Molly Ringwald’s New Yorker Piece on John Hughes is Right, and Here’s Why

Recently, Molly Ringwald, a member of the popular 1980s “Brat Pack” group of young actors, wrote a piece for The New Yorker where she analyzed watching some of her old films with her daughter, notably the John Hughes vehicles that made her a star.

Ringwald rightfully pointed out how Hughes altered the face of teen films. To paraphrase, until then, actors playing teens were older; the everyday aspects of their lives were not given focus; female characters had no real efficacy. Hughes changed all that. His films were popular, funny, engaging, and those of us who watched them could identify with the characters. We saw ourselves on screen — our fears, triumphs, and foibles.

She also noted how uncomfortable it made her to view these films in the current #MeToo atmosphere. In particular, the sexually aggressive and harassing behavior of the John Bender character in The Breakfast Club could be grounds for a lawsuit today. In the film, it’s played for laughs, and Claire, Ringwald’s character, responds positively to it in the end. In Sixteen Candles, Farmer Ted’s deal to return a classmate’s pair of underpants for a chance at an unconscious (and non-consenting) woman is equally problematic in light of our newly awakened sense of how women in 2018 are still treated as if they aren’t quite human.

Sexy anti-hero and “criminal” John Bender, played by Judd Nelson.

Image: thebreakfastclub.wikia.com

In those days, behavior like Bender’s (and in real life, Harvey Weinstein’s) was ubiquitous. Pushback was rare. Nobody talked about consent. In most of these films, men, or boys, did have all the power. The female characters existed as a means to an end (status) or offered an end in themselves (the quest to get laid as seen in Porky’s). Getting the girl one had a crush on was a major achievement that implied a woman can be acquired like a coveted object or trophy.

I think Ringwald made a good case for viewing these things as debatable. They always have been, but for some reason, perhaps self-preservation or internalized misogyny, many women who grew up during that time did not view them as such. I’ve already seen pushback on her article in my own circles. A notable example came from a male writer I know, who stated that he saw Hughes’ portrayals of teenagers as semi-authentic for the time, and that Ringwald doesn’t speak for everyone.

Of course, they were authentic. And Ringwald does point that out. But when does nostalgia become a reason to dismiss acknowledgment that these characters exhibit attitudes we no longer wish to entertain? Society evolves and the things we took for granted then absolutely should make us uncomfortable now.

I have the same feelings as Ringwald when I read some young adult (YA) literature from that era. In my own personal library, which contains a large amount of YA and children’s literature largely because I have a horror of discarding books, I had one from a library book sale called A Different Kind of Love (1985)Protagonist Elizabeth, nicknamed Weeble, is a fourteen-year-old girl in a single-parent family whose visiting uncle’s affections become inappropriate.

Author Michael Borich deals with something we don’t often think or talk about when discussing child molestation — that being touched and held and in turn, loved, feels good. That it’s possible for a child who is being victimized to have affection for an abuser. And that abuse often comes from people we feel we should trust or love, and how difficult and confusing that can be for victims, and why it’s so hard for them to speak up.

Reading it did make me squirm, mostly because the adults, though concerned, are so blasé about the situation. At the time of publication, teachers were not mandated reporters, so a trusted educator in whom Weeble confides does nothing more than advise her. Her mother kicks her brother out of the house (good), but no one calls the police. And though Borich declines to explore it, the mother’s first reaction is a common one in molestation cases where a family member is involved: disbelief.

Though some might think dated materials can be safely retired, I think it’s fine to use them for a larger discussion. I did end up ultimately discarding the book in the interest of space. But in my mind, I’ve moved forward from that time along with society. I know if I have children that talking to them about Weeble’s confusing feelings and the proper adult reactions, whether I use her as an example or not, would have to be part of that particular discussion.

And I would let them watch Hughes’ films, once they’re old enough to understand and talk about them. Ringwald makes mention of racism and homophobia in Hughes’ writing; it’s there, and it’s obvious. Hughes was both progressive and backward, and this uneven dichotomy shows glaringly in his treatment of exchange student Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles.

