Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Late-ass Tribute to Michael Jackson

Everyone else’s accolades may have come out in a timely fashion, but I needed to collect my thoughts regarding this fiasco before I blogged about it. I mustered a respectable “WTF?” and snickered at the day-after texts, but I still hadn’t pinpointed the reason I felt an embarrassing longing in my stomach during all the deathly hullabaloo.

Thriller was one of my first cassettes and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The bass riff of “Billie Jean” still puts me in my childhood home’s dining room on a hot Philadelphia evening, watching a 60-second video clip at the end of Entertainment Tonight with my dad.

Michael Jackson = roller skating rinks, big brothers making fun, taping songs off the radio. Young Michael Jackson, the one on all your TV screens as of late, was so BAD. You think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. For one thing, he was black, and in the day of Usher and Kanye and Fiddy, that probably doesn’t seem like a big thing, but back then some people still called it n* music, and they didn't flinch when they said it.

But because Jackson’s popularity was so great, he wasn’t so easily labeled. So many people loved him. Did I believe what I thought or what I was told?

Michael Jackson was my first independent decision. Despite the haters, I listened to his tape until it exploded, and then I winded it all back in with my pinky and listened again.

Here is the effect Michael Jackson’s death and the world’s reaction to it has on me: a giant, heavy sadness—inordinate for a pop star I haven’t thought about in twenty years. It’s not him I miss, but that early 80s vibe that the world was changing. I was changing.

Just like it’s done to Michael, time has made those years laughable and plastic and un-get-backable.

And this idea, that from that innocence, I became part of a public that stalked one man to the point of his wearing masks to hide from us, deeply saddens me. It’s not the people we’re after, I realize—it’s feeling and meaning and time.

I’d like to say I’m going to stop reading Perez and TMZ, but I love that shiz. It’s not Iran, and that’s its appeal.

But I hate what the celebrity-public dynamic does to people. Michael was reportedly obsessed with the painting at the top of this post. When I stare at this image embossed with the TMZ logo, I can’t get over the feeling that gossip sites are wicked witches, and the people who follow them (admittedly me) are misguided souls looking to their icons with confused disillusionment.

It's no wonder our icons are merely sad humans these days, what with the 24-hour surveillance whispering, “I’ll get you, my pretty.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Life is too short for shoddy prose

For a while, I’ve wanted to take Booknapped in a new direction. I’ve been thinking of adding more of my own ideas here in conjunction with the ideas of others, commenting on my booknappings instead of just posting them here for you to figure out for yourselves.

My first order of business is to introduce myself and my blog.

What the hell is Booknapped and who are you anyway?

The idea behind Booknapped is that artists work as a filter, taking in everything and holding the best in their subconscious until it comes out in their work. Booknapped is a record of the influences in my world—words so smart I wish I said them.

I’m a writer. By day I get paid to write for other people. I listen to their ideas and transform them into text. By night, and very early in the morning, I don’t get paid to write about made-up worlds and characters I build in my head. One day, I hope to get paid for my night and early morning work, but I’m fine and dandy with paying my dues.

Why should we listen to you?

I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t. Use your judgment. I went to a great university where I majored in English. I traveled. I moved to the edge of America to study writing for three years. While I was there, I read all kinds of books. I finished many of them. I also taught writing and literature classes.

Now, I’m an editor. I read about a 100 books a year. I’ve written two novels and millions* of short stories and poems. My writing has been steadily improving for the last 30 years. By my calculations, in another 30, my work will be phenomenal, and this site will have many more readers.

What will we see on the new and improved Booknapped?

Writing tips, links to good articles about writing and funny sites about punctuation, rants and raves about the world and the artist’s place in it, complaints about my characters who have been being bitches and bastards lately, the occasional dirty word, pictures that say a 1000 words, me groveling at the feet of writers so good I want to give up sometimes—etc.

Basically, the same stuff my favorite quotes are about: not being an asshole, not letting the bastards get you down, and writing. I won’t complain about writers and editors even though both piss me off regularly. I might regale you with fascinating stories about the writing, editing, beta reading, and querying process.

Oh and self-doubt, so much self-doubt you could wade in it.

And quiet rebellion. I am a big fan of getting on the boat, and then tipping it from the inside.

On Booknapped, you won’t see reviews--especially bad ones. I might tell you that a particular author is made of awesome or that I want to ask a certain book to run away and elope with me. But I will never say that a book sucked or that a writer needs to go back to waitressing. I won’t do this for several reasons:

  • It’s tacky for an artist to put down another artist. It is impolite and goes against all that I believe. What do I believe? That anyone who has the guts to create something and then subject it to public scrutiny is my hero.
  • I don’t finish books that suck, so for all I know they get better. If I were to say a book was bad, I’d have to read it to the end to make sure I was correct. Life is too short for shoddy prose.
  • Booknapped is a love fest. It’s a place for me to store ideas that are so incredible, so insightful, that I want to internalize them. I don’t want to clog up all this beauty with crap.

You’ll still see quotes sometimes, because, well, wouldn’t it be more fitting to sum it up in a quote? To explain, I’ll use the words of Ricky Fitts from the movie American Beauty:

Because it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.

Why did it take you so long to put your own ideas on here?

Because I’m shy. In real life, I hide in books, music, and museums to avoid conversations. In my cyber life, I guess I do the same. But here I come, blogosphere. Look out.

P.S., Leave comments, people! Don’t let the only response to my barbaric yawp be my own echo. Let me know what you think of this rash new policy on Booknapped!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Q: Why am I awake and typing at 6AM (almost) every day?


