Don’t Forget to Vote!

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Hey everybody, don’t forget to get out and vote today, if you have the option! I went out early this morning and cast my vote along with The Mr. You have a say in the movement of this nation, so don’t waste it!

For tomorrow I have some really exciting news, so check back!

In Translation: The Devil, as Always, is in the Details.

Dostoevsky vs. Dostoevsky Photo by Lisa Asanuma, Creative Commons License.

Recently (or not recently at all, really, if we’re being honest, or you look at my Goodreads) I’ve taken it upon myself to read through all of Dostoevsky. All of him. Everything I can find that he wrote. Or, all his fiction, at least, as I don’t really know if he wrote essays or anything like that.

A little background: I took a course in college about Dostoevsky, mainly because I had read Crime and Punishment in high school and loved it. LOVED it. C&P is one of my all-time favorite novels. For so many reasons. None of them being that the main character is sympathetic. Which is another reason I love that book—because he really, really isn’t.

I did not remotely make it through most of his books during my college course, though. In fact, all I can confess to actually finishing is his short stories (I think) and again, Crime and Punishment. Getting through two short-story collections and three whoppers of novels is intimidating at best—much more so for Russian Lit. (Have you SEEN The Brothers Karamazov? My copy is well over 600 pages.) (That said, it reads like a Whodunnit mystery. Still, I didn’t finish due to time-constraints.)

I decided also, to start on what was to me, the least enticing of his novels. The Idiot. Actually, I was very curious about The Idiot because of a little fad I like to follow in my classic reading. I like reading novels about characters that the novelist themself has deemed as remarkably good. For example, Anne Elliot in Persuasion, or Mary Garth in Middlemarch, another monolithic tomb I love.

So I set out on The Idiot. But I did so when I couldn’t get my hands on a physical copy, and at the same time, was experimenting with the Kindle app on my phone. Needless to say, my progress was slow-going. Dostoevsky is hard enough to swallow when it’s on a few hundred pages, not to mention 12,000+ tiny screens pages. Even if the quality of the writing is the same (my example of this is 13 Little Blue Envelopes, also read half on my phone, half in real book form).

In this case, though, the quality of the writing was not the same. Dostoevsky is Dostoevsky, right? Wrong.

This is actually another something I learned in that same college course: the quality of the translator is, while not everything, a lot. In fact, when I took classes where books were read in translation (EG: my Dostoevsky class and another Russians class*… what? I like Russians) I would often purposefully check a copy out of the library rather than buy the one prescribed for class, because then I got to see and hear some of the differences in the text that the translators made (also I was dirt poor, but anon…)
I had come to the conclusion in that class that each translator offered a somewhat different portrayal… but often they were just as rich in different ways. This experience with The Idiot, however, did not match up, and it’s all down to the fact that when I went to Kindle to test the book out, I naturally tried the free edition. Dostoevsky’s not around to collect a royalty check, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.
I picked the book up and put it down a lot, then put it down for a long time when I didn’t really have enough space for the Kindle app on my phone, then checked the book out from the library, and tried to go back to swapping back and forth between the two.
It would not do. And I’ll tell you why.
Here is an exerpt from my library copy of the book translated by Constance Garnett (my own is still tucked away in a box somewhere in Southern California):
Nina Alexandrovna looked about fifty, with a thin and sunken face and dark rings under her eyes. She looked in delicate health and somewhat melancholy, but her face and expression were rather pleasing. At first word one could see that she was of an earnest disposition and had genuine dignity. In spite of her melancholy air one felt that she had a firmness and even determination. She was very modestly dressed in some dark colour in an elderly style, but her manner, her conversation, all her ways betrayed that she was a woman who had seen better days.
Now compare this to the description in the Kindle version, translated as you can see above by Eva Martin (a note on this, my professor knew the translators by name, and could tell us a little of their histories and his preferences, which I still find most impressive. Garnett, now that I see her name, was his favorite, I think):
The lady of the house appeared to be a woman of about fifty years of age, thin-faced, and with black lines under her eyes. She looked ill and rather sad; but her face was a pleasant one for all that; and from the first word that fell from her lips, any stranger would at once conclude that she of a serious and particularly sincere nature. In spite of her sorrowful expression, she gave the idea of possessing considerable firmness and decision
Her dress was modest and simple to a degree, dark and elderly in style; but both her face and appearance gave evidence that she had seen better days.
Not only is the first excerpt more concise, it has a lot more in the way of aesthetics to it. When I went from reading the passage in the Garnett version to reading the Martin translation, and I was surprised by how much the Martin didn’t measure up.
So if you’re reading something in translation, don’t just pick the first copy you find. Sit down for a minute and browse… make sure the translation you get is the one you want. It will make for a nicer experience, and maybe stop you from prematurely thinking that some author who wrote in another language had no idea what they were doing.
*I also took a class on Hungarians, but didn’t check out Hungarian stuff from the library because let’s face it, there wasn’t many options to choose from (Read: that was the only translation there ever had been, or probably would ever be).

