Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Have you guys heard of the treadmill desk? Someone sent this to me recently and I totally thought it was a joke, like some sort of SNL spoof or something or, at best, one of those crazy gadgets they feature on Home Shopping Network at 3 am.

Apparently you walk on a treadmill while you do your work. It's real, been featured on Good Morning America, NBC, and others and is approved by an endocrinologist. But seriously, who wants to type on the computer while they walk and, more importantly, how can they really do it? I thought I had motor skills but I can't imaging being able to type as thoroughly as I do when I'm being an all out desk jockey. Sure sitting all day isn't burning any calories (unless you count the 10 steps I regularly take to and from the coffee pot) but if walking/standing all day is the alternative, I'm not sure I'm game.

I'm imagining what it would look like if I jacked up the mph while I typed out a running/fight scene in my WIP. "Writing in action" if you will. LOL.

What's the craziest thing you've heard of this week?

Oh and here's a video. They also propose holding walking conference meetings around your office to help people get moving. I'm all for fitness but something tells me I'd become the black sheep of the company if I stole away the coffee and donuts and, instead, proposed we pace around everyone's desks while we discussed our edits :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Feel the Frenzy

The World's Biggest Stage!!!! I am sooooo EXCITED.

If you're a long-time blog follower then you're already familiar with my passion for soccer. (That or you read the little line about being on a muddy soccer field in the bio in the side bar.)

I've been playing the sport since I was 8 years old which is also how old I was when I wrote my first creative piece. I got a bloody nose in my first soccer game and that "creative" piece was a poem about Santa Claus. Let's hope I've gotten better at both!

And let's hope I've gotten more flexible:

(*Yup, that's me on the left prepping for the big game.)

There's really nothing I've loved as long as writing and soccer. They may seem like such disparate things but to me they both represent an escape. When I'm writing or running around the soccer field I'm not thinking about what errands I have to do or which phone call I should return. I'm there, in the moment, strategizing what comes next, and celebrating when the execution is exactly as I hoped. It's cathartic and at the end of the day it's mine. No matter what's going on I can always pull out the laptop or scrounge up the soccer ball, pound away at the keys, kick the sh*t out of the ball, or just go for finesse. It all depends on the day, but every day I know it's there: my escape route.

During the Men's World Cup I write a post here and here so it's only fair that on the day of the first U.S. Women's World Cup match, I pay homage.

It's been a bit of a surreal journey. That picture you just saw of me represented a huge milestone at the time: the first all-girls soccer league in my town. Before that you either played on the boys team (and being stubborn, I did though as the lone girl on the whole team) or you didn't play sports, at least not soccer anyway. And whether we knew it or not, that small little victory in Burnt Hills, NY was being repeated all over the country. Girls chose to forgo the cheerleading route or whatever else was considered appropriate girly girl activities in lieu of shinguards, cleats, and polyester jerseys.

And what we didn't know then was that girls only a wee bit older would later pave the way for things like Title IX, giving female athletes equal financial footing to their male counterparts, making universities--and later sponsors--pay attention to them. Perhaps that's why the 1999 Women's World Cup team was so popular too: they were the generation of Title IXers and those just on their heels were very aware of the path they had paved for us.

Now the women participating in this 2011 World Cup are a swath of ages, some a generation below and others, like all-star Abby Wambach, are of children of the early 1980s.*

And they're amazing players, many forging the women's professional soccer league. So get excited, and show some national pride. These may not be the pioneers, but they're making names for themselves in their own right and it would be a disservice to all the achievements we've made not to see the best of the best that bore out of that labor. And if you're still not convinced they're bad a*s, check out this pic:

And like the Men's World Cup, there's still the string of hilarious commercials that I so wish I could get all times of the year!

*Little trivia fact: I played against Abby Wambach out in Rochester, NY where she grew up.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Swagger Song

This has been a LONG week so this swagger song seems more appropriate than ever. Enjoy "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars and have a nice, relaxing, lazy weekend too!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Story in Pictures

In January I did a series of posts on speechmaking as storytelling
here, here, and here. I've also examined the interconnectedness of songs both in inspiration, as writing soundtracks, and, of course, as stories.