"You helped me is a tremendously powerful statement. I have heard it more in the four years since my first novel was published than I’d heard it in my entire life prior to being published. It gives me great joy. It helps me get through when the writing is crap. It helps me."

You can read Justine Larbalestier's entire post on why we do what we do over at her blog. Thanks to papertyger for tweeting me on to it.

Have a great weekend, and come back Monday for an extra-special surprise...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top 10 Facebook Status Updates that also Serve as Metaphors for Writing

10. Sick of the f'ing rollercoaster.
- by friend April

9. This book smells like knowledge, comfort and belonging.

- by friend Kat

8. Ugh. Work. FML.
- by friend Traci

7. The waiting is killing me.
- by cousin Roseann

6. Drama, drama, drama. (Rain, rain, rain.)
- by friend Trilby

5. Spent the day exploring 900-year old cave dwellings.
- by friend Ryan

4. Don't judge me, monkey.
- by friend Maryanne

3. Fear sucks.
- by cousin Stacey

2. Everything will be okay in the end; if it's not okay, it's not the end.
- by writer Maria Housden

1. Just tore through some dusty, rusty crap for an hour looking for something that didn't even work. WTF?
- by niece Nicole

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

From: Criss Cross

"How's it going, Russel?" said Hector.

"Well," said Russell, turning slightly in Hector's direction. "It's going well. Thank you."

It seemed as if Russell might be gathering his thoughts to go on and Hector, feeling so warm and milky and kind, waited.

He set his guitar case back on the floor.

He began to suspect, though, that Russell's thoughts were not gathering at all, that if they even existed, they were wandering through his head like lurching strangers on a moving train. If any two of them met up, it would be purely accidental.

Lynne Rae Perkins

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From: Confessions of Saint Augustine

"Give me chastity and continence, but not yet."

Saint Augustine

Monday, June 22, 2009

From: North of Beautiful

"The sting of his disregard hurt me more than I thought it would. I blinked back both my tears and response: I'm going to Williams because a ton of their alumni run major corporations, like I will. But I didn't want to hear that esteem-scraping chuckle, chuckle again. Claudius always told me, "Just cry, okay? Dad will stop picking on you if you just cry in front of him." It wasn't that I couldn't cry. I wouldn't, not in front of Dad. Every tear was bitter surrender."

Justina Chen Headley

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thanks, Dad.


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's Bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney

Friday, June 19, 2009

From: "Mrs. Potter"

"If you've never stared off into the distance,
then your life is a shame."

Counting Crows

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday Allen Ginsberg!

"Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness."

I missed his birthday on June 3, but I must give props to Ginsberg, who made me ask, "America, are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From: "Vienna"

"But you know that when the truth is told
that you can get what you want
or you can just get old."

Billy Joel

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From: Thirteen Reasons Why

"The day your list came out wasn't too traumatic. I survived. I knew it was a joke. And the people I saw standing in the halls, huddled around whoever had a copy, they knew it was a joke, too. One big, fat, happy joke.

But what happens when someone says you have the best ass in the freshman class? Let me tell you, Alex, because you'll never know, It gives people--some people--the go ahead to treat you like you're nothing but that specific body part."

Jay Asher

Monday, June 15, 2009

From: Write Till You Drop

"Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminally ill patients. That is, after all, the case."

Annie Dillard

Read Dillard's whole treatise on writing at the New York Times.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Found: Inspiration

"Noli nothis permittere te terere"

It's been a week of short quotes.

Mostly because it's also been a week of my insecurity rearing all 10,000 of its ugly little heads and screaming at me in unison.

For Friday, I offer you one of my all-time favorites--my life mantra, if you will.

Don't feel dumb if you don't know Latin. Hardly anybody knows Latin. Just Google it and be happy that you live in an age when Latin is Google-able and books like 13 Reasons Why exist.

Finished it at 7:58 this morning. Am still reeling.

Thank you, Jay Asher for being awesome.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Found: Wisdom

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Leonardo da Vinci

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Found on Twitter

"Stress: it's what's for breakfast."

Tweeted by Jenn N

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From: Mansfield Park

"Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."

Jane Austen

Friday, June 5, 2009

From: "Cavern"

"Your time is near. The mission's clear. It's later than we think."


Thursday, June 4, 2009

From: How to be Bad

“Jesse—“ she says.

“Tch,” I say. “hold your mouth still.” I use my pinky to smooth on a dab of strawberry “Lip Burst” and it’s unsettling, touching her in such an intimate way. It’s not like, Oh Mel, I want to kiss you. It’s just… oh, I don’t know. She’s so different from me.

E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

From: "Take This Advice"

When your husband dies, vary your story.
Never settle for the uninteresting
truth. You, remember, were the woman
some fortune teller or drunken lover
said would die in white across an expanse
of grand piano - gunshot, bad drugs.
You are not one for the gentle common.

A decent man dies, his heart a fallen cake.
Tell it better....

...Tell his friends he died inside of you,
moaning his blood cry, making you cling, you
both far away eating berries, rubbing sticks.
Say he was often a surprising
lover, vigorous, and terrifying.
Just like that.
He was a passionate man, hungry but sure.

Tell no one he died in his sleep, gasping
for his share of air....

Gailmarie Pahmeier

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

From: Living Dead Girl


1. No one will see you.
2. No one will say anything.
3. No one will save you.

I know what the once upon a time stories say, but they lie.

That's what stories are, you know. Lies.

Look at that, four life lessons. Now you owe me.

Elizabeth Scott

Monday, June 1, 2009

From: "The End Has No End"

"It's not the secrets of the government
That's keeping you dumb
Oh, it's the other way around --"

The Strokes