Archive for September, 2011


Nabokov’s Dark Masterpiece

In Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov explores dark and forbidden aspects of human behavior.

Nabokov’s main character, Humbert falls cataclysmically in love with Dolores Haze, a twelve-year-old girl. His infatuation is perverse, (which he knows) but he simply cannot help himself. It becomes so overwhelming he constantly looks for ways to justify his emotions and goes as far as citing historical and literary examples of adults who have relationships with children. He knows it’s wrong, but instead of blaming himself he blames the taboos set forth by modern society and nymphets (little girls who purposely tempt him).

When Humbert acts on his obsessions and begins a sordid affair with Dolores, his guilt and subsequent justifications fly wildly out of control. His mind begins to ramble and he can barely string together a coherent train of thought. At one point, the narrative becomes so jumbled and erratic its almost unreadable.

The insane tone of the last quarter of the book casts suspicion on whether Humbert is telling any sort of truth. He even admits to spending time in a mental ward, where he enjoyed duping the psychiatrists. Furthermore, his view of reality is so skewed, there’s no way to confirm his relationship with Dolores really happened.  This is a man that often confuses the fantasies in his mind with the real world. And I wouldn’t put it past him to lie to readers.

Ultimately, Nabokov’s narrative posits the idea that perversity is omnipresent — no matter how much it is cloaked. It’s forbidden by morality, hidden under the trappings of modern culture and society, caused and perpetuated by lunacy, and punished by the law. Yet, perversity is and always will be part of humanity (hence Nabokov’s historical references). The question of what truly defines perversity becomes blurred when put under scrutiny as the definition changes over time and cultures, even though the core concept remains the same. In essence, Nabokov is pointing out a paradox that plagues civilization.

c.b. 2011

Wreck This Journal: Time Flies

My muse must be feeling nostalgic this week as she keeps leading me to things related to time.   When I went through my Wreck This Journal it fell open to a page with directions to document the passing of time.  Both the writer and history teacher in me got down to business on this page.

I’ve never considered myself much of an artist, but I do love to doodle.  On the left side, I got pretty literal and drew a clock and a calendar.  Then, the philosophical/writer part of my brain took over to fill in the quote.  My muse whispered that phrase in my ear and it came out of my pen.  I love it when that happens!

On the right, the lesson plans I keep in my head exploded across the page until I ran out of room. Drawing is not my forte, but for some reason I was inspired to sketch a little picture for each time period.  I have to say I’m a little proud of the doodles I did of the Colosseum and the boat for the Age of Exploration.  Creativity truly does strike in the strangest of places and often asks us to do things we’d normally approach with reluctance.  This page reminded me my muse has the best of intentions and it’s up to me to make sure I’m open and ready to follow her wherever she leads. Otherwise, I’ll never know the magic of a creative moment.

Upon finishing my pages, I looked at them and thought about how small a moment is in the grand scheme of things. It’s amazing how something so small can mean so much if I take the time to recognize it’s value.  Life is all about grabbing onto those moments and making each one as beautiful as possible. There are only so many and they should never be wasted.

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Previous Wreck This Journal posts:

Letting Go

Keep Reaching

Ignite the Spark

Be Unpredictable

Embrace Imperfection

Mess

Insomniac

c.b. 2011

15 Years Brings 15 Changes

I was listening to my iPod the other day and it shuffled to a song I hadn’t heard in a while.  When “Real World” by Matchbox 20 started playing, it made me smile and reminisce about a time in my life that now feels so far away.  I was 18-years-old and had just begun to taste the real world as an adult.

I pulled out the actual CD and marveled at the relic.  Matchobx 20′s debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You was one of my favorite albums and served as my soundtrack during my first year of college.  It’s hard to believe that was fifteen years ago, but here I sit as a 33-year-old woman with an old CD in her hands.  I even checked the copyright date to make sure my math was right. Yup, 1996.

I couldn’t help but load the CD in my car for old time’s sake.  This is the band that turned me into one of those people that sing in the car.  I suppose I can credit Matchbox 20 for giving me the license to say “I don’t care if anyone’s watching.”  I still sing in the car and I still don’t care who sees me doing it. To my surprise, I remember all the words to every song.  Driving down the freeway, I belted out “Long Day” and “Push” as if I was some rock star behind the wheel.  Fifteen years later, its still good music.

