more of those "what I've learned" notes

This summer has been full of learning experiences. I tried to hold on to some of those lessons and compile them into a post. Sorry in advance for any haphazardness! 

1. Your next story can come from anywhere. Seriously. Characters are all over the place. Dialogue is at the next table.  I read about an author who was ready to give up and sat on a park bench, lamenting over her failed career. A woman ran by with a red cap and it hit her: a brazen tomboy character who defines herself through running! 

2. Your next friend can also come from anywhere. Our family just moved and our new neighbors happened to have a daughter my age who is incredible: gorgeous, intelligent, talented, and humble. We've been in touch throughout the summer and I've already learned so much from her! 

3. If your writing seems stagnant, then stop for a bit. Just stop. Sometimes even inspiration needs a break, you know? 

4. Some of the people who will help you the most are the ones you may never meet. I can say that this is definitely true when it comes to my blogging friends. The encouragement, wisdom, and sheer knowledge I've gained from them is beyond what I could have from anyone else. 

5. Speaking (or singing...or anything) in front of people only gets easier if you keep doing it. I had to sing two friends' first dance songs at their weddings and then give my first talk in NYC (on medicine, gender roles, and writing...cue nerdy girl comments). In elementary school, I struggled with stage fright and found hints of it revisiting before these events. The only way it went left was to keep putting myself in those positions.

6. This comes from Maya Angelou: "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
It's not always about whether or not someone wronged you (everyone makes mistakes) but sometimes it's about how they've handled it. Some of the situations my girlfriends and I discussed involves those who victimized themselves, denied they did anything wrong, and/or ignored and showed obvious insecurity.  It's all just not worth your time! Wish them the best and hope you never cross paths again, lol. 

7. You can handle anything that comes your way. 

8. Tell people you love them. Nobody gets tired of hearing it. Ever.

9  Study your weaknesses. Then go beat them. No but really, find out what scares you or makes you nervous. Is it writing certain scenes? Is it building characters? Networking with strangers? 

10. Make something. Whatever you do, try to make something. For yourself, for others. I'm focusing on a women's health project this year and was watching television when bham! An additional project came to mind (focusing on maternal health). Yay!

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

A fabulous book party for a fabulous book: Where We Belong

Emily was kind enough to invite my sister and me to her Atlanta launch party for Where We Belong. I've just started it but am already hooked and can't wait to write a review. Her party was just like her: elegant, fun, and inspiring.
Check out her novel if you need a captivating summer read!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Notes on writing from reading

Often, when I'm drained of inspiration, reading is the only thing that helps. "You scarf down books the way other people do food," Samir once joked to me. Reading helps me learn about writing. I wanted to share some notes I took from the recent books I finished.

1. Give a character something to lose, something that drives them, or both.

2. It's okay to not dive into every detail of a character's life. (Character charts sometimes help us flesh a character out but that doesn't mean each tidbit has to be woven into a book.)

3. Don't make anyone too "perfect". Smart, handsome, kind, wealthy, etc. Flaws are what make characters and people real. 

4. Describe someone's settings to show character. For example, does your character have a messy desk? A neat one with file folders and organized drawers? No desk? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Being Stubborn

The fortune teller---an old woman with young hands---claimed I was stubborn. I'm sure anyone could guess that, right? As she gestured to each tarot card, I thought I'd take this trait, one that's often perceived negatively, and see how I could use it to improve, evolve, and ameliorate. 

Writing: Refusing to give up, refusing to allow anything but love when love seems to be the easiest thing to drop, is what makes great books (great anything, really). 
That's the thing: when you're beginning, there usually isn't anyone watching over you, making sure you've completed this or that task. There's that essential something---a mix of stubborn behavior and insanity---that makes dreams come true. 

Medicine: It's convenient to complain a lot in medical school. Everyone's doing it and most of the time, it's a unifying experience. We complain over our 20 hour days, the volume of information, patient reports, etc. But it can also become a little negative at times. At times, I'm optimistic to an irritating degree but for now, I'll keep to that :) 

It's our own stubborn tendencies that can keep us going.

P.S. I'm heading to Canada this weekend for a quick trip (cousin's wedding!) but will be back soon. I can't wait to catch up with your blogs!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now...

In order to prevent burnout or resentment and build gratitude, I've done some posts about what I would tell my old self. It's always around this time every year that I become myself again. Something about the pink, unimposing July does it. 

1. You'll experience heartbreaks of all types: from friends, relationships, and places. Don't dwell on them or try to change the situation. Improve yourself and move on. 

2. Writing is editing. Period. 

3. Happiness will hit you at unexpected times, like while you're sipping white wine on a porch with your great love, exchanging silence. You'll recognize it.

4. Fall in love with everything you do. Homework. Breakfast. A bold shade of lipstick. Just fall in love. 

5. Things may look like they come easily for some but know that everyone is working hard at something. 

6. The older you get, the less you'll judge. Acceptance will embrace you and others.

7. View everything you do as practice. Then, nothing will ever feel wasted. 

8. Don't dismiss anyone or anything. You never know....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Nerdy question alert: What's your favorite punctuation mark and why?

