I’ve Been… (Vaccinated Edition)

  • Yes, I’ve been fully vaccinated! Yay! But still a bit anxious about returning to “normal” life, minus the masks and social distancing. It’s really amazing what you can get used to!
  • A bit conflicted about Sanditon being brought back. While I enjoyed season one of the show, the fact that Theo James won’t be returning takes it even further from Jane Austen. I was ok with it being left open ended after the first season, because Sanditon is, in fact, a novel fragment. However, Jane Austen wrote happy endings as a matter of personal policy, so it’s fair to say that Sanditon was intended to have one. While Theo James says in his statement that he likes the “broken fairy-tale,” Austen didn’t, saying of her novels: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”
  • Speaking of Jane Austen, I’ve recently stated reading Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature by Shelly DeWees. It’s interesting so far, but I was turned off by DeWees’ claim in the introduction that the reason that the work of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Emily Bronte are so popular, while other female writers have been forgotten, is that they paint a “pretty” picture of a sort of romantic idealized English lifestyle. That’s true of Austen to an extent, but she does much more than that. She’s also a satirist, and a social critic. This book gets into some of the social and political implications of her work. Charlotte Bronte also engaged in social criticism including commentary on the position of women in a patriarchal society. And Emily Bronte’s work isn’t pretty or romantic in the least! On the contrary it’s very dark and subversive. It can be downright “ugly” at times! I think the aim of the book, to look at the lives and work of several lesser know female writers is worthwhile, but that’s not because Austen or the Brontës lack depth.
  • Reading a lot of fantasy in May for #WyrdandWonder’s Challenge. Check out some of my posts here:
  • Really loving author Katherine Harbour’s blog. Harbour wrote the Night and Nothing trilogy, which I read and enjoyed a few years ago. I look forward to more of her work. Her blog is sort of a treasure trove of book recommendations (with some nice hidden gems!) and writing tips.
  • Enjoying the Britcom Miranda. I’ve blogged about my love of sitcoms before, but this one isn’t my usual style. But it’s really funny nonetheless, and is great comfort viewing. “Such fun!” Supposedly there’s an American version called Call Me Kat. I haven’t seen that one yet, but I’ll check it out at some point. I’m a bit skeptical though. For every one American version of a British TV show that translates well, there are about five that are just horrible!
  • Through an edit and several rounds of beta reading for Frost. I found this point in the process difficult with Beautiful too: how to tell when it’s “done?” And how to get from the “done writing” point to the “it’s a book!” point? Like is my next step a copy edit? Proofread? I thought that with my second book I’d know how to do this more, but it still seems like I’m sort of feeling my way through.
  • Reading more short fiction that usual, in both novella and short story format. I suppose that’s because I’m more interested in short fiction for my own writing, but I’m still in the process of working out how it’s done. It’s very different that a novel which develops over time. But most of my novels (as if I’ve written so many! We’re talking 2 out of 3 here!) have started as short stories and gradually expanded. I think what I’m trying to figure out is how to keep a short story a short story and make a novel a novel.

Call For Betas

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I’m trying to find some beta readers for my new book, Frost. It’s a stand alone sequel to Beautiful  (you don’t need to have read Beautiful to understand anything here. It follows different characters). It’s been through about 3-4 drafts and one edit at this point, and I’d like a better idea of what it needs next.

In the past, I’ve found betas in this goodreads group and on twitter, but I’m not having any luck this time around. Does anyone else know where beta readers can be found? Also if anyone wants to beta read it, please let me know!

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Resolutions and Hopes for 2021

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 12: Resolutions/Hopes for 2021 (bookish or not!)

I decided to keep this mostly bookish (or at least related to books/writing/blogging), but not be totally rigid about it. So if something non-bookish strikes me as appropriate, I’ll include it.

1. Finish writing and publish Frost. I’m about 3 drafts into it. It’s been through several beta reads and one edit so far, so I’m getting there. I’d wanted it done by now, but 2020 came with some delays and distractions, so I didn’t make as much progress as I would have liked. I hope to finish it this year, but I’m trying to be understanding of the fact that unanticipated things sometimes get in the way of writing projects.