My little jaunt down memory lane got me thinking about how much in my life has changed since I was eighteen.  I don’t long to be that young again, nor am I saddened by the passing of time. Rather, I’m in awe of how life brings so many changes in such a short period of time.  Between then and now, I’ve gone from being an adult just starting out to an individual who has found her groove in life.

15 Years Brings 15 Changes:

1. Age
Then: 18 and very naïve.
Now: 33 and hopefully a little wiser

2. Living Situation
Then: Living at home and sharing a room with my sister
Now: Homeowner with a writing room all to myself

3. Mode of Transportation
Then: 1991 Chevy Cavalier.  It was my first car and it broke down all the time!  About a year later, I totaled it by rear-ending an SUV.  The SUV was fine, but my car crinkled like a tin can.
Now: 2006 Mini Cooper.  It’s the cutest thing ever.

4. Occupation
Then: Full-time student and part-time salesgirl at The Body Shop.  I sold lotion and gave make-overs.
Now: Full-time teacher and aspiring writer.  These days I barely wear make-up and I’m allergic to almost all scented lotions.

5. Relationship Status
Then: Single and getting over a break-up.  I was three years away from meeting my husband.
Now: Married to wonderful guy and I can’t imagine life without him.

6. Style
Then: Jeans and Birkenstock wannabes
Now: Jeans and Converse sneakers.  I haven’t changed much in this department!

7. Travel
Then: U.S. and Mexico
Now: I have memories of so many beautiful places: French Polynesia, Great Britain (4 times), Ireland, France, Italy, Czech Republic, and China. To think I’ve only just begun!

8. Technology
Then: I had a CD Walkman and a large PC desktop computer.  The monitor alone took up half my desk!  I was hardwired into thinking Macs were not cool and Windows 95 was the best thing out there.
Now: I can’t live without my iPod and I carry a thin, lightweight laptop everywhere.  I’m a full Mac convert and can’t imagine what I ever saw in a PC.

9. Appointment TV
Then: Reruns of Star Trek: TNG, Wings, Newsradio, and Golden Girls.  Reality TV was not part of the vernacular and talk shows were all the rage.
Now: Fringe, Big Bang Theory, The Office, Project Runway, and reruns Star Trek: TNG if I can find it.

10. Communication
Then: I relied on a pager and snail mail, with a bit of e-mail.
Now: I’m fully connected with a smartphone, e-mail, and social networks.

11. Current Events
Then: 9/11 was just the 11th day in September
Now: 9/11 was the day that changed everything

12. Reading Pattern
Then: Mostly textbooks for all my classes. College gives you very little time to read for fun.
Now: Literary and mainstream fiction, along with a smattering of young adult.

13. Writing
Then: Research papers and random bits of poetry
Now: Fiction, (including novels and short stories), blog posts, and poetry

14. Hangout Spot
Then: Barnes & Noble on the East side of town.
Now: Barnes & Noble on the North side of town.  I can’t help myself. I love B&N and the coffee they serve.

15. Direction In Life
Then: Still questioning my identity and course . . .
Now: I know who I am and where I want go!

I can’t imagine what the next fifteen years will bring, but I’m excited all the same.  Life continues to be an adventure I can’t wait to experience.

Where were you 15 years ago?

c.b. 2011

Query Letter Torture

The query letter process is a bit like torture . . . slow and painful.  Between trying to construct the perfect hook to whittling my entire novel down to a few paragraphs, my hair is getting ready to fall out in huge chunks.  Then there’s the little problem of making my book sound really, really good, so a prospective agent doesn’t notice my total lack of publishing credits.  Too bad blog posts don’t count!

However, slowly but surely I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.  I’ve submitted a couple different drafts to Agent Query Connect, a great website with a fantastic forum dedicated to query letters, finding agents, and everything else associated with writing and getting published.  Both drafts have been picked apart by a community that isn’t shy about giving constructive criticism.  I’m getting ready to start another revision and hopefully I will get even closer to the perfect query letter with this draft.