Yes, Long Duk Dong was a horrible Asian stereotype. Even his name is a racist joke. In contrast, we have his sexy girlfriend Marlene, a character referred to as “Lumberjack” (Deborah Pollack) because she’s taller — and thus less desirable — than the prom queens. Lumberjack is athletic, strong, and confident. She takes no shit and goes after the boy she likes. She’s also affectionate and in touch with her desires. She’s the best character in the film.

Debbie Pollack and Gedde Watanabe in Sixteen Candles (1984)

Image: imdb.com

I can’t blame Gedde Watanabe for playing The Donger; at the time, few non-caricature roles for Asian actors existed.  Despite this and Samantha’s father referring to his oldest daughter’s fiancé as “an oily bohunk,” a slur used to refer to people of Hungarian or Slavic descent, I don’t think these films should be binned. In addition to Lumberjack’s positive portrayal, the targeted audience of this film found much to identify with in Samantha’s family dynamics and her attempts to navigate a crush on the cutest boy in school.

In closing, Ringwald writes:

John wanted people to take teens seriously, and people did. The films are still taught in schools because good teachers want their students to know that what they feel and say is important; that if they talk, adults and peers will listen. I think that it’s ultimately the greatest value of the films, and why I hope they will endure. The conversations about them will change, and they should. It’s up to the following generations to figure out how to continue those conversations and make them their own—to keep talking, in schools, in activism and art—and trust that we care.

My writer friend can discount the misogyny in Hughes’ films because as a man, he never had to deal with it. We’re not too disparate in age and we both grew up with these attitudes. It took time for me to parse my own internalization and discard them. I still enjoy the films too and I understand where he’s coming from. It’s hard not to romanticize the past, but we also have to recognize the tarnished aspects of it.

Ringwald’s instinct to watch her films with her children is a good one. So is her desire to initiate a discussion involving the elements that have changed or evolved over time. No, we no longer feel that sexual harassment is funny or entertaining. Yes, you’re right to feel uneasy about it, and here’s why. If kids today can recognize that when they watch the films, and parents are engaging them on these topics, then we’re on the right path to a more respectful society. John Hughes’ films can serve as a tool to get us there.

Screw You in the Ass with a Cactus, 2016

You really are clawing at everybody on your way out, aren’t you, 2016?

Carrie Fisher, actor best known for Star Wars (Princess Leia, General Organa!) / writer (Postcards from the Edge and other books) / mental health and women’s rights advocate, at 60 (WAY too young), of a heart attack.  I have no words.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock (6196713x) Carrie Fisher with Dog Gary 54th New York Film Festival Screening of HBO's Documentary 'Bright Lights', USA - 10 Oct 2016

Photo by Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock (6196713x)
Carrie Fisher with Dog Gary
54th New York Film Festival Screening of HBO’s Documentary ‘Bright Lights’, USA – 10 Oct 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image:  tvline.com

Ricky Harris, comedian / actor (Everybody Hates Chris)at 54 (also WAY too young), of a heart attack.  I wasn’t a huge fan of Ricky’s, but I liked him on the show and I didn’t want to forget him here.

Jerod Harris / Getty Images, file

Ricky Harris in 2011. Photo: Jerod Harris / Getty Images, file

Image: nbcnews.com

George Michael, musician (formerly of the 1980s pop duo Wham!) / secret philanthropist, at 53 (okay, now this is getting stupid) of heart failure–quietly in his sleep, apparently.  I know a story about George where he doesn’t come off so well, but anyone can have a shitty day.  I liked his music.

Image: tvline.com

Richard Adams, writer (Watership Down–the bunny book) at 96, which is kind of old (but awesome).  He also wrote The Plague Dogs–it’s a very hard read because after you finish it, you want to kill anyone who experiments on dogs.

richard-adams-2016

Image: rte.ie

Liz Smith, actor, Royle Family and The Vicar of Dibley, at 95, also of being old (but still awesome).  I loved her as the dim-witted Letitia Cropley on Vicar.

Nooo not Mrs. Cropley!

Nooo not Mrs. Cropley!

Image: BBC / theguardian.com

RIP, folks, and party hearty with those who have gone before you.  Our only consolation is that this bastard tire fire of a year from Planet Hell has only four more days left.

To end on a lighter note, read this tweet.  It made me laugh out loud, which I think Carrie Fisher would have liked.  And everybody please take good care of your hearts.