2. Read some of the books on my 2020 TBR that I didn’t get to yet.

3. Read more nonfiction. Fiction will always be my first love, but I’m trying to expand my interests, open my mind and learn new things. I’m also becoming more interested in creative nonfiction like memoirs, essays, etc. A few on my TBR

  • Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love by Anne Fadiman et al–  I’m a big fan of Anne Fadiman, who edited this, and I love the idea. I’m curious about how and why these writers decided what to reread. I’m totally conflicted about rereadings: there’s a lot I want to reread, because I suspect I’ll read it differently now. But I also don’t want to ruin any memories of books that might not live up to them. Plus can I justify rereading when there are so many books out there I haven’t read? I have no answers to these questions, but I’m curious how these writers answer them. Plus, I always love a good book about books!

4. Write more original blog posts. I wrote about this a little bit earlier. I love lists, and tags, and readalongs, but I do want to use my original voice more often. I want this blog to be a sort of combination of original posts/musings on life and literature, a way to share my writing, and a way to get to know other readers and writers.

5. Read more poetry. I think reading poetry makes me a better writer. I’ve never been someone who dives into volumes of poetry for hours. It’s not something I write naturally, but I appreciate the way it helps me see language a bit differently. I want to get to know contemporary poets better. Some favorites are Richard Siken, Jeannine Hall Gailey, the recently departed Mary Oliver, and Ada Limon.

6. Make more of an effort to write and publish short fiction. I think most of my literary efforts are spent on novels and nonfiction. I feel like that’s where I get the most feedback. But I also think that short fiction is worth the effort, even if I don’t get the most feedback from it.

7. Remember that reading goals, bookish resolutions, etc are are for fun. If I don’t hit a target or follow through on a goal, it’s not a failure, because it’s not something that matters. It’s something that’s supposed to be fun, pure and simple.

8. Be willing to DNF books. I have a lot of trouble with this. I feel like there’s a virtue in “sticking with something” even when I’m not enjoying it. Of course I know on a rational level that that’s not the case, but it’s hard to remember and believe. I sometimes act as if there’s some sort of prize to be won for sticking through something I’m not enjoying. I won’t say that there’s nothing to be gained by pushing through initial difficulty at times. I think that’s why I have so much trouble with this. There is something to by said for making an effort! But how much of an effort is necessary?

What are your bookish and non-bookish goals for 2021?

New Year Reflections

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Wow.

This is a year I never expected to have, that has challenged me in ways that I never could have predicted. For many others those changes have been even more drastic.

I usually post a sort of resolutions check in at this point: I think of it as a way to hold myself accountable for last year’s resolutions before I make this year’s.

But this year I’m not going to do that. This year I’ve had my mind on things other than whether or not I was keeping a resolution I made back in January when the world was a totally different place. Instead, I’m going to do a New Year’s Reflection: where I look back on the past year and think about where I am now and how I got here.

One thing I haven’t done as much as I’d want is writing. I’d wanted to have my second novel, Frost, finished and published by now. It’s getting there, but it’s happening slowly. I’m going to try not to be disappointed in myself for that. I’m going to try to accept the fact that this is the pace it’s going. I made the choice not to rush it and publish something I’m not proud of. I hope to finish this project in 2021, but we’ll see what next year brings.

Actually, as I look at my posts on this blog from the past year, I’m seeing a lot of Top Ten Tuesdays. That’s partially because I like making these lists. I also find it oddly relaxing . When I’m worrying about something, it helps to engage my mind in something else. The other reason I’ve done them so much, is that I like having something to post. Believe it or not, my life isn’t always glamourous and exiting! But I enjoy posting on here. I like reading other people’s blogs. I like the people who comment on my posts. So I continue to make them, and TTT gives me a way to do that, even when I don’t have any brilliant ideas!

Another thing I’m seeing is the read along I did of Kushiel’s Dart, hosted by Imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More. I’d been meaning to read that book for years. It’s been sitting on my shelf, waiting for me. But I haven’t always been up for a 1000 pager. The read along gave me a way to read it that was supportive, and having the weekly check ins and schedule held me accountable. I’m still not quite sure if I liked the book, but I definitely liked the experience.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

But I am also seeing more “original” posts than I thought! Take a look:

Sitcoms in the Time of Covid (A look at something that’s helped.)

I’ve Been (2020 Hellscape Edition)

Novels That Would Be Great On Stage (not a TTT, but a list nonetheless!)

“Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow.” – A Patti Smith Reader (This pretty much what it says)!

“Need A Sitter” Why yes, I do (A look at the Babysitter’s Club; then and now)

I’ve Been

On Race, Justice, and Other Pressing Matters of the Day (and also books) (I’m glad I looked back at this one. It’s a reminder to myself. )

Favorite Non-Disney Fairy Tale Films (Again, exactly what it sounds like!)

Non-Disney Fairy Tale Movies: The Sequel (writing the first one was fun, so I did another!)

