October 25, 2011

The Canon: Ella Enchanted

This is not a very good image of the cover, but it will have to do.

So I asked you all a few weeks ago about "the canon": what books you would stock your child's library with. My long term goal with that project is to talk about every single one of those books, but first I have to reread each of them and make sure that a: I still think they make the cut, and b: I remember what happens.

Ella Enchanted is first. Why? Mostly because it's the book I reread first, but it's an obvious choice for my child's library. I have a paperback copy. The binding is worn out and the cover is torn. I keep meaning to purchase a nice hardcover, but I never get around to it. Suffice to say this book has been well-loved, and I will (eventually) buy another copy. In the meantime, my copy shows its 50+ reads.

I reread it yesterday. There's something innately comforting about Ella Enchanted, like snuggling into a comfy chair with a mug of hot chocolate on a rainy day. For those of you who haven't read the book (Where have you been living? Under a rock?), Ella Enchanted is a retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella. The hook? Ella, our heroine, has been saddled with a curse of obedience: When given an order, she must follow it. Add in some ogres, giants, a very charming prince, and devious step-siblings, and you have one interesting ride.

I love Ella because she's stubborn and independent, and she doesn't take no for an answer. She is an active heroine who spends an understandable amount of time wallowing in her misfortune before picking herself back up and moving on. Char, her love interest, is also compelling, if not equally so, and he's a genuinely nice guy (a rare creature if ever there was one in the current YA scene). Gail Carson Levine's writing is smooth and playful, and honestly, every single page of this book is a pleasure to read.

Let's not talk about the ill-advised movie adaptation. This is definitely one where I say READ THE BOOK. The movie is not worth your time.

In conclusion, why does Ella Enchanted make my canon? First, because it's a fairy tale. I am a fairy tale devotee -- telling me that your book is based on a fairy tale automatically makes me about twice as likely to pick it up. Second, because it's a fun, well-written adventure about an independent girl with a big heart and a taste for adventure. The world needs more heroines like Ella. Third, because after 50+ readings (and who am I kidding, it's probably more like 100+), this story doesn't lose its charm. I can easily imagine reading it to my child night after night after night. In fact, I might just go reread it now...

October 19, 2011

NaNoWriMo!

These days I'm trying not to look at the calendar too much (seriously, what day is it again?) because if I see how much time is left in the year I might actually pass out. Where did 2011 go? But one thing that makes counting down to the end of the year slightly more bearable is the arrival of NaNoWriMo.

Many "serious" writers and publishing folk tend to scoff at NaNoWriMo, claiming that no "serious" writer would ever stoop to attempting the challenge (in basic terms, to produce 50,000 new words in the 30 days of November), claiming that NaNoWriMo is nothing more than a colossal waste of time.

To which I say, "Sucks to be you, then." (Short side note: there is SO MUCH kerfluffle in my small niche of the book world [Nano enthusiast and YA writer/reader] that at the end of the day I don't have much energy to say anything other than "Whatever, screw you," to each new article claiming that such and such doesn't count as "real literature" or is worthless or is corrupting our children! or.... Yeah.)

Don't get me wrong, NaNoWriMo doesn't work for everyone, and its purpose is easily misinterpreted. If you sit at your computer at 12:01am November 1st, expecting to have a completed, query-ready novel at the end of the month... Well, then you don't really know much about writing, or the industry.

In my experience, NaNoWriMo is the perfect antidote to writer's block, an excellent kick-starter, and an all-around good time. NaNo is great if you've been meaning to write that novel FOREVER, but just haven't found the time. NaNoWriMo tells you, "This is the time!" NaNoWriMo is excellent for those people (like me) who have a serious perfectionism complex, resulting in hours and hours spent varying four words in a 75,000 word manuscript. NaNoWriMo tells us, "There's no time for dilly-dallying! Get those words writ, man!"

In short, the ideal product of NaNoWriMo is a draft of a novel. It may be misshapen and slightly green, but it's a draft. (The founders are very clear about this. If you go to the site, there's an entire section devoted to what to do after NaNo, the biggest point of which is REVISE.)

If that sounds like a good time, then by all means, hop on. This ride is for you. But please please please remember: Do not submit your NaNo novel to agents at 12:01am December 1st. There are publishing folk everywhere girding their inboxes for the onslaught of queries reading something like "OMG I TOTES finished this book in 28.4 days and it is TOTES AWESOME!"

*Side note to those who claim nothing but crap ever comes out of NaNoWriMo: The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern), Water For Elephants (Sara Gruen), The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan), and Cinder (Marissa Meyer) all started as NaNo novels, among others.

October 12, 2011

All quiet on the blog frontier

So it's been quiet. Too quiet. So quiet I can't even think of where to begin updating on what's been going on in my life. I have a feeling that if I started meandering about everything that I'm occupied with these days, this blog post will get so long no one will make it to the end. It would become one of those endurance courses: can you get to the third paragraph? The fifth? The fourteenth?

My time recently has been spent occupied by one or more of the following:

1. Work. An unfortunate necessity. I don't think anything more needs to be said on the subject.

2. Writing. This is going - going! This is the first time I'm announcing it in public, so here goes: I'm aiming to have my first substantive revision done (and off to as-yet-undecided betas) by November 1. Conveniently, this allows for a break from this WIP to work on an altogether different WIP during NaNoWriMo (which is approaching, as you all should know).

3. Running. It's puzzling. I say I hate running...and yet I do it anyway. Why? Mostly because it's the easiest way I can think of to get in a decent workout. So that's been happening. Puzzlingly.

4. Choir. I've been kicking around an idea about tying in my choir with my WIP (there's lots of singing in both), but haven't really figured out how to articulate it yet.

What I haven't really been doing: Reading. Oh, there are books. But not enough that I feel like I'm really reading, not like I'm used to. Apparently this is an unfortunate side effect of spending most of my free time writing.

More to come. I feel like I'm shaking the dust off my blog and sending back out into the world. Hello, world!