Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Confident Creatives

So we attended the Nickel Creek concert last night in Mesa. Are you people aware of the brilliant young people that form Nickel Creek? The band is made up of three wunderkinds (they're regular aged adults now, but they formed the band twenty five years ago, when their mandolinist, Chris Thile was about nine. That's right, NINE. And the other two members of the band, siblings Sara and Sean Watkins are even younger. So Nickel Creek, a progressive bluegrass band, was originally made up of wunderkinds who are now just skilled musical artists. Chris is actually a virtuoso. If you haven't heard their music, do yourself a favor and YouTube a live performance. Even if their sound isn't up your alley stylistically, you can't deny their musicianship.

This is how excited we all get about things like this:


When I saw this photo, I said, "Wow, we look like literal crazy people." But I kind of love that. I love a lot of things when I'm an environment like that. I love human accomplishment. I love my ability to appreciate art and music. I love the associations with my favorite people more than usual.

The thing I love most about seeing performances like the one last night -- these people aren't just comfortable with their instruments and with each other, they are soooo comfortable on stage, so comfortable sharing their skills with us, and so well-rehearsed that their work transcends the instruments, the individual voices, the space in which they perform, and becomes something otherworldly. It's as if through their music, they communicate soul to soul with members of the audience. I told Tyler, "I admire creatives who can share their work and touch others, but sometimes as you're sitting in an audience you realize that this is something special."

It reminded me of Savion Glover, who seemed almost like a conduit for pure creative energy, untainted by any small or mean emotion or intention. A pure generous offering given in complete confidence that someone will get it. Someone will understand. I get the feeling that a show for a single person would be just as full of verve and soul. Reaching just one person would be okay, because that higher connection would be made.

It was unforgettable and sublime.

I finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline again last night. The geektastic MMORPG ode to the 80's freaking DEBUT novel Cline crafted is still a glittering feat of imagination. And I mean epic glitter, like a Bedazzled denim jacket. Crafted with confidence that someone will get it. And now I'm reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and the creative fearlessness of this stunning cyberpunk tale is breathtaking.

All these things remind me to be open, be fearless, be confident. Only one person can create what's in my head and share it with the world. If I don't do it, who will? And someone out there is waiting to make that connection. I have to move forward, unafraid and be the only one who can share my ideas, cuz there's no one else who can do me better than me.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Little Bit of Encouragement

After receiving the fifth rejection from an agent (still waiting to hear from my favorite), I was a little . . . well, I wouldn't say discouraged. Maybe a little like this --


And then. And THEN

I got this great email from an old previous creative writing professor of mine. I asked her if I could share it on my blog, so that you could all feel the warm fuzzies that I did.

"Lee, 

One of the odd legacies of teaching writing, of course, is that some people really do show up in my classes because they intend to write. I know this sounds obvious, but it's actually a remarkable truth, because writing is hard and painful and takes far more out of us than the average college junior or senior can begin to comprehend. I have always admired my students and their efforts, and over the many years of my career I have been privileged to see one or two a year go on to the real commitment, and the real power of their own gifts. 

But the hours it takes to complete a book-length narrative has, for better or worse, spared me from becoming overwhelmed with sheer quantity of post-student writing until recently. This past year, however, I have been asked by nine different people--mostly former students, but also other people I know from other avenues--to read their book-length manuscripts. I'm flattered and I'm generally happy to read (and stay with me here), but it's been overwhelming, on top of a heavy teaching load, my wish to attend closely to my current students, my own family life, and my own increasingly dogged determination to produce pages myself. 

All of this is set up for what I want to say to you. I can't read fast, and I take reading seriously enough to do it right once I'm in, so I'm only about halfway through your manuscript. And it's breathtaking. Once in awhile I come across a phrase or a word I want to highlight and ask you to tweak just a bit more, but, my gosh. It's human, it's disciplined, it's compassionate, and it's just plain beautiful. Your passage that opens Chapter 9, for example, is gorgeous, shimmering poetry. I keep going back to it, just for the sheer joy of reading it. Terrible and heartbreaking and beautiful. 