I’ve Been: Lockdown Edition

While You’re Isolated… (It was fun coming up with a list of events and resources during lockdown)

I’ve Been: Social Distancing Edition (This was only the beginning!)

Things That Make Me Happy (wow! I thought the first two months of 2020 were stressful. Little did I know… But I’m glad I read again. It’s always nice to have a reminder of the little things I love)

Why Self Publishing is Harder Than People Think (I had completely forgotten I wrote this! Most of what it says still stands)

What Does it Mean To Be A Successful Author? (I needed to reread this today. I’m glad I did)

On Relaxation (Back in January, when I thought I was stressed.)

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I didn’t include any posts that were part of TTTs or tags or readathons. But they are there. One thing that strikes me as I look back on them is how often I’d begin a post the same way I began this one: with some sort of mention of how hard this year has been. I think that’s partially because I still can’t believe it. But also a reminder to myself that this is something that everyone is going through together. Our experiences haven’t been the same by any means, but it’s affected all of us in some way.

So we’ll see how 2021 goes. Hopefully better. Instead of a New Year’s resolution, I’m making a New Year’s wish: Better times. For all of us.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Sitcoms in the Time of COVID

2020 has been a year. I think we can all agree on that! We’ve all tried to get through a collective trauma (actually several collective traumas) in our own ways. Mine has been rather unexpected. 2020 gave me an appreciation for sitcoms that I’ve never had before. To be clear, I’ve always liked sitcoms. There have always been 1-2 that I’d watch regularly. Then there were the ones that I have on as background noise while I write (yes, I write to sitcoms in the background). But this year, I’ve found unexpected comfort in half hour formats, and even the canned studio laughter.

A sitcom doesn’t demand much of the viewer. We’re not asked to invest huge chunks of time. We can just dip in for a half hour if we want. We’re not asked to follow a complicated plot, or long character histories. Most of these shows don’t even have a villain really. Antagonists? Sure. But we don’t really see characters who are fundamentally evil at their core. We can turn off our brain as we watch, and enter into a world where nothing is so bad that it can’t be solved in a half hour, where people make conversation filled with witty one liners. Yes, too much of that is probably a bad thing, but I think this year it was very necessary.

Some shows that really helped me through this trying time:

From spoilertv.com

I think I discovered The Good Place in it’s third season. I think I first described it as a combination of Parks and Rec and Sartre’s No Exit. I binged the first two seasons and then I tried to check out the new episodes as they aired. Most aired pre-2020, but the show concluded in January 2020. Just before the pandemic. Fortunately that means we have the entirety of the series to help us through the year. The main character isn’t likeable at first. She’s sort of an anti-heroine. But when she dies, she finds herself in The Good Place, due to some sort of error. Over the first season (there’s a twist at the end of season one) we watch as Eleanor tries to learn to be good. It’s a sitcom that actually discusses moral philosophy, and how to live a good life. It asks what kind of reward is appropriate for lifelong good behavior. And what should happen to those who are bad, but for good reasons? Some heavy ideas for a sitcom!

From Booklynvegan.com

I also discovered Schitt’s Creek in pre-2020 times. It starts off as a more or less standard fish out of water comedy. When the ultra-wealthy Rose family go broke suddenly, they move to the small, depressing title town, and live in the motel there. But from that beginning, the show builds beautiful characters. We come to root for the Roses as they learn to live on less, and discover how to be happy without money. We come to care about the residents of Schitt’s Creek as the Roses involvement goes from necessity to choice. I think that each main character had a complete arc in this series, they grew and changed in a fundamental way. It ended in April 2020, in the pandemic’s early days. But again, that means we have the whole series to watch as reruns and help us through the rest of year.

Both shows have a positive outlook on life, which is something that I found I needed this year. In The Good Place, even when the characters weren’t in such a good place, they attempted to improve it. Their response to a broken, rigged system was to fix the problems and build something better. In Schitt’s Creek, the Roses lose their money and their lifestyle, but they find connection as a family that they lacked when they were rich. They explore their passions and embark on a new chapter of their lives. I think that’s a narrative that I needed to see this year. Maybe there will someday be some positive that can come out of what’s happened. I hope so.

Both of these shows seem to have strong themes of friendship, family, and community. I think that’s been one of the biggest casualties of 2020: the ability to physically be together as a community. Yes, we’ve found alternatives via zoom chats. But we’ve also missed the experience of sitting in a theater with an audience, all watching the same show and feeling the same thing. We’ve missed scoring a great table in a crowded restaurant. We’ve missed in person game nights with friends, and family dinners with crowded tables. I think some of my sitcom viewing preferences are speaking to that absence.