What I haven't really delved into are pictures. In hindsight this is surprising as I'm such a visual person. You can see post-it reminder notes all over my desk, diagrams when I'm trying to explain workflow, and I'm often discussing ideas with our designers of what visuals I think might work well when I submit my writing assignments. Heck, from scribbling story ideas on scraps of paper and which, subsequently get shoved into the pockets of my purse, to (*nerd alert*) my strange obsession with organizations charts, I am and always have been a visual person. Even my husband hands off the camera on our vacations so I can get the shot.

So, at long last, we visit pictures as stories. As the adage goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." And it's true. So often one snapshot can communicate so much that it would require mass amounts of text to discuss all the layers and even then we might do it a disservice because pictures can have a nuance that words often can't. Though literature can certainly have multiple interpretations, pictures I feel might even supersede words because in photography so much of the story may not be known.

This allows us to become authors of sorts, filling in the blanks, taking what subtle features or facial expressions or body language exists and weaving it into a life of its own. Is someone reaching out for a gentle touch or is the other person moving away? In a photo this may seem like a subtle difference but in the storyline and our understanding of these characters and their relationship, it's paramount.

What spurred all of this is a photo I recently saw at last week's Vancouver riot. Perhaps you've seen it?

I couldn't help but be reminded of these other iconic images of lovers embracing:

Of course the later are of a soldier returning from war and paramours connecting in the streets of Paris. The Vancouver riot without commentary looks like two people thankful to have found one another in the mess and violence, who are thankful they're both okay, who perhaps were fearful of what was taking place.

The storyline, of course, if you read it in accompaniment with this image is that the riot began after Vancouver lost to the Bruins in hockey. Somehow this background degrades the sense of urgency we sense in the picture and feels so far from the stories we began to weave about what might have been going on in those streets, in those heads, between those lovers.

Sometimes a snapshot can convey a whole story both real and imagined, a sense of illusion of sorts. That's what this Vancouver picture is for me. It's like a dream sequence in a story. It's beautiful and haunting and full of meaning at first glance but when compared against reality, is a bit of an illusion because, really, what's romantic about poor sportsmanship and tearing through the streets over hockey? Nothing. But this picture, as a stand alone, is lovely and there seems to be so much more narrative going on between these two.

Do you agree?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hot Guys Reading Books

My friend sent me the link to this blog called, "Hot Guys Reading Books." I knew even before I clicked on the link that I'd love it. I mean good looking + literary is always a winning equation.

Here's one of my favs that they've posted. Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Breaking Dawn

Have you guys seen this yet? If so, what do you think? I just checked it out and have to admit I'm pretty excited. Breaking Dawn was probably my favorite of the Twilight Saga books.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What I've Leaned This Week

1. There really aren't enough hours in the day. Sorry the posts have been a little less consistent than in the past. You may have caught my previous post about being crazy busy and needing to give yourself permission to take a breather from time to time. Well that craziness seems to be spreading to the point that my husband and I have now created a shared Google calendar. Type A? Check. Organized? Check. Feeling like my summer vaca is already booked up? Check. Let it be known, however, that my commitment to the blog is no less but as you'll see some weeks it's two posts instead of the usual three or really ambitious four you sometimes saw. No week will pass where there won't be posts though so please keep coming back and if there's anything you definitely want to see here, let it be known.

2. There is something exciting about going to NYC no matter how many times I visit. I just got back from a business trip to the Big Apple and though it was a whirlwind, my stomach still gets those excited butterfly feelings every time I pull up into the city. Sure, there's more people on every block than I see in an entire commute during rush hour in DC and no they don't have cell service in the subway like we do, but still...there's a certain allure. Center of the universe? I'm not quite on that team yet but it certainly is a great place to be and a wonderful backdrop for films and novels which is probably why it's as central a character in some of our best loved stories as anything else.

3. Nothing smells as bad as trash in a hot house. Unfortunately in my scurry to get out the door for my trip I didn't take the trash out. Enough said.