5 Myths about Writers That Will Get You Smacked with a Book

I love being a writer.  I love talking about writing and its sometimes maddening accoutrements.  But I’ve discovered that you have to be careful with whom you discuss certain aspects of this most excellent and odd activity.

Odd? What a strange adjective. How could typing page after page of hallucinations for hours at a time be considered odd?

So many people subscribe to common myths about writing that I often find myself patiently (or not so patiently) debunking them, when I really want to knock them right out of people’s heads with a dictionary.  Common beliefs about writers include the following.

That we’re all drunks

Many, many, many people consume alcohol or use other substances for recreation, inspiration, or escape.  Why is this so persistent when people talk about writers?

Being an artist of any kind means you will spend most of your free time putting your innermost thoughts, dreams, ideas, and visions in tangible form for others to consume.  It has a personal element.  Rejection can hurt.  Self-doubt is rampant.  But a lot of us cope just fine with these issues and don’t need to self-medicate.

Except maybe with a little retail therapy.

Except maybe with a little retail therapy now and then.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King says, “Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak.  They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do.  Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what?  We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”

Well said, Mr. King.

That we’re crazy

Anyone who thinks outside the box or who has an imagination, or who is even slightly different from the accepted norm of whatever society or clique you’re talking about, is often branded with this label.  Okay yes, we enjoy looking up stuff like what sound it makes when you hit someone in the head with a hammer, but it’s research.

True mental illness is nothing to joke about.  There have been famous writers who suffered from various ailments.  But there also exist great works produced by artists with no discernible pathology.  Despite the Lord Byron quote at the end of the linked article, we’re not all crazy.

And as Chuck Wendig points out in this post, our lifestyle can make us look (and act) a little bit unusual.

That we have or will earn lots of money

Laughing Batman

Image:  knowyourmeme.com

Even Batman thinks that’s hilarious.

Writers can make a decent living if they keep more than one iron in the fire.  If you’re lucky enough to go viral, speaking fees or workshops can be quite lucrative.  Freelancers can work as independent contractors for corporations.  They can write for publications, do copywriting, grants, white papers, and proposals.

Creative writers, especially novelists, have it a bit harder.  Traditional publishing doesn’t pay very well, and most new writers don’t get million-dollar advances.  Indie authors can make more money overall these days (see this blog post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch for an illustrative breakdown of numbers), but it still takes a long time and a lot of work.  Almost every writer I know who has published one way or the other has a day job.

Acting is a good analogy.  Out of all the working actors in the entertainment business, the big moneymakers only comprise the tip of the pyramid.  And like writing, acting isn’t a steady job.  It’s freelance work.  Fame doesn’t last for most people, so you’re better off grabbing what you can get while you can get it.

It’s not easy being fabulous.

It’s not easy being fabulous.

So if you want to make money writing, diversify your income.

That we welcome advice from non-writers

Okay, here’s where I get bitchy (thanks, Vivien).  I figure skated for fifteen years.  I met tons of people during that time who had never been on the ice.  They came mostly from two camps:

  1. People who were really impressed that I skated, even though I wasn’t great at it, and who said things like, “I think it’s terrific that you do/did something so cool.”
  2. People who don’t skate but think they can coach you anyway.

Writers get number 2 a LOT.  If there is any phrase in the English language that will make me grind my teeth to nubs, it’s You know what you should do is….

Writing is a craft and it takes time to do it well.  Publishing is a complicated business.  I don’t know everything about it.  But I’ve tried to do my homework, and it chaps my britches when people who know next to nothing about it think I couldn’t possibly understand what I’m talking about.

Or that I’m being NEGATIVE when I say that a positive response to a query does not mean I’ll be able to fly first class to Europe next spring.  That’s not being negative; that’s being realistic.

If the advice is coming from someone in the actual field, then bring it on.  But someone whose aunt self-published, does not know what the word query means, or who has never written anything beyond an email is not qualified to tell you how to run your career.

I know what’s best for you, dear.  Let me handle it.

I know what’s best for you, dear.  Let me handle it.

 Image:  americanprofile.com

Family, friends, and even coworkers speak to you from a place of caring.  They want to help and show support.  Some of them cannot do this without trying to fix things or offer suggestions.  But remember, communication is a two-way street.  If you just want to vent, let them know this.  Say, “I’m not looking for advice; I just need to unload.  Can I have an ear?”