I know you'll fuss and tweak and answer to editors and agents and publishers with this piece, and that's all fine, and really good, but don't let anyone make you compromise what you know has to be there. Too many children--and grown-ups who were once children--need your narrative to speak to them. 

I'll keep reading; seems right now that the ride home on the train after classes is a good time to pull it up on my screen--but I wanted to let you know how much I admire it. I'm grateful you sent it and I intend to savor every word of it. And I'll give you my best, most articulate responses as I progress, but the piece has a life of its own. Doesn't need me. Trust it, trust yourself, trust the right publisher."

And then I was like this:


Thank you thank you thank you

Just what I needed at that moment.

Mwah.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quotes from the week



Here are some things, out of context, that were said to me this week. Things I like to remember, either for their humorous value, or for encouragement.

"We pray for you daily, and love you more than dark chocolate -- almost."

"Line for line, you're one of the finest writers I know."

"Just wanted to say I love you and I'm glad you're my sister."

"No one is a pancake person."

"I always forget you're an artist."

"This book sings with its descriptions."

"Maybe I'm a hater. I never thought I was a hater, but maybe I am."

"You do caricatures too? I feel so lame next to you."

"Don't even worry about it."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sketch Dailies - Sharktopus


 Painted in ArtRage on the iPad with my left index finger. Just like Will Terry, except he's not left-handed. And I don't know if he uses ArtRage. Actually, forget I said Will Terry. Don't tell Will Terry I want to be like him when I grow up. It might freak him out. Since I'm already grown up. Or not.




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thank you, Robin


Drew this today, thinking about Robin, and how his passing has touched so many.

Talked with Geary about Vincent, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and how people are talking about mental illness now, because of Robin. And that's a blessing. In this tragic moment, when his family and friends are grieving, his life, his struggle and his death have opened a dialogue about depression and addiction and the price of genius and people are TALKING about it.

I texted my Auntie, the one I lived with when I was REALLY sick, and thanked her for saving my life. Here was her simple reply:

"Oh friend. I had help. You wanted to live. I am very glad you did. Love you."

I'm glad too.

Thank you, Robin. For a life well lived, and for a heart that we will never forget, and for inspiring people to get help.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Misha Collins, The Elopus and Me

I did random acts of kindness for random scavenger hunt teams this week who were competing in GISHWHES. Don't know what GISHWHES is? Read my post about it.

I ended up writing thirteen original flash fictions for GISHWHES teams. All the people I ended up working with were very sweet and I ended up with over a hundred new followers on Twitter. Which was pretty awesome.

Each story had to have three elements: Misha Collins, the Queen of England, and an elopus.


And it had to be 140 words or less. As an added challenge to myself, I made each story exactly 140 words.

Do you want to read the stories? Here they are.


1.
Visitor

Once upon a time, a sad Elopus lived in the Central Park Zoo. No one had ever seen anything like him, so people came from far and wide to get a look. Even the Queen of England came.

One day a little boy with yellow hair stood outside the Elopus' tank.

I'm Misha,” said the boy. “You look sad.”

No one ever talks to me,” replied the Elopus.

I'll talk to you,” said Misha.

So every day, Misha visited. They talked of books, philosophy, and chihuahuas. Misha taught the Elopus to play chess. The Elopus taught Misha whale songs.

Misha grew old. He never missed a visit.

Then one night a spaceship hovered over Central Park Zoo.

My people are back,” said the Elopus. “Do you want to come home with me?”

Misha did.


2.
The Break-Up

Don'tMisha, they told me. Don't fall in love with the Queen. When it ends, you'll have nowhere to go.

They were right.

So I came here to Europa Station.

I had to come. At the furthest rotation, we're 600 million miles from Earth. That's as far as I could get.
Even she can't reach me here, on Europa's unchanging, icy brilliance.

I spend my days studying the elopus – the first officially recognized, nonterrestrial life-form, indigenous to this moon.

We got news of the Terran plague a week ago. With the communications array damaged, the news was old. By the time I'd heard of her death, she'd already been gone six months – struck down with a billion other people.

She's not walking the earth anymore, but it's the face of Europa that feels changed.

 Long live the Queen.