These are the most recent shows I’ve liked, but when I’ll also binge Friends, Frasier, or The Big Bang Theory. Friends are like my friends. Like the song says “they’ve been there for me.” A lot of these I’ve seen so many times that it’s like background noise at this point. But having them on in the background while I write does help me work. There are some British sitcoms I enjoy as well: The Vicar of Dibley, and As Time Goes By and though I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, Coupling, I’ll write with those on in the background too, sometimes. I recently discovered I like The Golden Girls, so I’ve added that to my favorites list as well.

Have I forgotten anything I should definitely check out? What kind of TV has helped you through this year? Have you found comfort in anything that seems kind of strange at first?

I’ve Been…

  • adventure arid barren coast

    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    In a dry spell writing wise. I’m editing Frozen Heart (and thinking about changing the title to Frost. Thoughts?) and really struggling to get things done. I keep thinking I’ll break through but I think a lot of the stressors of the past few months have made it hard for me to work. I feel like the space in my head that I usually devote to writing is being taken up by other things.  It’s hard because writing is usually a way to escape from whatever’s stressing me out, but lately it hasn’t been working so well. Any  advice from fellow writers? I feel like there’s a sense of shame we feel when this happens: like we should be more disciplined or just better somehow. Is that true or is it just counterproductive thinking?

  • Exploring The StoryGraph and still not sure how I feel about it. Is it supposed to be different from Goodreads? Because it feels very similar? For the record my StoryGraph profile is here and you can find me on Goodreads here. Feel free to follow, friend, connect, whatever.
  • glad young woman working on laptop in living room

    Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

    Growing kind of frustrated with the fact that there are now about 8,460 streaming services out there. I’m interested in  one or two shows on each. Is there any way to watch the show without subscribing to the whole service? I don’t want to end up spending $500 a month on streaming services! At the moment I just subscribe to Netflix. Is there another service that I should be subscribing to?

  • Making themed book lists when I get stressed. Weird things like “books about witches” or “books set at sea” for the most part. It’s oddly soothing. I’m thinking about posting them on there. Should I just same them for Top Ten Tuesday when I don’t like the topic, or post them independently?
  • Reading:
    • American Royals by Katharine McGee -Trashy fun
    • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid- I can’t decide if the characters in this one annoyed me because they were poorly written or because they were well written. But it did present some interesting questions and situations.
    • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager– A bit of a let down after some other, better work by Sager.
    • Three Girls and their Brother by Theresa Rebeck- Someone on Goodreads said that this was like The Catcher in the Rye  meets Project Runway, and in an odd way that’s perfect to describe this satire of the the fashion and entertainment world as seen through the eyes of four teens thrust into the middle of it.
    • Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich- Really intriguing premise that never lived up to its potential.
    • The Group by Mary McCarthy- I had been wanting to read this for a while and sadly it didn’t live up to expectations. I started watching the film, but about an hour in, I didn’t feel like it added anything to the book. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything more out of it, so I called it quits.
    • The Runaway Royal by Lindsay Emory- I was hoping for something light and fully but this just fell flat.
    • Bird Box by Josh Malerman- Enjoyable and tense. I was disappointed in some of the changes made to the film adaptation. The writing in the book felt very cinematic and I don’t think those changes were necessary.
    • Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews Edwards- I didn’t like this quite as much as I liked the first volume of her memoir, Home. But I did like it, and I was pleased that she discussed her writing career and the inspiration behind some of her novels.
    • Final Girls by Riley Sager- This  was really fun. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Binging:
    • The Good Witch– I’m not usually a Hallmark Channel Girl (the occasional Christmas movie aside) but I did enjoy this series, mostly for the magical realism vibe, which I wish we saw in more shows. The show did get saccharine in larger doses though.
    • Impostors– This one was witty and fun but suffered the same problem about being slightly too much in larger doses.
    • NOS4A2– I only watched the first three episodes (because that was all my preview would let me watch without subscribing the the streaming service!) but I thought it was intriguing. Maybe I’ll read the book and then if I like that take the streaming plunge…
    • The Order– I recently started this one on Netflix. I’m only a few episodes in and I’m not too impressed so far. Has anyone seen it? Is it worth sticking with?
  • Movie Watching:
    • Bird Box– A tense viewing experience but I do wish some elements had stayed closer to the book.
    • Knives Out– A fun whodunnit and “who was behind it”
    • Yesterday– I wanted this to be better than it was.  I found myself rather bored.