That writing isn’t work because we enjoy it

Writing a book is like doing the same homework assignment for six months.  It’s exhausting mentally because it requires intense concentration.  And physically because you’re sitting still and using your hands to perform a dexterous task (typing).

Sometimes writers have to work instead of come to the pub quiz or the girls’ night.  Sometimes they have to disappear for a few hours over the weekend or a holiday because they have a deadline or a client request or they just don’t want to lose momentum.

Yes, we love it.  We also hate it.  We want to have a drink and come eat birthday cake with you and wash dishes while drinking wine after the turkey or ham has been decimated (okay, no I don’t want to wash dishes, though I’ll take the wine).  But we have to work.

Writing

I could go on, but this post would never end and I’m sure you have things to do.  When you talk to writers about writing, ask questions.  We love to discuss what we do.  Listen to what we tell you.  If you’ve read our work, let us know you appreciate it and enjoy it.

And yes, if you’re so inclined and we are too, buy us a drink.

A Farewell to Skating

I need to make a small announcement.

Relax, buddy; I'm not dying or moving to Mars or anything.

Relax, buddy; I’m not dying or moving to Mars or anything.

Image:  earthporm.com

After fifteen years of figure skating at my local rink, I’ve decided to take a break from the sport.  It has nothing to do with anyone there, with the city I live in–my dislike of it is separate from how I feel about skating–or anything related to the rink itself.  I’m just getting burnt out. I was going to wait until after the Christmas show this year to quit, but I think I need to take a step back from it now.

Skating has done a lot for me–it’s given me something constructive to do, it really is fun, and I learned to sew with really difficult materials (stretch velvet, anyone!?). But lately, I’ve found my focus shifting to other things, and showing up at the rink every week has become more an obligation than something I look forward to

It’s not just a weekend thing–my workouts have to take it into consideration, there is the clothing aspect, music, etc.  Anyone who skates knows that it’s not just a sport; it’s kind of a lifestyle and a mindset.

I don’t want to start hating it. I don’t want to go to the rink and feel like I don’t want to be there. I’m not ruling it out of my life completely. As long as I can physically and safely do it, I can return to it later, even as a senior.  Check out this skater if you don’t believe me!

Right now, there are a few things I want more than I want to skate. And in order to get them, I can’t divide my attention any longer.  Plus, skating costs money–and I want to spend that money on leaving this place because there’s nothing here for me.  With Pig gone (RIP little kitty), I don’t need to worry about finding a place that would suit her.

Recently, I received a request for pages from an agent, which was kind of a wake-up call—I had gotten into a rut of thinking I would never publish anything and nothing would change.  But hey, someone asked!  Even if they reject it, another might not, or they might not reject the next book. (When) that happens, I want to be totally ready to do whatever I need to do.

I have books I want to write.  I need to focus on coming up with good ideas and getting them down on the page.  I’m trying to stay creative–I’m teaching myself to draw.  And I’ll still be working out to stay healthy.

The skating program at my rink has grown a LOT since I started.  We now have more organization, we have other adult skaters–for a long time, I was the only one.  I wish them all the best and hope all their dreams will come true.

It’s time for mine to come true.

The white tree and the rainbow have decreed that it will happen--or maybe I'll just get wet.

The white tree and the rainbow have decreed that it will happen–or maybe I’ll just get wet.

 Photo:  Elizabeth West

The Light Has Left Us: David Bowie 1947-2016

david-bowie-2013

David Robert Jones, aka David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016) in 2013.

Image:  michaelcavacini.com

I always thought he would be there.  He lingered on the fringes of my childhood, lurked in the dawn of my teenage years, became cheerily mainstream through my college days and beyond.  There is no time in my living memory when he didn’t exist.  Until now.

I never bought a Bowie album growing up–I didn’t have to.  The radio played his songs.  Friends played his albums.  People hummed and sang the tunes.  Everywhere I turned, there he was.  I saw him on television, dressed as Ziggy Stardust, and thought, Who is this magnificent creature, and why can I not be like him?

Bowie created art not only in the form of music and raw, emotional paintings, but in surprisingly engaging performances in films like The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger, Labyrinth, and The Prestige.  I didn’t know much about him and I didn’t want to know.  He existed as a chameleon, an enigma, a person who was all things and yet nothing in particular.