4. Nothing and I mean nothing is a time suck like the crazily addictive Words With Friends. If you don't have this app on your phone I'd like to tell you not to download it...only I can't. It's virtual Scrabble with your friends and though you'll sneak in way too much time during the day (or during the commute like I do) trying to figure out six letter words ending in "o" to get those triple word points and temporary bragging rights, it's just somehow too alluring to pass up.

5. I'm thinking of re-reading Breaking Dawn. "Are there tons of books I haven't read sitting on my shelf as well as piling up on the floor?" you ask. "Yes." Do I often re-read books particularly those in the paranormal genre let alone the Twilight Saga, you might wonder. "No." But...somehow I'm feeling that pull to brush up on the storyline before this Fall. I know some of you are re-reading Book 7 of Harry Potter and no, I'm not saying Twilight is Potter. It is not. But, you know the feeling of preparing for an end film and feeling like so much time has passed since you read the book. These are characters you've been with a while and, well, you want to familiarize yourself again. Crack-candy Twilight reading or not.

6. Characters are more real when you try not to "fix" them. I'm at the climax of my WIP right now and I'm feeling pretty good about things. For those who are new, this is my second novel in progress. The first got a handful of partial and full submission requests along with a full manuscript request for edits but alas nothing came to fruition. I was disappointed though something told me that the next story (aka the one I'm working on now) had more marketability and certainly more action. What I've learned in this process is that in my first manuscript I tried too hard to dictate what the character should or shouldn't do. I was playing the mother of sorts in writing my teen character instead of really allowing her to be herself. This time I swore if I was going to do it right then I couldn't censor my character. This has given my prose--and my main character--so much more depth. In the first manuscript I tried to be flowery and use particular prose instead of having my character just tell it like it is. I realized that like friends, you can't fix your characters or change who they are. You need to embrace them and as good writers, listen to what they have to "say."

What have you learned this week?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Winning Formula: Bridesmaids & Judd Apatow

As soon as I saw the Bridesmaids trailer I knew I had to see it. Exhibit A
Annie and Lillian have been best friends since their childhood days growing up in Milwaukee; when Lillian gets engaged, she asks Annie to be her Maid of Honor. Lillian also selects four bridesmaids: Helen Harris, the wealthy wife of Lillian's fiancé's boss and Lillian's new close friend; Becca, a newlywed who loves marriage and pities Annie because of her unmarried state; Megan, the aggressive sister of the groom; and Rita, a relative who is dissatisfied with her marriage and three sons. While the wedding preparations continue, Annie's personal life is falling apart. Her cake shop went bankrupt, forcing her to take a job at a jewelry store where she is an ineffective saleswoman and makes very little money. She is kicked out of the apartment that she shares with a pair of invasive twins. Despite advice from her friends, Annie is in the midst of a self destructive relationship with a man who only thinks of her as a sex buddy. Annie's chaotic personal life, budgetary restrictions, and insecurity about Lillian and Helen's friendship begin to take their toll as the wedding draws nearer.

Kristen Wiig of SNL fame stars in the film and co-wrote it. (To check out a great interview with Wiig, see here.) Judd Apatow directs. Apatow's well known for other humorous films such as Superbad, Knocked Up, and Get Him to the Greek, all comedies which I love.

There are several themes that seem to emerge from all of these Apatow movies:

1. A group of misfits. There is no dashing, perfect heroine or hero in any of these films. They're damaged people trying to figure out life and be accepted in some way whether in love and business like in Bridesmaids, in high school like in Superbad, back in the music business in Get him to the Greek, and so on. Though the main character is far from perfect, there is always at least one friend/helper/family member assisting them in their journey and their growth.

2. A falling out. At some juncture of each of these films the friends or in the case of Knocked Up, the lovers, have a falling out. Something happens that brings them to a breaking point and they part ways.