I’ve Been… (Lockdown Edition)

man in yellow protective suit

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

  • Editing what I once called Frozen Heart, or what I might now call Frost. Which title do you prefer? Or a different one? It’s going alright, but I think I’m at the point where I need to call in a professional editor.
  • Writing. I’ve started a new project. It’s inspired by Cinderella. I never saw that as a fairy tale I’d want to retell (my first thought is always that it’s over done) but much like the case with Beauty and the Beast, I realized that I had something to say about it. I will say it’s a Cinderella I don’t think we’ve seen quite like this before, and a Godmother who is also rather unexpected. But it’s still a very new project, so, for now, I won’t say much more.
  • woman in white sleeve shirt with blue face mask

    Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

    Locked down. My city has pretty strict rules about staying in, but even if we didn’t, I don’t think I’d be going out much! My weekly grocery runs are about as much stress as I can take. If you told me a few months ago, that it’s the only time I’d really go out, I’d have thought it would be something I’d look forward to. But between worrying about staying a safe distance from others and showering and wiping down my purchases as soon as I get home, it just doesn’t seem worth it!

  • Reading. I always read a lot  and this lockdown is certainly no exception. And if nothing else, this has convinced me that it makes perfect sense to have a huge pile of unread books in your space. This is a perfect example of just such an occasion. That’s a big “so there!” to anyone who ever told me that it was a waste of space! If you want to see what I’ve been reading lately, it’s all on here.
  • Working Out. Fortunately there’s enough of Youtube to keep me fit! I love some of these workout channels. Check them out. They’re a way to stay fit indoors (all have low impact workouts or at least low impact options so you don’t need to jump around and disturb the downstairs neighbors, if you have them)
  • Binging:
    • Ozark– It’s not my usually type of show (slow burn crime drama) but somehow I got drawn in and now I’m hooked! I’m just starting the third season, so no spoilers please!
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      netflix.com
    • Schitt’s Creek– I caught up on the finale last night. I’m really going to miss this show! Feel good viewing that makes you laugh is rare, and with the loss of this and The Good Place in the same year, it’s now lacking in my TV line up!
      schitts_creek_s06e05_still
      Hollywoodreporter.com
    • Unorthadox– I saw this recommended a few places and I loved it. How often to we get a miniseries with no big “stars,” set in the Hasidic community, about a young woman’s self discovery? While it’s not exactly what I’d call action/adventure, this character driven drama is really compelling and absorbing. It’s only 4 episodes so you can binge it in a day if you want.
    • mejores-series-para-ver-en-netflix
      • flipboard.com
  • Oddly, socializing a lot. My extended family has gotten together for “virtual brunch.” My book club started doing virtual meetings. And I’ve touched base with a number of people to check in and see how they’re doing. It’s not ideal, but I appreciate the various ways that we’ve found to keep isolation for being too isolating.
  • A wreck. If any of this makes it sound like I’ve mastered quarantine, rest assured I’m just as nervous and stressed as anyone else. I’m just hoping and praying for the best for myself , my loved ones, the people around me, the people away from me and the world at large.

How have you been dealing with this weird, frightening experience?

Stay in and stay safe everyone!

While You’re Isolated…

Obviously there’s not a lot to love about our current circumstances. Most of the world is in some form of isolation due to the Corona virus. We’re all in the same, miserable, anxious boat. But I do love that some people have used this as a time to connect creatively, teach others, and share art. I’ve made a list of some people, hashtags, and websites that I feel are providing great resources during this troubling time. Feel free to provide others:

Hashtag Love

  • #SunshineSongs Broadway star Laura Benanti  reached out to kids who were supposed to perform in the school musicals only to have then canceled. She asked them to perform on twitter using the hashtag, and she got a beautiful response.
  • #ArtFromHome The Ayala Museum in the Philippines has started an  #ArtFrom Home Challenge. 15 prompts are posted, every other day, for 30 days. People make

    afh-c1-1

    ayalamuseum.org

    art according to the prompts and post with the hashtag.

  • #InternationalPoetryCircle Poet Tara Skurtu started this project. Poets from around the world are sending in videos of themselves reading their work, or just their favorite poems. Not only does the thread have some beautiful work, but it’s a great way to discover contemporary poetry.