Child in Berlin (1976), David Bowie

“Child in Berlin” (1976), 24×24 Serigraph–David Bowie

Image:  fanpop.com

They call the most iconic performers stars.  In most cases, this moniker is a misnomer, but for him, it was true.  Like a brilliant point of light, I could not look at him directly.  He was too much for me; I had to encounter him peripherally.  He was my first encounter with androgyny, with mystique, and with the idea that one could reinvent oneself endlessly.  Every time I saw him, he looked different, did different things.

This both fascinated and thrilled me, and it still does.  I knew if he could do this, keep starting over, exploring new venues and endless permutations of art and expression, I could too.  I did not have to be bound by my upbringing.  I too could be weird and proud of it.  I could experiment with genre and form and buck the conventions of branding and those who would pigeonhole my work.  What I want to create, I can.  No one can stop me.

This is the lesson David Bowie taught me.  He crashed flamboyantly into my life and the lives of millions and left us just as quietly, without letting us know we would have a reason to mourn.  He did not share his pain and struggle with us but chose to give us one last gift instead–the complex and gorgeous album Blackstar.  I ended my journey with him by purchasing my first Bowie album tonight and listening to it with tears streaming down my face.

Rest in peace, sir.  You’ve earned it.

Book Review! The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light

I’ve been given a book to review!

For an upcoming blog tour, I am reviewing The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light, by Deirdre Eden.  It is the debut novel of a fantasy series set in medieval England.

Ms. Eden is a writer and speaker who runs Eden Literary, a company that provides services to writers such as editing, critiquing, promotion, book trailers, and others.  I feel honored that I was chosen for a Powerful Woman Writer Award by her blog, A Storybook World.  You can see it at the bottom of my page and find the link to the site in my blogroll.

Eden’s Amazon biography says:

My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles! 

Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures.

She’s well qualified to write the action scenes in this book.  And looks the part as well.  This picture is super cool.

Deirdre Eden knight Zion PHotography Studio

Photo:  Zion’s Studio Photography at Amazon.com

In The Watchers: Book One, we meet fiery haired orphan Auriella, who has discovered a strange new power within her.  Charged with witchcraft, soon she is on the run, pursued by wolves and the dreaded Shadow Legion.  They are the nemeses of the mysterious and legendary Lady of Neviah, whose identity soon becomes apparent.

Auriella and a fellow captive, a chirpy pixie named Cassi, are rescued from the clutches of an evil hag by Ruburt the dwarf.  The three friends travel through a dangerous world, until they reach the patronage of Lady Hannah, who adopts Auriella.

Enchanted by her new life and a burgeoning first love affair, Auriella begins to turn away from her destiny.  But she cannot escape it for long, and soon, her comfort and safety is threatened, along with everything and everyone she has grown to love.

Through heartbreak and loss and with newfound skills and experience, Auriella must face her enemy and fight for her chance to become not only a legend but a knighted protector of the kingdom.

Though I’m not a reader of high fantasy, I enjoyed this book.  Tiny pixie Cassi in particular was an amusing character.  She and Ruburt the dwarf provide comic relief, and they stick loyally by Auriella through thick and thin, as real friends do.

Eden is a Mormon writer, and the theological research she draws on in her writing supports the story beautifully without being intrusive.  Not being Mormon myself, I don’t know a lot of it, but the whole Watchers thing (see the Books of Enoch) doesn’t come across as preachy or even particularly religious.

I would have liked the author to take me through some of the transitions a bit more slowly–some of them seemed rushed.  But I’ve just read The Lord of the Rings again and recently finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, so the slow tempo of both those books (especially Tolkien’s) may be coloring my perception.

This story would be fine for younger readers who can handle chapter books.  It’s fast-paced and the language isn’t too hard for them.  Young adults and even grown-ups who like a quick read and a good adventure will enjoy it too.  While reading, I found myself wishing I had a nerdy bookworm kid with whom to share it.  This blog post will appear on my Facebook page, and I’ll make sure my parent friends see it.

It looks as though Eden has at least six books planned in the series.  I’m anxious to see what happens next, and how Auriella’s adventures play out.  I think it would make a neat animated film (or a series of them).

