Music Monday: Mat Kearney – All I Need

Mat Kearney – All I Need

Background: I love Mat Kearney for one thing—he sounds like Adam Duritz, of the Counting Crows, my absolute favorite contemporary male artist. That sounds close-minded of me, but I love that voice, and I’ll take it even when it’s not really Adam’s. (He doesn’t sound 100% like Adam, but about 90%, close enough).

Favorite line: “I’m grabbing at the fray for something that won’t drown.”  But really I love this whole song. Every single line. “Light’s just breaking so don’t let go of my arm.” “If all we’ve got is what no one can break/I know I love you, if that’s all we can take.”

My song history: I found this song at the perfect time, just as I was starting to really form Daughter in my mind. This song is inextricably connected to that story for me, and always will be.

What drew me in: Like I said, what originally drew me in was Kearney’s voice, but the minute the lyrics started to sink in, I couldn’t escape loving it.

For my writing: According to last.fm I’ve listened to this song 176 times, but that’s probably a fraction of the truth. If Ashes and Wine (my #1 on last.fm, with 198 plays) is my song for Amara, my heroin, “All I Need” is my song for Philo, the boy who loves her. This song is so Philo I couldn’t have found a better one if I’d tried. It talks about “trying to be the man” when they’re seen as just a boy, about running without knowing what you’re running for, just that she needs it, and being completely over their heads on a journey that’s much bigger than them.

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Fiber Friday!

A Twitter convo with author Jodi Meadows about her fun Spinning Sunday blogs a little while ago, I decided I might as well embrace my crafty side on my author blog and show off some of my own fiber-y work.

A little background – I am a knitter. And a crocheter. And a drop-spindler (what’s that?). And a bookbinder. So from now on on Fridays I’m going to show off a little of what is going on in my crafty world. Today, this is what I have to share with you:

 

and:

A few days ago I finished the very first fiber I ever bought. Now this isn’t the first fiber I’ve spun by far, but it’s soy silk, a very slippery fiber, so I didn’t dare touch it until I sort of knew what I was doing.

I have one more skein of it in another blue colorway, and they’re all small skeins… don’t know what I’ll do with them yet. Maybe combine all three in a shawl of some sort? Or make a few hats? Hm….

Booking Through Thursday: Eternity

Bookish Sarah asks:

What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?

I don’t know what book has taken me the longest to read, but lots of books have taken me a long time to read, and here are some reasons why:

1) I’m not enjoying the story, but there’s a story question I want answered. Or just a plot twist. Or one small character I can’t let go of enough to give up altogether.

2) I’m enjoying the language more than the story. Or equally as much as the story. I’ll read a beautifully-written book slowly, as it was probably written.

3) I’ve lost it. Or had to return it to the library. This has happened on numerous occasions over the past three years, because I’ve lived in three different states… in six different time periods. Figure that one out.

4) I love the story but the language is slow. Or complex. This is sort of the same as 2, but a little different. I’m reading Bleak House at the moment… well, I will be when I get it back from the library sometime (See Reason #3) and I’m fully drawn in, the wording just takes longer to read, period. This is the same for a lot of classics for me.

Wednesday Want: Charming Coat by xiaolizi on Etsy (2)

Wednesday Wants is a weekly (ahem) post featuring things that I, as a starving artist, would like to one day have in my dream house and/or wardrobe.

This week I have something of the latter for you:

My favorite find on the internet this week has been the Charming Coat by xiaolizi on Etsy.

I love this fun, fanciful coat. I’m probably too short to wear it, and at $129 it’s a little out of my price range, but so, so cute. And really not unreasonable in price at all… don’t you think?

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

From Goodreads:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” 
 
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
 
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I really enjoyed this memoir. While her behind-the-scenes Hollywood moments were fun to hear about, the real strength in this is Kaling talking about being a chubby, boy-faced Indian girl.

Example quote:

“Don’t be closer to TWICE a friend’s weight than to her actual weight,” I told myself. This little mantra has helped me stave off obesity for more than two decades.

Kaling is honest about body issues, never being a size 0, the way Hollywood responds to that, and the fact that she’s made it alright anyhow (also the best way to dress her figure, which is an art, as any curvy woman should know). She talks about how she wants people who are married to let people know how much they love being married, because marriage gets such bad press and she wants to have a good marriage someday. She talks about friendship, how she feels about her best friends, and what’s the best way to duck out of a party without anyone noticing (or with everyone noticing).

If you’re looking for anecdote after anecdote about The Office and her castmates, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for, but if you want a little insight on what it’s like to write for a major TV show, what it’s like to be new in Hollywood, or what it’s like to be from a very successful, traditional Indian family and how that contrasts with typical American culture, this is a fabulous, totally enjoyable read.