3.
Dear Diary

Sometimes its easy to forget that you're a genetic mutation. You know. . . when people hand you a coffee and you lift a tentacle to take the mug and they don't even bat an eye. When you walk the halls and people say hi, even if they are all in white lab coats. When you trumpet accidently during a proper conversation and no one cares. When they smile at you. It's easy to forget.

And then one day everything changes. The Queen is dethroned and government buildings – like this one – are stormed and sacked. Dr. Collins is shot right in front of you. And you're dragged from your pool like an animal.

They don't listen to anything you say. They just laugh at you.

Their children poke you with sticks.

It's not so easy to forget anymore.



4.
Victoria's Birthday


Sighted, Captain!”

Collins leans over the rail to see his spotter throw one arm out. He tracks the line of the pointed finger, across the peaking waves tumbled in the starlight. When he snatches it from his belt, the telescope is cold. Collins peers through the glass. He holds his breath.

A dark shape silhouettes through the wall of water below – all vast and curling – before the light of a rising moon. The Elopus – breaching from the deep.

Collins sprints down the deck. He shouts back through the creak of rigging.

Hard to starboard. And dive. Dive!”

Thrumming, the dirigible begins a mammoth turn as the helmsman engages the aft engines.

Ready the nets!” cries Collins. He waves away a thread of cloud. Lowers his goggles.

The Queen shall have her prize tonight.”


5.
Stray

I really wish you wouldn't bring home strays,” said Dmitri to his wife. But as the Queen of England, she could do whatever she damn well pleased, and he knew it.

The new acquisition was an oddity, all writhing tentacles and leathery ears and a trunk crisscrossed with wrinkles. It smelled like fish, scooting back and forth in the water. Rested its suction cups against the thick glass.

It'll eat us out of house and home,” Dimitri complained.

I think the treasury can handle it,” she said, laughing.

Dimitri couldn't explain it. When he walked past the tank, its baleful glare made him shudder.

One night, face awash in the pale light of the tank's blue bulbs, Dimitri stopped.

You certainly are an ugly thing, aren't you?” he muttered.

 Imagine his surprise when the elopus answered.



6.
In The Garden

One day, a boy named Misha went on a killing spree.

When he approached the outdoor tank of his beloved elopus at feeding time, Misha discovered the glass encrusted with monarch butterflies. Misha happened to suffer from lepidopterophobia, and the sight of his pet being threatened by so many of these terrifying insects sent him into a rage.

Misha dropped the plate of biscuits, punching and kicking every butterfly in sight, until the ground was blanketed.

He stood there panting. His elopus eyed him, wondering what in blazes was going on and it occurred to Misha that he would need to dispose of the bodies.

Since it was illegal to kill a monarch butterfly unless in service of the Crown, Misha delivered them to Buckingham Palace.

And the Queen had them fashioned into a stunning gown.

And Misha was cured.


7.
Lazarus

Dimitri walked with a cane now, stooped and slow. After serving the Queen for 900 years, he was tired. Tired to his bones.

The injections had stopped working. Old age had set in. He was ready to retire.

He had once loved the Queen, but after centuries of genetic enhancement, she was unrecognizable. She sprawled in the throne, tentacles splayed; her leathery face squinted at him, the prehensile nose clutching a glass of wine.

He would be glad to bid farewell to that face.

Dimitri knelt. “I beg your leave, Majesty. I am ready to lie these bones to rest.”

No, dear,” said the Queen. “You will enter The Lazarus Chamber. You will live to serve us another 900 years. Are we not generous?”

Dimitri sighed as eternity stretched before him.

 “Indeed, Your Majesty. Most generous.”



8.
#elopus

UKLizzie: How's the work going, darling?
UKLizzie: Hello????
DoctorMisha: good. so sorry. busy today.
UKLizzie: What are you busy with?
DoctorMisha: about to make a breakthrough #elopus
UKLizzie: It's working? What does it look like?
DoctorMisha: it's the first subject that hasn't died upon extraction from the genome vat. it's beautiful. a perfect chimera hybrid. octopus + elephant = #sexydoctormisha
UKLizzie: Amazing, darling You'll get a knighthood for this.
DoctorMisha: in private? ;-) will you wear the crown?
UKLizzie: We can do more than that. ;-)
UKLizzie: Hello?
UKLizzie: Hello???
DoctorMisha: yes sorry something's happening
UKLizzie: With the Elopus?
DoctorMisha: no people are running. fawkes just yelled
UKLizzie: What do you mean? What's happening?
DoctorMisha: harris is biting someone i think i hear gunshots
UKLizzie: Gunshots? Biting? What's happening?
DoctorMisha: gtg afk luv u
UKLizzie: Darling?
UKLizzie: Misha?
UKLizzie: Hello??