Children’s Literature

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  • Gene Leun Yang’s book tour for his novel Dragon Hoops was cancelled, so he started “touring as a cartoon” from his Instagram page, where he responds to reader questions in comic strip form.
  • Amy Kaufman is hosting a weekly #kidslitgoesviral twitter party for MG and YA authors whose promotional plans have been upended by the virus.
  • Grace Lin is posting drawing tutorials and readings from her books on herYoutube channel. She started doing this as a way to combat the anti-Asian rhetoric has come up amid the Corona virus fears.
  • Author/illustrator Mo Willems is invites kids to draw with him every day for Lunch Doodles in which he walks viewers through his studio, answers questions, draws creatures and created simple animations for them to try at home.
  • Mac Barnett reads a book aloud every afternoon on Instagram Live.
  • Oliver Jeffers is reading on Instagram Live on weekday afternoons. Afterwards the recordings are available on his website.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novels, is hosting daily drawing sessions on his youtube.
  • Peter H. Reynolds’ tour for his most recent book, Be You, was also cancelled. He’s taken to reading aloud from his work on Facebook Live every day.
  • Susan Tan started an Authors Everywhere! Youtube channel. She provides workshops that are supposed to teach aspiring authors as well as give kids an emotional outlet for addressing their fears about the pandemic.

Theatre

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from playbill.com

  • Stars in the House concerts–  Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s Seth Rudetsky is doing an interview/concert series with Broadway stars via skype benefiting the Actor’s Fund.
  • The Irish Repertory Theatre has launched a digital series called The Show Must Go Online, featuring homemade videos of their actors performing favorite songs, poems and monologues from Irish and Irish American playwrights, poets, and musicians.
  • The National Yiddish Theatre is offering it’s Folksbiene! Live series featuring livestreamed theatre, American Jewish performers, workshops, talkbacks, and other events.
  • The American Conservatory Theatre has cancelled performances of the plays, Gloria and Toni Stone. However, a video of the performance is available to stream.
  • The Show Must Go Online (popular title!) is a weekly Shakespeare reading group covering the plays in the order they were written, as a way for actors and theatre makers to stay connected during unprecedented times. First up is Two Gentlemen of Verona.
  • Mike Lew’s play Teenage Dick at Theatre Wit in Chicago is available for remote viewing.
  • Broadwayworld has launched Living Room Concerts where the stars perform from their living rooms.
  • Broadway Star Elena Shaddow is doing a live concert on IGTV every night at 8PM EST. She takes requests from viewers and accompanies herself on the piano in her living room.

Performing Arts

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Smithsonianmag.com

  • The Metropolitan Opera is offering “Nightly Met Opera Streams” a free series of Live in HD presentations of their past performances.
  • The Vienna State Opera has opened is archives and will broadcast recordings of opera and ballet performances. The performances can be found here, with instructions and information about how to access them here.
  • The Seattle Symphony is sharing live broadcasts of their performances.
  • The 92nd Street Y has recent performances available from pianist Garrick Ohlsson,  and mezzo soprano Fleur Baron.
  • London’s concert hall, Wigmore Hall, has past livestreams available on the website.
  • The Paris Opera is streaming performances online for free. Full performances are available on their website.

Health/Wellness

  • Pandemic Check-In is sort of a pop up podcast that’s really a call in show for people who needs some mental health support. The people at Brooklyn Minds, a psychiatry/psychology center are behind it, alongside the LA Based podcast studio Western Minds.
  • headspace-mindfulness-appHeadspace, a popular meditation app is offering some free meditations that you can listen to any time. The collection, called “weathering the storm” includes meditation, sleep and movement exercises that can help you through a variety of different situations.
  • Outlander star, Sam Heughan,  has created a 30 day social distancing challenge for free as part of his My Peak Challenge program.
  • Planet Fitness is offering a live 6PM “work in” every evening on Facebook, led by personal trainers. You don’t even have to be a member.
  • Core Power Yoga has a collection of free classes available  any time.
  • Studio Three is a Chicago area gym that combines yoga, cycling, and interval training. They’re hosting classes on Instagram Live at several times throughout the day. Workouts are available for playback on the app.
  • Pop Sugar fast tracked the release of their new app Active, and is offering it now for free.

Retellings Can Also Be Original

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Billy Porter (photo: Broadwayworld.com)

I read earlier that actor Billy Porter will be playing a genderless fairy god-person in a new film version of Cinderella. My response to the news was mild curiosity. It’s an interesting idea, that has the potential to be done well. Whether or not it is done well depends on a lot  of factors. But then I read several comments bemoaning yet another film adaptation of Cinderella. People were asking why we can’t have fewer reboots and more original stories.  For the record, I think that fewer film reboots is a great idea. But I don’t consider retelling a fairy tale to be an unoriginal remake, unless the filmmakers don’t think outside the box. There are a lot of original unique ideas that stem from fairy tales.