Find The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light on Amazon. Watch this cool book trailer here:

Exciting, yes?

Thanks to Laura Watkins and Theresa Sneed, Book Manager and Blog Tour Assistant of Eden Literary for providing a review copy to me.  Now go read!

RIP Robin Williams

No matter how we try to imagine it, we can’t know what is truly going on inside other people.  Actor and comedian Robin Williams battled many demons—among them addiction and depression.  This morning, he lost his fight.  My heart goes out to his family and friends as they mourn the loss of their loved one.

Rest in peace, dear man.  We’ll miss you dreadfully.

Happy Feet Two - European Premiere - Inside Arrivals

Image Credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

The Buttersmiths’ Gold and An Unfortunate Announcement

Look, Deirdra A. Eden of A Storybook World sent me this!  A friend of hers, Adam Glendon Sidwell, has a book coming out.  It’s a middle grade novella called The Buttersmiths’ Gold, and it’s coming out May 2.  I love kids’ books, and this looks pretty cool.   Here’s a bit more about it.

The Buttersmiths’ Gold

BATTLES. BLUEBERRIES. BOVINES.

TORBJORN AND STORFJELL’S HISTORY UNFOLDS IN AN EPIC EVERTASTER NOVELLA.

Everyone knows the most coveted treasure of the Viking Age was blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins so succulent that if you sniffed just a whiff, you’d want a whole bite. If you bit a bite, you’d want a batch; if you snatched a batch, you’d stop at nothing short of going to war just to claim them all.

Young Torbjorn Trofastsonn comes from the clan that makes them. He’s a Viking through and through – he’s thirteen winters old, larger than most respectable rocks, and most of all, a Buttersmith. That’s what he thinks anyway, until a charismatic merchant makes Torbjorn question his place among the muffin-makers. When Torbjorn lets the secret of his clan’s muffin recipe slip, he calls doom and destruction down upon his peaceful village and forces his brother Storfjell and his clansmen to do the one thing they are ill-prepared to do: battle for their lives.

About The Buttersmiths’ Gold

The Buttersmiths’ Gold is a spin off novella in the Evertaster series that tells the story of two Viking brothers and their adventurous past. The Evertaster series (Book #1 released June 14, 2012) is about Guster Johnsonville, who goes searching for a legendary taste rumored to be the most delicious in all of history. Along the way he meets a slew of mysterious characters, including two Viking brothers Torbjorn and Storfjell. The Buttersmiths’ Gold is their story. 124 pages. By Adam Glendon Sidwell. Published by Future House Publishing.

If you’re interested in checking out Book 1, here is what it’s all about:

Evertaster, Book #1:

A legendary taste. Sought after for centuries. Shrouded in secrecy.

When eleven-year-old Guster Johnsonville rejects his mother’s casserole for the umpteenth time, she takes him into the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There, in a dark, abandoned corner of the city they meet a dying pastry maker. In his last breath he entrusts them with a secret: an ancient recipe that makes the most delicious taste the world will ever know — a taste that will change the fate of humanity forever.

Forced to flee by a cult of murderous chefs, the Johnsonvilles embark on a perilous journey to ancient ruins, faraway jungles and forgotten caves. Along the way they discover the truth: Guster is an Evertaster — a kid so picky that nothing but the legendary taste itself will save him from starvation. With the sinister chefs hot on Guster’s heels and the chefs’ reign of terror spreading, Guster and his family must find the legendary taste before it’s too late.

———-

Those sound awesome, don’t they?  Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about Adam’s book(s), I need to tell you something.

I have to quit the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.

This is the worst thing ever.  I was really looking forward to the Challenge, but I just cannot post every day right now.  I thought I could handle it, but I just can’t.   This class won’t be over until May, and I just cannot do all the assignments and post every day.

This blog is already three A-Z posts behind, and I don’t foresee catching up at all.  You know everything has been pretty crappy for a while.  Well, it’s not getting any better, unfortunately.  If I don’t cut something, I’m not going to make it.

Perhaps next year I’ll be able to do it.  I apologize to anyone who signed up because of the Challenge.  A couple of things:

  • I’m not going to stop posting; it just won’t be every day.  This yearly thing gets me motivated to post at least twice a week, and with the book in development, it’s not like I have nothing to say.
  • The 300th post thing will still happen—just not when I thought it would.  (It involves cookies, so stay tuned, since that’s what you voted for.)
  • The announcement I was going to do on April 30th will still happen, where I tell you more about Tunerville.