Writing? What’s that? Oh that’s right… my DREAM.

This photo is kind of a free-association of what my life has been like this past month. Not bad, per se, just so ridiculously busy that when I wasn’t working or stealing a spare few hours to be human with my husband and friends, I was sleeping. But mostly, I was working and sleeping. I have never felt that falling into bed warranted the word “crashed” so often in one month before. There have been many, many days where I intended to do one thing, or six, and instead fell asleep. My last Tales From the Hollow Tree short, “Mooniversary,” was written the day it was supposed to be posted, and last Friday’s still hasn’t been written, and it’s the next Thursday already.

This has largely been because I have recently acquired a full-time job. This full-time job is graveyards. I don’t really blame the full-time job or the graveyards, though both of those things have been factors, but it was the fact that I was (am) still working my first, part-time job that really has been the clincher on my time, because as I said above, whenever I wasn’t working the night job, I was sleeping in preparation or recovery of it, or I was working the other job.

I worked so much this last month that besides missing my Hollow Tree story—which I hate to say I still have not written, but may be written tomorrow… ish… possibly—but I also missed my deadline of having my manuscript completed by the end of June, which was a very important initiative for me that I’m very sorry to have failed at, and I was frustrating people at the part-time job in the meantime. And so, I have decided to part ways with my part-time job. It’s a little sad, because it was a fun job and I’m going to miss interacting with both my coworkers and the customers, but on the other hand, I can’t deny that for the most part I’m counting the days.

Because the fact of the matter is, giving up writing, or postponing the writing of my book is not worth three or four hundred dollars extra each month. And I mean, that’s not an easy thing for me to say, because before I got the full-time position, this part-time one was the first normal job I’d had in… well, years. And the first job either me or my husband had had in a little more than a year. Basically this job saved us in more ways than I can count, and walking away from it feels a little ungrateful, but again… it’s not nearly enough to postpone my dream. Especially when I’m so close I can taste it. I mean, I’m still a long, long way away from being on bookshelves anywhere, but I’m close to having that finished product, that whole, gleaming manuscript.

To be honest, I was expecting my manager to be disappointed in me. To be frustrated that I was walking away when I wasn’t even fully trained. And I was expecting to have to justify myself, to say “No, see, I know it sounds crazy, but I already have two jobs, and I’ve been neglecting my primary one as a writer since I started the third.”

But thankfully it didn’t work out half as dramatically as I was worried it would. I have three shifts left at my part-time job. And a new adeptness at staying up nights. I think this writing thing will work out just fine.

How are you all doing, you lovely people?

The Awesome and the Less Awesome

There are a few adjustments being made in my life at the moment, and things are still changing and needing to settle down, so I’m deciding to cut down my blogging to one day a week. I know, a little lame, but until I have things more figured out, I want to at least be dependable in the things I’ve said I’ll do.

That said, I’ve been negligent about this blog the past few weeks, and I’m so sorry. Here’s a little list of what’s been going on in my life, both the Awesome and the Less Awesome.

Awesome: I’ve started the first “normal” job I’ve ever had in my life. I say “normal” because I’ve been working since high school, just about, but it’s always been in unusual conditions. Single-employee office jobs, online gigs, selling crafts and what have you. I’ve just never had what you might call a normal paycheck, and I’m enjoying the idea of a little bit of stability in my life.

Less Awesome: This does, of course, cut down on my time to write, which is why sacrifices must be made. I know I’ve been rearranging blog schedules as is, but cutting down on blog time is essential in this. This way I can focus on quality, not quantity, and on getting my WIP all finished for my goal at the end of June.

Awesome: The other day I broke 70K, writing over 4600 words in one day. Less time = more focus!

Less Awesome: I’m really worried that my bad guy is one-dimensional.

Awesome: This weekend is the LDS Storymakers Conference here in Utah. A fabu writers’ conference that a lot of my writerly friends will be attending!

Less Awesome: I can’t go. :(

Awesome: I will be able to meet up with a bunch of those same friends on Friday night at the Authors Incognito Mix & Mingle that goes along with the writers’ conference!

So that’s what’s up in my neck of the woods.

Oh, and one more Awesome: I’m giving away a ten-page critique at the Dojo! Enter the Rafflecopter here!

Now a word from you… what are you reading this week? How are you liking it?