 

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Disney’s 2015 film adaptation of Cinderella, based on their 1950 animated film (photo: vanityfair.com)

I suppose that because my own creative  work is based on fairy tales this is an issue that’s close to my heart. But truly believe that fairy tales make rich artistic source material because they’re both flexible and powerful.  Various critics have attempted to identify precisely why fairy tales endure. In Why Fairy Tales Stick(2006) Jack Zipes says:  “we respond to these classical stories almost as if we were born with them, and yet we know full well that they have been socially produced and induced and continue to be generated this way through different forms of the mass media.” While that’s true certain images call to mind a fairy tale in ways that transcend media. Show someone pictures of a fancy shoe, a clock and a pumpkin and it’ll call to mind Cinderella. The images may have nothing to do with the story itself but they’ll call the story to mind because these stories are so much a part of us. Some may say that’s because we’ve been bombarded with the fairy tale nonstop. And there may be an element of truth to that.

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The Glass Slipper (1955) (Photo: moirareviews.com)

But fairy tales have never been simple stories. Many people associate fairy tales with their Disney adaptions. If they’re aware that the Disney films are, in fact, adaptions, they’ll often refer to “the original story.” As if such a thing exists. But most fairy tales have diverse sources. Often Disney will draw from predominantly one version  over another, but that’s not to say that’s the “original.” Most of these stories are drawn from oral tradition and mythologies.

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The Slipper and the Rose (1976)  (photo: thehunchblog.com)

Because they come from diverse sources, fairy tales can be told for many reasons. In an essay called Wearing Tiaras: On Fairy Tales, Community and Happiness, Ruth Daniell argues that:

If fairy tales can grab our attention more quickly than other forms of storytelling—and certainly they grab our attention soonest, as they make up so much of what children first encounter—then don’t we need them, as much or more as other media, to tell us that violence is wrong, that everyone should be able to be happy?…Sometimes it’s easier to deal with trauma in less direct ways. Sometimes it’s easier to imagine a happy ending for a princess than for yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to become the princess than waiting for the world to right itself.

She goes on to say that:

 Children of all genders—not just girls—can and should, if they want to, enjoy fairy tales. We can aspire to a variety of ideals and receive reassurance from a wide range of characters. Yes, a patriarchal society chose its canon of fairy tales, but many of them are—despite their problems—wonderful stories, and, too, there exists beyond the (popularly) known canon even more stories, some of them wilder, stranger. Some have deeply feminist themes. I believe there are responsible ways to share fairy tales—by sharing a diverse range of them, by talking critically about the ways in which gender, class, violence, love, et cetera is depicted in them—and I think it’s worth doing that work to do so. The stories make us, but we make the stories. We can make the stories. We can reclaim the old stories. We can make new ones. We can disrupt the gender roles, we can normalize new kinds of love stories, we can imagine new kinds of ways of being happy.

In other words, if fairy tales are stories that can be enjoyed and shared among a diverse audience for many reasons, then isn’t there room for many tellings?

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Cinderfella (1960) (photo: alchetron.com)

Since I started this by talking about Cinderella, I’ll continue discussing that. There have been many films based on Cinderella made for many reasons. I’m going to highlight a few:

The Glass Slipper (1955) was made as a vehicle for star Leslie Caron who had a background as a ballerina. It features a score from Bronislaw Kaper and three ballets choreographed by Roland Petit.

Cinderfella (1960) retold a gender reversed Cinderella for the purpose of highlighting the comedy of star Jerry Lewis.

The Slipper and the Rose (1976) was a high profile musical adaption of Cinderella starring Richard Chamberlin and featuring the songs of the Sherman Brothers.

Ever After (1998) is often seen as a modernist, post-feminist reinterpretation of the story with the magical elements removed. It’s set in Renaissance-era France.

Cinderella(2015) is a live action adaptation of Disney’s 1950 animated film.

The target audiences for these films were largely different: fans of Jerry Lewis’ comedy might not also like Leslie Caron’s dance heavy adaptation or the Sherman Brother’s tunes in The Slipper and the Rose. Similarly, fans of Ever After might not take to the magic in the 2015 Disney film.  All of these films purposed the story for their own target audience.

