Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Book That Will Never Be Published

Advanced Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart. It is graphic and a bit icky. Don't read if you aren't ready for that. 

So I'm writing a new book. It's called MANHOLE. It's about a girl who was raped by an undetermined number of guys at a party. There may or may not have been date rape drugs involved (she tests negative for them, but date rape drugs don't last in the body very long). She was drinking at the party. Several friends witnessed her kissing one of the guys and many people heard her announce that she was going to "get with" a bunch of guys before the night was over. She doesn't remember anything. But her perpetrators left a lighter inside of her. The girl begins to fall apart at school after the event, becoming increasingly promiscuous and withdrawn from the people who love her.

It is written from the point of view of her boyfriend. He tries to help her, fix her, make her how she was. It doesn't work, of course. The book begins and ends with the boyfriend watching from the window as his girl goes down on one of the male teachers at their school. 

I know that this book is too dark ever to be published. And yet I keep writing it. I can't stop. Part of the reason is because it comes from a truth inherent in every rape victim I have ever counseled in hospital ERs. Part of it is because it's complicated and our girl isn't a "good rape victim." And part of it is because it doesn't end happily. It ends with a glimmer of hope, yes, but it is clear that it's a crap shoot whether this girl will ever be whole again. That is also true and real.

I think it is some of the best writing I've ever done. I have woken up at 5am for the last 10 days to write. And it will still never be published. Not because I wouldn't try, but because publishers wouldn't know how to market it. And who would buy it? It's not SPEAK. It's not easy to empathize with our girl and I don't want it to be. 

This whole thing has made me look at the reason I write. I always knew it wasn't just about getting published. If it was, I'd be happily working on RADIO STATIONS right now, revising it and selling it because it works. Instead, I've put it on hold so that this one can get out of me. And no, it's not therapeutic to write this one. It's painful. It's like reading PUSH, not warm and fuzzy or cathartic. 

But writing it has become a compulsion. I won't have my head completely back in the game of life until I'm done with it. I don't really know why it's happening this way, but it is.

Have you ever had something like this happen?  What do you do about it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Creativity and Inspiration

My daughter and I went to see Peter Pan yesterday. It was a production in a circus tent that involved acrobats along with an IMAX type projection screen on the walls of the tent.  Totally AMAZING.

The crocodile was made of coat hangers from the Darling kids' closet.

When I see things like this, I am reminded of how truly creative and incredible people are. Peter Pan has been in production for 100 years. And it has now been brought to a 2011 sensibility of media-lovin' IMAX circus-fanatic kids. Brilliant.

I have been reading and editing a lot. Between 3 and 4 books a week. And most of it is spectacular. I remain in awe of writers. You would think every idea has been done before but it is not so.

I have never seen a smokin' hot gargoyle before reading Jess' book. I bet none of you have.

After seeing yesterday's play, I started to think about where creativity comes from? Where do people get their inspiration?

GESTAPO came out of a conversation I had with my sister when we were in junior high. (Which, er, was a little while ago...)

RADIO STATIONS came from reading an invitation for the junior high graduation announcement of my kids' Montessori school.

My next one (yes, I have an idea already) came from a monologue I performed in my college acting class. (Plus, a HILARIOUS email conversation with my CP Carrie about the made-for-TV summer camp movie "Poison Ivy" that starred Michael J. Fox as a counselor).

So tell me, where do you all get your inspiration?

Friday, May 13, 2011

32 Flavors and then some...

So you may be wondering where my blog from yesterday is. I am too. It's disappeared. I think this is someone's way of telling me I've been censored. It might have been nice to receive an email notification about this but I guess deleting my blog sends a pretty strong message without the necessity of form emails about "adult content."

I guess you never know you've crossed a line until someone points it out. Oops. My bad. Sorry if I offended anyone.

You may not know this about me but for the past 3 years, I've taught Sunday School to 0-3 year olds. I know, you're shocked. It's a parent-child singing class. I learned from Miss Amy, an amazing music teacher who had done it for 10 years prior to me. Sadly, it became ragingly apparent on the first day that I would never be able to fill her shoes. Here's why:

1. I am not that good of a singer.
2. It is very difficult to wave scarves around and pretend you are a blue bird with a straight face.
3. 45 minutes is a very long time to engage small children in a large empty gym with only singing to distract them. (Especially when there is a train set right outside of the gym.)
4. You may be surprised to find out that I can be very sarcastic. This doesn't translate well to 0-3 year olds in Sunday School class. Go figure.

After a month of exhausting myself with the energy it took to be perky and fabulous, I decided to regroup. I needed a plan of action. The plan involved two critical components: library books and a snack.

Hello, game changer.

Give a two-year old a handful of goldfish and read them a book about Leornardo the Monster and you have captured their attention for at least 15 additional minutes. That leaves actual singing time to maybe 20 minutes (snack clean up and parachute/bubble time kill another 10 minutes).

I figured out a way to preserve my voice and most of my dignity. It also helped that I announced at the beginning of every class, "Hi, I'm Christa. Just so you know, I'm no Miss Amy. Sorry in advance."

Next year, I am giving up the 0-3 year olds to take on the junior high and high school kids. Big change of pace and I am excited about it (for obviously selfish YA writer reasons). But I'll always love my littles for the myriad lessons they've taught me including:

1. Patience. (If you think waiting for agent feedback is painful, try waiting for a two-year old to eat 14 goldfish so you can get out the parachute and be done with class.)
2. Sometimes you don't feel like singing but you need to power through anyway. Kids don't understand "I don't feel like entertaining you for 45 minutes" from grown-ups.
3. If things are going south, pull out the Old Lady who Swallowed A Fly. (My translation: if your writing is not going smoothly, take a break and read for a while.)
4. You're not there for the parents, you're there for the kids (very helpful advice for KidLit authors).
5. When you are losing the crowd, pull out a box of donuts.

I believe number 5 can be used in almost every situation.