I listened to this on audio, read by the author, and I highly recommend it that way. I don’t know that it would be as much fun if you were reading it.

Movie Review: The Lorax

I was never overly familiar with The Lorax. It wasn’t one of the Seuss books that I owned and cuddled and opened up all the time just to look at the pictures. In fact, if the commercials hadn’t made it fairly clear, I wouldn’t have remembered what The Lorax was about at all. Cutting down trees to make thneeds… vaguely familiar, but again, not a strong Seuss memory for me like Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Still, it looked like a fun movie. And it looked funner and friendlier than Horton Hears a Who. I still don’t really get the evil vulture in that story. Also it had Ed Helms! So who could resist?

The Lorax is a story of a city entirely made of plastic, with no single growing thing other than people. Because of this, the air is ultra-polluted, but one man decides to bottle clean air and sell it. One girl has heard about trees, though, and wants nothing more than to have a real tree growing in her own backyard, so the boy who likes her decides he’s going to go and find her a tree. He is lead to the Once-ler by his grandmother, and from him, learns the strange tale of the Lorax, and what happened to the trees in the first place.

Ultimately this was a fun movie. The colors were so bright and happy that you couldn’t help but enjoy them, and the lesson of taking care of your environment didn’t come off as preachy as say, the old Seuss cartoons from the 70s.

I really enjoyed this film. The love story was adorable, the fish and bears and daffy birds were cute and fun, and the hard-learned lesson of the Once-ler’s was done in a nice, poignant way.

My one reservation on enjoying this film was the song numbers. When I saw the Once-ler fiddling with his guitar, I was sort of hoping the music would be constrained to Ed Helms playing a ditty here or there. Instead, there were mediocre, over-the-top musical numbers with electric guitars and clanging. Which wasn’t really what I was looking for. In my opinion, the movie would have done better without the musical numbers at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a big song and dance number as much as anyone, especially in a cartoon format… I just feel like filmmakers don’t really know what goes into that anymore. Too often they miss out on the heart of it and try to do too much. Think of “A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes.” A simple song will usually work just fine.

Why the Hunger Games is More than Short Sentences.

This morning I read an article by Jeff Goins entitled “Why The Hunger Games is the Future of Writing.” His first argument is that it caters to an easily-distracted audience with a big font and short sentences, and that if you are an author looking to get published, you should do this too.

I have to say that I disagree, however.

There are those who, in the comments of Goins’ article argue that Suzanne Collins’ writing is just plain bad, and that it’s the story, not the writing itself that sold these books. Again, I can’t quite agree with that either.

Yes, Suzanne Collins’ prose is short, quick, and to the point. And yes, some of the sentences are poorly constructed. I had a slightly different look at reading this, because I was reading it out loud so that The Mr. and I could enjoy it together. (We’re still reading, almost halfway through Catching Fire.) Reading the book aloud, it is almost impossible to deny that some of the sentences are garbled and confusing. I’ve stumbled over a good many of them.

All of these arguments are missing the point as to what is really going on here. And what is going on here is pacing.

The pacing in The Hunger Games is superb. It is probably the best case of pacing I have seen anywhere. The end of each and every chapter has a punch-you-in-the-gut “Did-that-just-really-happen?” moment.

A moment that makes you want to race on to find out why or what or how something just occurred.

The pacing in The Hunger Games is so good, you don’t really care that the sentences possibly could have been edited a little more. To be honest, I think they could have. I think this is a case where the editors were so drawn in by the writing that some things slipped by. It happens.

The series is a sprint. It takes off running, hits hard and keeps going, because the characters don’t have the choice of stopping, so neither does the reader. Short sentences may make an impact stylistically, but we’ve always known concision is the key to good writing. Some of Goins’ commenters lamented that short-sentences would lead to a world without Shakespeare, but Shakespeare himself wrote that “brevity is the soul of wit,” and was possibly the first master of pacing with his scenes of comic relief in intense plays.

In any case, I don’t think that short sentences is the answer. The answer is precision, and pacing. If simple sentences were the only key to a bestseller, how do you explain Maggie Stiefvater, author of the New York Times bestselling Wolves of Mercy Falls series and the critically acclaimed Scorpio Races? Stiefvater’s writing is lyrical and complex, with—I dare say—much more attention to the value of each and every word. Her books are doing just as well as Collins’ did before the movie hype, and there is a lot of promise of movie hype headed her way.

But you know what Collins’ and Stiefvater’s works have in common? Impeccable pacing. End of chapter punches to the gut.

Don’t shorten your sentences just to write like Suzanne Collins. Pay attention to the ends of your chapters, though. Make things happen there. Make your readers want more, each and every time. That’s the future of writing.