Looking Forward…

2012 is right around the corner, and I for one am excited. I know there may be a few out there who are truly worried about this being the last year any of us have… but I’m not worried. In fact, I think 2012 is going to be a great year.

I have a few resolutions this year, and I may as well put them out for the world to see so I can be accountable for them, yes?

1) I want to read one poem every single day.

2) I want to diversify my reading – have at least 1/3 of the books I read be something OTHER than YA—I’ve pigeonholed myself most of the year, but I’m ready to read some other things!

3) I want to finish a full manuscript BY JUNE. And try to finish a second by December.

4) I want to be down to 150 pounds by the end of 2012. I should probably make that something more like 120, but I want to be reasonable, and I don’t want to scare myself out of it. To be clear, that’s about 45 pounds I want to lose.

Oh, and I’ve taken on Tristi Pinkston’s January Challenge – I’m challenging myself to write at least 1K every day in January. Maybe I’ll keep that up through the year?

And that’s the gist of it! Those are the things I’m trying to accomplish in the coming year. How about you?

 

What’s With all the Crickets?

*chirp* *chirp*

It’s been very, very quiet around here. I have a few explanations.

You see, firstly, there was NaNo. I did very well the first few days of NaNo, too… and then I found out that an opportunity had opened up, and my husband and I are going to be moving to Texas. By the end of the month. So, between Thanksgiving and packing/planning… a lot has fallen off the wagon. Including NaNo. And this blog.

So. I’m going to try to be on here more often. At least once a week until the end of the year, then back up to fulltime, okay?

Meanwhile, look forward to our giveaway on Tales From the Hollow Tree as we release our first collection of stories.

Have you seen our cover? Isn’t it pretty?

Here’s to You, Judy Blume.

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 

The book that did me in was Just as Long as We’re Together, by Judy Blume. Yes, I’m a Blume-r. I started a deep love of reading before I really could read—somewhere there is a VHS of me reciting the picture book Who’s a Pest? from memory when I was four years old, before I knew more than how to spell my name. I raced through book after book after book, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy, it all had me enthralled. I gobbled up classics like The Secret Garden and Little Women and The Hobbit.

And then, when I was eleven years old, a friend made me read Just as Long as We’re Together. I’d read Judy Blume before, though I didn’t realize that what I was holding now was the same author as the Fudge books—which I loved for a totally different reason—but when I read Just as Long as We’re Together, I knew I’d found the thing I really and truly loved. Teen fiction. Young Adult fiction.

I was too young to even be considered a Young Adult, but Blume’s stories struck such a deep chord with me—maybe because I was on shaky footing with the friends I thought would last forever, maybe because I was an “early bloomer” puberty-wise and Blume dealt with those sensitive subjects so deftly. I couldn’t get attached to the Babysitters’ Club or Sweet Valley High books that friends were reading and loving so much. They seemed so paltry—Blume’s characters seemed real. Three-dimensional people with souls and pasts and lives of their own.

And I wanted to be able to create that. I wanted to write books that people could walk away from feeling like they had new friends, new loves, new people dear to their hearts. Stephanie Hirsh and Rachel Robinson (with her own book as a sequel) are still a part of me today. Insecure teenagers fighting to define themselves and their beliefs and motivations—that feeling, that fight, is what made me want to be a writer. What made me want to examine the struggles of the heart and the complications of loving people but needing to be true to yourself, no matter what.

I drank those books down, every Blume I could get. Deenie. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Then Again Maybe I Won’t. It’s Not the End of the World. And then I haunted the YA shelves in my local bookstores—you know, back when it really was just a couple of shelves, usually hidden in the kids’ section?—looking every single time for something more. I was starving for young adult books. And there were a few out there… but mostly I was running across things like Lurlene McDaniels‘ books—where somebody always dies and everybody else is left tortured and ruined for it—and that kind of melodrama was not what I was looking for.

I just wanted good characters. Great characters. Characters that I wanted to stay up late at night on the phone with. That’s what I found in Blume’s books, and it took me a long time to find characters as great in YA again—though it’s certainly not hard now. And maybe it’s not because there were other kids out there like me… who heard that voice in the vast wilderness of literature and finally recognized something that was their own.

My writing has taken a different turn than the contemporary Young Adult that I started making stories up for when I was ten or twelve, but the heart behind the writing has been the same—has strengthened, really. I’m trying my best to capture the kind of power that goes behind emotions when you’re a teenager, and I love the way that fantasy highlights that, and I enjoy putting (hopefully) believable people into impossible situations and see how they deal with them. What’s most important to me is the honesty of the emotion.