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Ever After (1998) (Photo: bustle.com)

In literature, Cinderella has been retold or recalled in worlds that range from Gregory Maguire’s Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister to Carolyn Turgeon’s  Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story to Stephen King’s Carrie (I explain a bit about this here)! All of these books have different tones, aim to do different things and use the conventions of different genres. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder uses sci-fi tropes and conventions and makes her Cinder a futuristic cyborg. In Bound, Donna Jo Napoli roots her retelling in historical fiction and Chinese Cinderella tales. In Ash, Melinda Lo writes a LGBT friendly retelling. Yes all off these authors retell the Cinderella story we all know. But more than that, they use the story to highlight different ideas. They bring originality to it, in turning it around and looking at it from different angles.

I consider fairy tales to be powerful narratives precisely because they are open to so many interpretations. So maybe, when one is announced, we can be welcoming rather than roll our eyes. What matters is the execution, not the source material.

Why Self Publishing Is Harder Than People Think

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Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Pexels.com

Since Beautiful was published I’ve had several conversations with people who seem to think that self publishing is easier than traditional publishing. Having never published a novel traditionally,  I can’t say with any authority which is more difficult. However, I can say that self publishing is way more difficult than many people assume.

You need to do a lot of research.

  • Unless you happen to be a writer who can also format for print and ebook, design a book cover, self-edit, proofread, market and promote a release, you’re going to need other people, and resources.
  • Need an editor? What kind of edit do you need? Developmental? Line edit? Copy edit? You need to do research to understand the differences, and evaluate potential editors.
  • You need to know your genre. What do readers expect? Yes, sometimes pushing the limits and playing with expectations can be welcome. But sometimes it can make readers feel betrayed: like they paid for something and you didn’t deliver. That leads to bad feelings and bad reviews.
  • What do book covers in your genre look like? If your book cover doesn’t have certain elements it may not find its intended audiences.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

You need other eyes on your manuscript. With traditional publishing this is something that the publishing company will provide. With self publishing, you are once again on your own.

  • Beta readers- When I write a manuscript it goes through several rounds of betas. I write a draft, self-edit and revise, send it off to betas and get feedback. Then I revise again and repeat the process a few times. By the time I send it to an editor it’s been through a lot of beta reading. With Beautiful, I sent it to several Betas just before publication as well.
  • Sensitivity readers- Depending on the subject matter of your book this might be a very good idea. More info on that here.
  • Editors- Yes, you need them. You can and should self edit, taking some time and getting some distance can help, but you can’t see your own work objectively. Sometimes great editors are also writers, but not always. Also, depending on the kind of edit you need, you might seek out different people.
  • Formatting- The last thing that you need is write a beautiful book, take time to edit it and get it into great shape and then have an ebook that malfunctions, or a print copy with repeating pages. Yes, you can learn to do this yourself. I found it very complicated and since it’s not my forte, I had someone else do it.

You need a professional cover. Again this isn’t optional. Readers judge books by the cover. We’re told not to and we do it anyway. Fortunately there are a lot of cover designers out there, so depending on budget you have options.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You need money. Everything I’ve just mentioned comes with a price tag. A traditional publisher won’t charge you for editing (if they do it’s a red flag, you need to do more research to make sure this is legit!) or cover design, but as a self publisher, you need to hire freelancers to do it. Each one will tell you that that’s the most important thing to spend money on. You need to figure out what you budget is for this project and how to allocate it. Then you can figure out ways to cut costs. Instead if a custom designed cover, you can use a premade cover. Some editors will allow you to pay over time, or figure out a way to trade services (ie: if you help me set up my new website, I’ll give you a free developmental edit.) Many people find free beta readers on goodreads or facebook. But budgeting comes down to figuring out what you need and prioritizing, which takes even more research.  It may also mean some degree of labor, if you work out trades.

You need to market your book, promote it, and sell it. All of this just covers what goes into making a book a book. I haven’t even gone into a discussion of promoting and marketing a book once it’s released! That’s yet another task that falls to self-published author.

I think a lot of people hear the words “self publish” and assume that you’re uploading a word doc with your manuscript to kindle. Which, is what some people do, I’m sure. But many self published authors put a lot of effort into making a product that is high quality and professional. Most of those authors don’t come from a publishing background. They learn on the job and with limited resources.  Just because they’ve bypassed the traditional publishing system (there are many reasons for doing this!) doesn’t mean that they’re taking the easy way, by any stretch of the imagination. Self-published authors deserve a lot of respect for the investment (in terms of money, time, energy, and emotion) they put into each book. So next time someone tells you that they’ve self published, give them the respect that they deserve!