Thank you for reading and commenting and for all your support.  Now go check out Adam’s books!

Skating Programs Tell a Story Too

The ISU Grand Prix begins today with Skate America, live from Kent, WA.  I have a vested interest in this year’s competition series:  I know one of the competitors!

Gracie Gold, 2012 U.S. Junior National Champion, will be competing at Skate Canada and at the Rostelecom Cup (Cup of Russia).  We both began at my home rink, although she now trains in the Chicago area.  She’s worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot, with the full support of her parents and twin sister Carly (also a very talented competitive skater!), and we’re all very proud of her.

Good luck, Gracie!

Watching skating for me is both entertaining and feeds my own attempts.  There’s no way in hell I’ll ever get to the elite level.  As you can tell by my repeated posts about it, I do enjoy it even if I kind of suck.  I like to copy what I can, which given my limited technical ability, isn’t much.

I couldn’t do a sport that didn’t have creativity at its heart, and skating does.  Putting together my latest program always starts with the following elements, which are very close to how I construct a story.

Music

I only pick music that speaks to me.  Since I’m an adult skater, my coach doesn’t choose it.  Only once has that happened, and she picked Schindler’s List, which is John Williams so I can live with that.  It has to have an emotional component, which I also seek in story subject matter.  The music is the idea, the basis for a skating program.

Your idea is what you’ll build your story on.  The possibilities are endless—true love, the zombie apocalypse, a trip to another world, or any combination thereof.

Here’s something I skated to (I had to cut it for time):

Choreography

Each movement communicates the idea or mood to the audience.  For the somber “I Could Have Done More” from Schindler’s List, I used long, slow strokes and smooth movements to express sadness and regret.  Jumps by their very nature are explosive.  But you can temper them with the surrounding elements and connecting moves.  For “Dance of the Witches,” in the above link, I used taps, turns, and hops to reflect the more lively music.

In writing, fast-paced action sequences call for short, staccato words.  Longer sentences and phrasing fit stream-of-consciousness passages and introspection.  Words are how a writer shows movement and mood, the way choreography shows it in dance and skating.  That’s one way different arts share similar elements.

Costume

Admit it—you like to see what they’re wearing.  I know I do; the costumes are one of the reasons I always wanted to skate!

And flying. Yes, doing spirals is like flying.

Image: Vesperholly / Wikimedia Commons

Dark colors impart a serious or melancholy feel, but so can very delicate colors if they’re muted.  Sparkles?  Yes, I like them.  If you’re not careful, an excess looks too flashy for a conservative program.  Costumes are rarely literal, but a jazzy number may have fringe or long gloves, while classical music lends itself to flowing, poetic fabrics.

I make my own dresses to save money.  Costumes are the cover on my little two-minute book. Okay, I haven’t tested Adult Bronze level yet, so technically it’s only 1:50.  Sue me!

Genre

Four kinds of music used in competitive programs that you tend to see each skating season:

  • Exotic (usually Spanish, sometimes tribal, Celtic or global stuff)
  • Jazz-flavored
  • Classical
  • Rock/modern

I’m almost at the point where I can tell by the costume what kind of music I’m going to hear.  And skaters recycle music like nobody’s business.  There are certain pieces that just lend themselves to skating, with variation in tempo and crescendo, and give skaters a lot of room for interpretation.  The genre dictates the program, the costume, and everything else.

Show programs, like the ones you see at the final exhibitions or in ice shows, are flashier, looser, and less serious.  Comedy is always welcome.  Evgeni Plusheko, three-time Olympic medalist, skated a good example in 2006:

The general writing equivalents would probably be:

  • Ethnic
  • Historical
  • Literary
  • Mainstream

You have to know into what genre your idea fits.  This will color the way you write it, and determine the way it’s marketed.  There are certain standard plot elements in genre fiction also, and although readers like a fresh approach, they still expect the basics.

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Check your local listings for the Grand Prix series, which airs on NBC through December 9.  Below, see a schedule someone was nice enough to post online. Thanks, Heather Winfield!

http://heatherw.com/mk/sch.htm