So here’s to you, Judy Blume. Thanks for giving me my spark. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Poseur

I had dinner with an old friend the other day. I guess you could say my oldest friend. It’s nice to touch base with someone who’s known you since your awkwardest of high school days, and who you still like and can relate to years later. We talked about high school, and our odd little group of friends that we had—a very nerdy, clique-y group of friends that completely imploded our senior year.

Yes, I did say nerdy AND clique-y. We were a fairly elitist back in the day*—we were smart, and likely to go places, and in a barely-accredited high school, that was something. Oh I could talk about how it all stemmed from insecurity and a somewhat fear-driven determination to not only succeed, but soar—about how our need to prove our independence lead us to tear ourselves away from the only foundation we had (each other)—but that’s a whole other post. This friend is the only connection from those days that is upheld on both ends—the only one that has lasted beyond facebook friends.

*I promise I’m not elitist anymore. I did it a lot when I was young… it’s not worth it.

What I’ve always enjoyed about this friendship is that this friend of mine has always given me a steady sounding board for my life, whether he’s realized it or not. I mentioned offhand to him while we were talking about how I’d always felt like a poser in the little liberal arts college I went to in UC Santa Barbara (where his sister also attended—she was at the dinner, too). I’d studied Literature, and most of the students in my classes wanted to be poets or write their own Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius—or whatever. I, meanwhile had always had my heart and mind focused on commercial Young Adult fiction—nothing deep and literary like my classmates wanted to write.

My friend laughed outright at me—”Don’t you think they were all posers?” he asked, outright. “It sounds to me like you’ve stayed true to yourself.”

And just by his saying it, I realized that he was right. As he went on to say, a lot of the people in that school want to be novelists—like the ideology of it, and the “romance” of being kept up all night alone in a room with a typewriter—but instead they’re teaching or holding down tech writing jobs or doing something else that has nothing to do with literature.

Meanwhile, I have made it my business to not only keep writing, but to learn about the publishing business, understanding the querying process, network with other writers and learned the mechanics behind writing a good novel. I also have almost 60K of one WIP, and 55K of another, and am closer than ever to seeing my goal of finishing a novel and querying it out to agents. I’ve also worked hard on building up an online presence, so that if and when I get published, readers will be able to find me and have lots of platforms to interact with me on.

This isn’t to say that none of my other classmates are on that same path, of course. But somehow I don’t feel like much of a poser anymore. Well, except when I actually try to use the word “poser,” that is.

There Are People Watching the Last Harry Potter Movie Right Now.

I, sadly, am not one of them. It’s still two hours to midnight where I am right now, and I don’t have tickets to go, anyhow. Hopefully I’ll see it sometime this week—funds are extremely tight right now and you have to pick your battles.

Also…  I have to admit that I’m not so keen on the idea that this brilliant phenomenon is over. Oh I know, there’s pottermore coming, but the essentials—the books and the movies—they’re done for good now.

I was an extremely reluctant Potter fan. In fact, when the books were getting really popular and the first movie came out I turned my nose up at it all over the place. So much hype could never truly deliver. My sister had read the first three books, and my brother was starting to read them, and I was busy freaking out about starting high school—which had them teasing about me being so much like Hermione behind my back. I rolled my eyes at it then, but looking back, I’m going to choose to take it as a compliment. I think Hermione is pretty dang awesome.

Anyhow, I went along to see the movie—see what the fuss was about. Harry was your basic orphan-turned-something-awesome-in-some-other-world kid, and a bit of a brat, truth be told. I have to confess that I didn’t like him at all in the movie. What I did like, however, was the banter between Ron and Hermione. I have to admit that when I started the books, it was entirely to see how and when Ron and Hermione* were going to get together. For the most part I still didn’t like Harry very much… but that would change.

*(On the way home from the movie I asked my sister, “So, in the end it’ll be Ron and Hermione, and Harry and… Jenny? Was that her name?” I totally called it.)

Each book at first was breath-held anticipation as to whether Ron and Hermione would finally kiss, and then every movie was hoping-beyond-hope that they would portray things faithfully.

I really only started liking Harry a lot during the sixth book. Before that he was always so angry. In the seventh book, I fell in love with him. He’d grown so much, come so far, and was so profoundly grateful for the ones that had helped him get there… and that was what I loved most about him. That he was so thankful for his friends and for the people who’d sacrificed for him, and I was so touched by it all that I wanted to cry.

And because I saw the movie first, I’ve loved the movies just as much as the books. Watching Dan, Emma and Rupert grow up has been a lovely experience… and well, I adore Rupert, always have. Ahem…

But now the last movie is coming out, and it’s all going to end. It’s a good thing… but sad, too. I’m glad that I have a little extra waiting time to see how the last Potter flick turns out.

 

*********

P.S. I’m participating in the Independence Day blogfest tomorrow, details are here, come check it out!