What Will You Miss After the Apocalypse?

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A few months ago I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The book’s premise is that a deadly flu sweeps the world, killing most of the population. The few people who survive must adapt to a new world without modern essentials like electricity, refrigeration, gasoline, antibiotics, computers, and so on. The book follows different characters as they react to a world they never expected to live in, and their stories intertwine in beautiful ways.

I find with a really good book like Station Eleven the scenes, characters, and ideas rattle around in my head long after I’ve finished it. I found myself thinking about what I would miss if I lived in the world of the book. Obviously I would miss my computer, my car, the Internet, modern medicine, etc. But what about the non-obvious, non-essential stuff of 21st century civilization? Here’s my list of unnecessary, trivial things that I would miss in  the event of a global flu-pocalypse:

  • Brightly-colored drinks with fruit and decorations
  • Cupcakes with icing
  • Glitter glue pens
  • Big glossy magazines with aspirational content, like Martha Stewart Living
  • Swedish fish candy
  • Home improvement television shows
  • Moist towelettes
  • Nail polish
  • Coloring books
  • Fancy needlepoint pillow kits
  • Gifs of cats
  • Gift wrap
  • The Hamilton soundtrack
  • My Dr. Who Pinterest board

What random things would you miss at the end of the world?

Photo Credit

Photo Fancy drinks by Sarah via flickr and licensed under CC 2.0

Mind Mapping Your Revision

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I finished the first draft of my novel back in May and now I’m working on revising it. I’ve been reading Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein. Klein is an editor with many books to her credit, including the United States editions of the Harry Potter series and Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee (as well as the other books in the Millicent Min trilogy). One of the things Klein discusses in her book is that writer needs to understand who the protagonist is– what she loves, hates, wants, needs, and fears.

I tried doing some free writing on these topics, but felt like I still wasn’t really connecting with my character. Then I remembered mind mapping. I grabbed my journal and started with the character’s name in the middle of the page. Then I started writing things that I know about her– including the names of family and friends, as well as what she loves and hates. You can see the current map in the picture above. I’m still working on it– at a minimum I want to add needs and fears– but I feel like I’m getting a better idea of who she is and how she changes by the end of the book.

You’ll notice the map is kind of messy– not like some of the pretty mind map examples you can find online. I’m putting something messy out on purpose because while I like to look at pretty examples, I don’t think real idea generation looks like that, at least not when I do it. I find ideas don’t leap from my mind fully formatted with correct punctuation and spelling. The more I let go of the need to be tidy, the more I can generate ideas that make my writing interesting and real.

What Does Your Character Want?

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Today I’m thinking about the protagonist of the book I’m working on. Her name is Maddie and she’s eleven. She’s got a dog, an older sister, and a really big secret. But what does she want?

What did I want, when I was 11?

I remember wanting pretty hair. I tried growing it long but then got tired of it and got it all cut off with a cute little Dorothy Hamill-style wedge. (Don’t laugh! They were really popular.) I wanted a ten-speed bike, but I only had a three-speed. I wanted friends, and had some. I wanted to be the best at something.

Continue reading

Getting Past my Monkey Mind

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Can otters meditate? (Yes. Obviously.)

It’s winter. My hands are dry and the skin near the top corners of my fingernails is starting to crack. My feet are cold. My back itches. I’m hungry and I don’t know what to eat for lunch. These are the profound thoughts that went through my mind this morning while I lay on my meditation cushion, trying to pay attention to the present moment.

When I took a meditation class, I asked the meditation teacher, “What if the present moment sucks?” She smiled and suggested I pay attention to it anyway. Continue reading

Why Do You Write?

woman sitting on park bench writing

Faster! The deadline approaches!

Someone asked me this question recently and I had no ready answer. I think of reasons why people do things (at least here in the United States) and they basically come down to:

  1. Make money
  2. Lose weight/look better
  3. Impress other people

At least, that’s what I can tell from my Facebook feed. I can pretty much guarantee you that #2 is not a Reason to Write. As to #1 and #3, here are some reasons to write: Continue reading

7 ways to save time for Nanowrimo

Great post on how to save time during NaNoWriMo. I humbly suggest #8. Reblog someone else’s post so you don’t to write one. Yay!

Thinking is the enemy.

frabz-One-does-not-simply-sleep-during-nanowrimo-27e7d4You’re not even halfway through November, and you’re already falling behind on your Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) project. How did you think you’d have time for this stupid thing, anyway? It’s clear — something’s gotta give. But what?

  1. Stop cleaning. Honestly, like you were anyway. And even if every surface in your home is clean enough to eat off, is a month without dusting going to kill you? I mean, OK, you might have some weird dust or mold allergy that will send you into a coughing, itchy death spiral. But wouldn’t that be more likely to affect you if you did clean?
  2. Stop exercising. You can work off the Nano weight next month. OK, maybe after Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But then you can work it off. Well, maybe it’s actually best if you wait until after all that Valentine’s Day chocolate because you know, you…

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Do You Nano?

Here is where the magic happens

Here is where the magic happens

Tomorrow is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month or nanowrimo, as it has come to be known. Don’t let the word “novel” throw you off, because all you need to do is write 50,000 words between Nov. 1st and Nov. 30th and you win. There’s no one judging the quality of what you write. Continue reading

Re-Read Me

Make them readers when they are young and have no will to resist.

Make them readers when they are young and have no will to resist.

So I like to read books more than once. Apparently not everyone does this. I know this because my spouse will spot me re-reading a book and say, “So you’re reading that again?” Yes. Yes I am.

I’m not proud of my re-reading habits, especially since the library is full of books that I haven’t read. Shouldn’t I be improving my mind by encountering new ideas, characters, settings? Yes. But sometimes it’s not what my mind wants. My mind wants to slip into a familiar place. It’s like wearing an old sweatshirt. It feels good.

Here are some books that I’ve read more than once:

  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  • Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Cracker Factory – Joyce Rebeta-Burditt
  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Just Listen – Sarah Dessen
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Harry Potter 1 – 7 – J. K. Rowling
  • The Other Boleyn Girl – Phillipa Gregory
  • The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

It’s kind of a weird hodge-podge of stuff, isn’t it?

Photo Credit
Photo Reading by ThomasLife via flickr and licensed under CC 2.0