9.
Tidepool

C'mon!” yelled Sam, the screen door banging. “C'mon. Come quick!”

Ben and Nina looked up from their board game.

Misha found an elopus!”

It was a warm day, with scudding clouds and a pale, faraway sun. They ran down the lane, between waist-high beachgrasses.

Sam pointed. “There's the tidepool.” Misha waved.

The four knelt, fingers curled over the rocky ledge. A dense smell of fish. There were snails, an urchin, crabs, and the elopus.

Its tentacles knotted and uncurled through the shallow water. The trunk lay outstretched, gathering sun. Grey sail-like ears scattered droplets.

What should we name it?” asked Nina. “How about Queen Elizabeth?”

Huh-uh,” said Misha. “I called dibs.”

You can't call dibs,” said Sam. “Besides, you have a cat. We're taking it home.”

 And so they did.



10.
Heavy Cloud

Dimitri wrinkled his nose under the rebreather. No matter how new the filter was, the smell still got in.

The dead had been raining for years now. If you didn't keep beneath reinforced awnings on your way to the tube, you could be flattened. Taken out by some putrid, corpsified, genetic abomination. What a way to go.

Dmitri glanced into the sky, then splashed across the roadway. He'd applied for work assignment onboard AtmoLab, but thanks to the Queen, competition was fierce. So when they tossed their failed experiments overboard, he was stuck down here with everyone else.

A sudden screaming descent above him, and . . .
SPLAT

He felt the impact before he saw it, spattered with goo and parts as it struck the ground. He peeled an oozing tentacle from his forehead.

Elopus.

Yech.

Good thing I skipped breakfast.”

11.
First contact

Misha Krushnic – Recorded 14:45 – 23.6.2163

You know, this is the last thing we expected to find.

When the Queen knighted us on launch day. . . everyone knew we wouldn't be back. We figured it would be our last time with other living beings.

It's been seven years.

You get used to the idea that you'll never see anyone else again.

Just the crew.

And you.

Anna still smells like lavender. After all this time. Isn't that crazy? And Barnett likes his orange juice frozen. It's weird the things you learn about people.

We found the signal 48 hours ago. It led us to some kind of station in geosynchronous orbit around Proxima II.

Communications show these weird tentacled things. But they speak. . . they actually speak.

Cap says we're gonna dock.

First contact in T-27 minutes.




12.

The Game

Dmitri yawned, stretched, stood. The bed retracted into the wall. He stumbled into the bathroom. The mirror displayed the latest scores; Dmitri scrolled through them as he brushed his teeth.

The game had been running longer than anyone could remember. No one knew when it began. They only knew they had to keep playing.

Ping!

New task: Capture live Elopus. Document. 137 points.

Dmitri sighed. He messaged the team.

Boat charter 19:30. Elopus. Bring supplies.

His device beeped.

Calling: TheQueenHerself

Are you kidding?” She looked pissed.

Hey,” he said to her hologram. “Don't shoot the messenger.”

What's our standing?”

242nd.”

She was silent.

Don't worry,” he said. “The score'll go up.”

She sighed.

Click.

He shrugged into his jacket.

It has to,” he said to himself. “I'm not losing another player.”



13.
Ark


And there began to be much wickedness among mankind. And God knew he must reset. And God said unto his servant Asher, Build unto me a ship and thereupon put two of every animal, for lo, I shall destroy the world. And Asher did construct a ship, the workmanship thereof being exceedingly fine, and he did stock it with seeds of every kind, he and his sons, Misha, Drift and San. And two of every animal did board the ship. And Asher's sons did go forth to gather up the swimming things. But behold, the elopus, being full of mischief, did hide from Asher's sons, and they could not find it. And Asher wept, but God's wrath would not wait. Thus they did blast off without the elopus, them and their mother, Elizabeth. And so, the elopus was lost. Amen.