3. A moment of clarity, a moment of crisis. In Knocked Up the start of labor brings Seth Rogen's character back into the picture; in Bridesmaids the missing bride forces Kristen Wiig to come to her friend's aid and rejoin the group; in Get Him to the Greek the threat of suicide brings Jonah Hill to the hotel to help Russell Brand, and in Superbad the threat of arrest causes Jonah Hill to literally carry his friend to safety despite the tensions that have begun to brew.

4. Crude humor. Though I say crude I probably mean uncensored. All of these movies have the kind of dialogue and humorous asides we all have with our closest friends but wouldn't dare say to someone new and certainly never in a professional or serious setting. This kind of humorous dialogue helps to illustrate the closeness of the characters and lets the audience feel as though we're having a sneak peek into their lives. It also helps establish the longevity of the relationships to a certain extent without us having to be told, we're simply shown through dialogue. Sure some of the comments and stunts may seem, at first glance, juvenile but they help to balance a more serious storyline which is always the undercurrent in these films whether the character is feeling replaced like in Bridesmaids or depressed and alone as in Get Him to the Greek. The characters are multifaceted and the comedic humor gives us reprieve from those serious storylines that are there but not fully realized until each film comes to conclusion.

5. Love interest. All of these films have a love interest but it isn't the infatuation, easy to digest, uncomplicated love we often see in movies. There's several dimensions to them and none of them are perfect.

Whether in film or in books, looking at a "winning formula" to the stories we enjoy will help us exponentially in our own storytelling.

So tell me, did you see Bridemaids? What did you think? And if you're a Judd Apatow fan like myself, am I missing any important commonalities that should be added to the list?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WTF Wednesday

1. Really? Pink horses? WTF? The only horse I know that should be pink is Pinkie Pie:

2. Mike "The Situation" from MTV's The Jersey Shore is set to make $5 million this year thanks to endorsements, $50k for appearances, and $60k per episode of the show according to this article. As I slog to work this morning where I'll be sober, fully dressed, refrain from swearing, and working long hours, I can't help but find this depressing; not only that he gets paid to do just the opposite but just how much! Who knew you could make per episode a yearly salary just by letting cameras follow you around on a neverending spring break? No offense to Jersey Shore lovers but HOW did this happen?

3. And, well, sexting just isn't cool. If you don't know what Congressman Weiner's been up to, one where have you been and two WTF was he thinking?!

What WTF moments have you seen lately?

Monday, June 6, 2011

How We Read

I've been thinking a lot lately about active and passive reading. By that I mean simply devouring a book or stopping to pause and consider why it's working, what specifically we love about the characters, their interactions with one another, how the author brings tension into scenes, and how they move the storyline forward.

As writers we need to remember we're always students in the craft. A vital first step is always to read in the genre we write but it's more than this. We need to study it too as if we were still in school dissecting story arcs.

I'm re-reading The Hunger Games as I get more and more excited about the movie and often I've stopped to re-read passages, pausing to consider why I think they work. There's also the lesson that nothing in a novel is there by accident so I've been taking note of how author Suzanne Collins plants ideas here and there (e.g. the gamekeeper's watch with the mockingjay, the two girls fleeing towards District 13). Everything has a deeper purpose. The novel is an onion with layers and layers building upon one another to produce this deeply rich narrative that works cohesively together as do all of the subplots.

What do you think makes a great novel work?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

If only...

I had considered posting a usual Wednesday WTF moment but this week seems pretty devoid of the unusual (unless you're experiencing some odd or crazy antics and then I want to hear all about it!).

So instead I decided to post a picture of where I'd like to be. Right smack in the middle of this conversation:

I love my husband (*waves* to Chris) but seriously, Kate Middleton--scratch that, the Duchess--gets to marry a prince AND she gets to meet the president. Life is so unfair. At the very least I'd like to join Kate and Michelle, talk a little shop and then move onto the exciting topics like which designer dresses we're going to wear to which highly anticipated grand affair. *sighs*

Perhaps Chris will find out he's actually a prince a la the premise of Princess Diaries, only we don't know it yet. Yes, that's probably it! For now I'll await word, shop Ann Taylor summer sales, and live vicariously through my US Weekly subscription.

What about you? Where do you wish you were?