I can tell that I am having a relatively good winter because I have not needed to go out and buy myself consolation tulips to remind myself that Spring is Coming. Though of course now that I’ve written that, I am consumed with the need to have tulips in the house. [Edit: And now I do. Lovely pink-and-white striped ones.]
But even so, I am really looking forward to April, when the first crocuses and squill start to push up through the snow!
In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to in February:
I finished a draft of a NEW BOOK! NEW! Not a revision or a rewrite. NEW!
I am blissfully overusing caps because it feels SO GOOD! The last time I finished a first draft of a brand new book was in 2011 — since then I’ve been rewriting and revising that book (which does not have a home yet, alas) and working on various false starts.
Of course, the new book is by no means a perfect book. In fact, I suspect it needs a significant amount of work. Especially the parts where I left behind notes to myself like “Insert major turning point here that will explain why X happens later.”
So I spent the second half of the month working on a new outline, brainstorming, reading and re-reading craft articles and books on structure. One of my goals with this revision/rewrite is to really focus on staying true to my characters, and to ensure that the plot is driven by character choices and motivations.
And now that it’s March, I’m diving back in again. Wish me luck!
2014 continues to be an excellent reading year for me — not just the fact that I’ve been reading more, but the books have been awesome! I keep wanting to take pictures of my to-read pile because I am so excited about all the great books waiting for me.
Here’s what I read in February:
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
(Adult Biography) I found this fascinating, sad, inspiring, and disturbing. I have been a fan of Millay’s poetry for years, but I never knew much about her life. This is a dense book, but filled with excerpts from letters and diaries. I found it particularly interesting to read accounts of how much of a… glamour… Millay seemed to possess, almost literally enchanting the men and women she encountered. But it was also a bit hard to read in places — especially those where Millay was dealing with poverty, interpersonal drama, and addiction. Still, a fascinating and truly gifted person, who was fiercely dedicated to her art.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
(Adult Fiction) I loved several of these short stories (including the first two, which was what sucked me in!) and found the writing to be beautiful and evocative throughout. Several of them (the titular “Interpreter of Maladies”, “A Real Durwan”, “Mrs. Sen’s”) were a bit too bitter/unresolved for me to really *enjoy*, but they have continued to ripple through my thoughts, and I think perhaps I need a bit more time to fully decide how I feel about them. My overall favorites were “This Blessed House” and “The Third and Final Continent.”
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
(MG Historical Fiction) I enjoyed this every bit as much as the first — I very much hope there will be a third book! I love the Gaither Sisters!
The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet
(MG Fantasy) Magical, charming, quirky, lovely, and *beautifully* written. I especially loved Maya, who makes mistakes and has faults, but is strong and funny and wonderful. I ached over her worries, especially the ones about her mother. And the vicarious trip to Paris! Both the story and the writing style reminded me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones (a Very Good Thing, for this reader).
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
(MG Fantasy) Deserving of all the accolades. One of my favorite Gaiman books so far. I loved the concept (an orphan being raised in a cemetery by ghosts), but I loved the characters even more.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
(Adult Historical Fiction) This had the feeling of some of my favorite comfort reads, though the WWI and post-war trauma elements added some considerably more uncomfortable moments (as they should). I found it interesting that while Maisie had to deal with a lot of adversity of situation, she is one of those characters (like Anne Shirley) who seem to be almost universally loved by the other characters in her world. Some readers might find this “unrealistic” but I didn’t mind. I look forward to reading more in the series!
Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
(YA Science Fiction) I enjoyed this even more than the first in the series– I have a soft spot for “school” books and protags with math/science/tech leanings, and I enjoyed learning more about the world and political structure (even if some of it doesn’t entirely make sense if I look at it too closely).
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
(YA Fiction) Amazing voice. The ending did not entirely work for me, but the rest of it made up for that and more.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro
This book worked best for me when I could nibble it off in small bits. There were many essays that I loved and felt instantly true, and others that I found less applicable to my experience of the writing life, as they felt a more oriented toward someone who writes for a living (and does not have a day job, as I do).
One of the best things I did in last month was to spend several hours sliding and flying across a beautiful desert landscape toward a mysterious shining mountain, piecing together the story of a lost civilization, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack.
Otherwise known as playing the game Journey.
It was just as amazing as promised by those who recommended it. I kind of want to bring everyone into my living room and sit them down and make them play it now, too.
Admittedly, I don’t play a lot of video games — the only one I’ve completed recently is Sword & Sworcery, which I also loved. In fact I had a stronger personal emotional reaction to S&S (for spoilery reasons) than Journey. But Journey was just plain beautiful to play — the music, the art, the atmosphere, the story. And in many places it evoked a sort of effervescent joy I never would have expected from a video game.
I don’t want to give too much away, but if you have a Playstation and haven’t tried Journey yet, or if you are just curious, there are some screenshots and movies on the website I linked above. And if you’ve already played Journey — I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you play it in the online mode? Did you play it more than once? (I kind of want to go through a second time now).
(Special thanks to Gavin and Jenn, who both raved about Journey on Facebook, and convinced me to try it out. Jenn also blogged about it here and here, with some fascinating links to articles about the game, storytelling, and the concept of “flow”).