I've always had a soft spot for the semicolon and this article captures why better than I ever could: 

"Their textbook function — to separate parts of a sentence “that need a more distinct break than a comma can signal, but that are too closely connected to be made into separate sentences” — has come to seem like a dryly beautiful little piece of psychological insight. No other piece of punctuation so compactly captures the way in which our thoughts are both liquid and solid, wave and particle."

What's your favorite punctuation mark? Why?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

YOU always deserve respect: agent vs. author

I thought of this post last night while Samir and I were scarfing down take-out pasta. When many writers are sending out queries, partials, and fulls, they're encouraged to be respectful. Fair, right? This busy person is taking out time to consider your work. 
But the reverse is also true. 
I remembered one particular agent who asked for a partial, then a full. 5 months later, I heard nothing from her, so I assumed that was probably a "no" but just wanted to make sure. I had other offers and learned it was polite to let anyone who had the manuscript know. 
I wrote a short e-mail and got this response:
"I haven't read it and you can't bother me with your question. I'll get to it when I feel like it."

A week later, I had some mail from this agent. My manuscript? No. 
A suggestion to attend a $300 conference and watch her speak? Yes.

The point is, I know we're all eager to get our work out there but respect should always be a two way street.  Everyone is trying to get to a partnership, not a dictatorship. Anyone who doesn't give you or your treasured work courtesy is not someone you need! 

Summer + rich brunches + books = free therapy

Monday, June 25, 2012

A common sort of...blah

Do you ever go through periods of apathy with your work, your passions? An unexpected, ill fitting apathy--the kind that occupies most hours. It's somewhere at the intersection of burn out and confusion. 
I know a lot of people say that feeling "uninspired" or "out of it" is an excuse, a refusal to try harder. But, you know, it's possible for a sentiment to come over you as an uncontrollable force, like the weather.
This post isn't meant to be depressing (as I'm not depressed) but merely realistic. Does everyone sometimes deal with a common sort of blah that's often stifled in society? 

I've found that novelty helps. So does:
 Talking about it. 
And not talking about it. 
 Reading quotes while sipping coffee.
A lot of coffee.
 Friends who don't give you a choice but fun--uncomplicated, irrational fun.
Celebrating the choices and victories of others. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Advice to remember

It's important to remind ourselves that anything worth pursuing is going to bring a lot of fear and devastation with it. 

On reading this article about how one woman wrote a best-seller, I tried to memorize these words: 

Don’t talk about doing it. Do it and then tell people about it. You need a single minded focus, so it’s best to direct your energy and effort into accomplishing something rather than explaining it to people.
My own family only knew I completed the book once I sent them pictures of my first copies fresh off the press. Many of my friends only heard about it when I sent them invites to the book launch."

(*Something I particularly admired about the author is her honesty about purpose and worth in life. She was very successful with her first attempt at a book but she ends the article stating that she doesn't know what's next and may not even write again.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pixar's Rules For Stories!

Pixar movies will always turn me into a wide-eyed, emotional little girl. Who hasn't become teary-eyed in at least one of the movies? I was a mess during Toy Story 3 and UP. 
So when I found this list of Pixar's 22 Rules for Story Telling, I knew I had to share. 

Some favorites: 

-What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

-Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likeable to you as you write but it's poison for the audience.

Tonight, my sister and I had (too much) pizza and champagne, popped in a classic movie, and became children again for a couple of hours. 
That's what the best stories offer, right? Escape. Even into your old self. 

If you're interested in the complete list, it's here! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Presenting Tamara Hart Heiner!!

Hi, everyone!! I'm honored to introduce Tamara Hart Heiner. I was lucky enough to meet her in the blogging world and now, she's just come out with a new novel, Altercation! 

Summary: The FBI promises Jacinta Rivera and her friends that they are
safe. Jaci wants desperately to believe them but weeks of hiding from
their kidnapper, alias "The Hand", have left her wary. Hidden from the
public eye in an FBI safe house, Jaci must reconcile both the mysterious
disappearance of her father and the murder of her best friend.

A betrayal lands Jaci back in the grasp of The Hand, shattering her
ability to trust and leaving her to wonder if she will ever piece together
her broken life.

Tamara is as talented as she is generous. For each day of her blog tour, she will select a winner from that day's comments! That winner will get a copy of Altercation or its prequel, Perilous. 

As if that wasn't enough, she's also offering more prizes! Leaving a comment will also enter you for a prize drawing. This is cumulative. For every comment, you will get 1 point. Anyone who follows her blog will also get an additional point. Any tweet or mention on Facebook serves as an additional point. Tamara is even going to add up all the points for you.  Just make sure you include her in the tweet (@tamaraheiner) or on Facebook. 

Third prize: 50 page critique (for non-writers, a $5 Amazon gift card)
Second Prize: five YA books
First Prize: $20 gift card

Lovely links: 

*For an interview with Tamara, check out Lydia's blog and any of the other stops on Tamara's tour. 

*Remember to check out Tamara's blog for a chance to win a copy of Altercation or Perilious and find out more about her tour! 

*Join me as I put Altercation on my summer reading list! You can buy it on Amazon and it is also available as an ebook for $4.99! 

Thanks for including us in your journey, Tamara :)