Comment and let me know which one was your favorite!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

GISHWHES!

How many of you have heard of GISHWHES? Watch this video.


GISHWHES is an acronym for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. It's hosted, produced, and inspired by Misha Collins, American actor and director, who also co-founded Random Acts, a non-profit dedicated to funding and inspiring acts of kindness around the world.


This whole GISHWHES thing is really cool. Every year thousands and thousands of people are grouped into 15-man teams. After registering (registration fees go toward Random Acts), on the first day of the hunt, a list is made available with over 150 tasks or challenges and the teams scramble all over the world to document their completion of these tasks, to which point amounts have been assigned. At the end of the hunt week, the points are tallied, and the winning team is taking on an extravagant adventure with Collins.

The challenges are crazy, random, and inspire creativity. Lots of them are service oriented. Collins said the reason he created the competition was because he "loved the idea of thousands of people all over the world connecting to create incredible things."

Here are some from previous years:








 So one of the tasks this year is to get a previously published sci-fi author to write an original story (140 words or less) featuring Misha Collins, the Queen of England, and an elopus (elephant/kraken hybrid).

I thought, "It would be fun to use the GISHWHES hashtag on Twitter and let people know I am available to write stories." So I did it. 

I thought I would get a few people. Maybe five at the most, asking for a story.

Let's just say my Twitter feed exploded. I have gotten about 75 new followers in the past 12 hours, as well as several retweets for DawgArt.

And so far I've written five stories.

After the competition closes, I'll post them here for you to enjoy.

Good luck, gishers! 2 days, 19 hours, 34 minutes left.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Waiting Game Continues

So I have two rejections under my belt. Both were from agents that I really didn't expect to like the book, since they publish things quite different from The Angel Room, but they were agents to which I had connections through WIFYR. And it really would be silly not to try, wouldn't it?


I know that this is a subjective business. Not everyone will like this book. Readers would probably be split pretty well down the middle, so I would assume the same for people in the industry. Not every book is for every person. I totally understand that. So instead of being discouraged, I took the feedback from one agent to my readers' circle. We had a nice discussion, and did come up with a couple of edits/additions that would help from the onset of the story. (The other agent just said that the book wasn't for her.)



I know I have a long way to go before it's on the shelf, but of course part of you hopes that the first letter you get back is a glowing acceptance and offer of representation. But I've gotten lots of rejections before, because I submit short stories throughout the year.


 And I've gotten lots of acceptance letters too, which is nice. When a rejection comes on a short story, it actually feels sort of good, because it means that I'm DOING it. I'm creating and submitting and taking it all seriously. So I'm treating these rejections like that. I'm doing it!

And then I just remind myself of all the successful writers who have received rejections. On really successful books even, or books that launched careers. Like Stephen King. He received dozens of rejections for Carrie. One publisher wrote, "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." William Golding's Lord of the Flies was rejected twenty times. One publisher wrote, " . . . an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull." J.K. Rowling had the first Harry Potter book rejected dozens of times. In the end, it was only picked up because the CEO's eight-year-old daughter begged him to print it. George Orwell's Animal Farm was rejected with these words: "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA." Frank Herbert's Dune was rejected twenty times. And one editor told Rudyard Kipling, "I'm sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language." Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by twenty six publishers. Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows was called an "irresponsible holiday story." Judy Blume said she received nothing but rejections for over two years, Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries was rejected seventeen times, and Lady Chatterly's Lover author D.H. Lawrence was advised, ". . . for your own sake do not publish this book."

Here are three rejection letters sent to famous authors:

Gertrude Stein


Ursula K. LeGuin

 Kurt Vonnegut

Text of this letter:

The Atlantic Monthly
August 29, 1949
Dear Mr. Vonnegut:
We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted to for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.
Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.
Faithfully yours,
(Signed, ‘Edward Weeks’)

So I sent out queries to eight more agents yesterday.


I'm DOING it!