If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of weeks, its the importance of knowing I can’t do this alone.  Writing is often a solitary act, but what good is it without the village?  No one likes the idea of rejection or criticism, but honestly there’s no getting better without either concept.  Thick skin is a must, especially when it comes to the publishing industry.  It took some soul searching, but I can honestly say I’m at the point where most crits bounce off of me and I’m able to accept them as help, rather than an attack.

At the moment, my latest query draft is getting flooded with suggestions, which is a little overwhelming but also quite welcome.  I’d rather have too many ideas than none at all!  Sure, I may lose a bit more hair, but it’ll be worth it when I get the call from an interested agent.

p.s. Bonnie, I’m sending you a draft either tonight or tomorrow morning.

c.b. 2011

1 Challenge, 7 Links

One of my favorite bloggers, Random Acts of Writing [+ art], was kind enough to include me on something called the Seven Link Challenge. I’m honored to say the least that she felt I had a body of work worthy of such an endeavor.  The idea is to reflect on previous blog posts and share our favorite moments.

Blogging is a relatively new thing for me, but I have to say I’ve enjoyed every step of the process. From dismal failures to surprising successes the blogosphere has challenged me to grow as a writer. Since late April 2011, I’ve managed to write 80 posts covering a wide range of topics. Launching this blog was all about giving myself a reason to write and I’m happy to say I’m more motivated then ever.  Thank you to all my readers for joining me on this journey.

Most beautiful post:

  • Can You See Your Dreams?  Dreams are always beautiful.  In this post, I give an outline of a dream board I keep posted above my writing desk. I was delighted to hear from people who were inspired to create a dream board for themselves.  If that’s not beautiful I don’t know what is.

Most popular post:

  • The Best Souvenirs Are Free  Thanks to Freshly Pressed, this post takes an easy victory for most popular.  I’m still suffering from FPSS!  While the stats skyrocketed, I swear the most fun part of the whole thing was the long list of comments.  So many readers shared beautiful stories of travel and trinkets – their comments are well worth the read if you find yourself with a few extra minutes.

Most controversial post:

  • I Write Like . . .  The last word I would use to describe my blog is “controversial,” but this post got a few people to e-mail me personally.  I love how some viewed it as a fun game, while others are determined to figure out the secret algorithm of the program.  Either way, fun is had by all.

Post that didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved:

  • Ivan Klima: The Best Writer You’ve Never Read  This category gives me yet another opportunity to tout the genius of  Ivan Klima.  He is one of my favorite writers and I always feel like he doesn’t get enough attention.  In this post, I outline a few favorite works and include some quotes that showcase his unique point of view.

Surprisingly Successful Post: 

No matter what I do, I can’t narrow it down to one!

  • The Anatomy of My Pen Name  I had no idea so many people would be fascinated by my pen name process, but this post really struck a chord with writers and readers alike.

Most Helpful Post:

I can’t help it!  Two links fall under this category, too!

  • Books I Can’t Write Without  I posted this a while ago, but people still contact me with news of buying the books I listed.  Who would have thought my library would have such an impact?  I sincerely hope each book helps to keep the inspiration going.  Keep writing!
  • The Notebook that Built My Novel  I wrote this post because a friend of mine asked about my novel notebook and how it worked.  As a result of the post, a lot of people were inspired to make one of  their own and I can’t even begin to say how exciting it is to hear that.

Most Proud of Post:

Can I put the whole blog? Okay, okay, I’ll narrow it down to two.

  • The Bell Jar  This was the first book review where I feel like I finally found my groove in writing a synopsis.  Readers seemed to agree, as this was the first book post that got a steady stream of comments.
  • The Way Back  This is the post that launched my blog, so I have to include it on the list!  Thanks to this short story and those who read it, my blogging continues!

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I’d like to invite the following bloggers to take on the Seven Link Challenge:

RoughWaterJohn the Pirate

TBN Ranch

Tattered Past

slightlyignorant

Write Up My Life

You are all an inspiration to me and I hope you’ll take on the challenge!

c.b. 2011

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