Monday, December 29, 2008

NON-fiction means it's NOT made up

If you want to write your life's story, then write your life's story. If your life's story is too boring to be written, then don't write your life's story.

This doesn't mean you can't write anything. It means that, when you write whatever it is you write -- which is not you actual life's story -- you have to call it "fiction." Because that's what it is. This is not a hard concept to grasp.

So, some guy made up a heart-warming story about how he and his wife met, so they could win a Valentine's Day contest. Oprah jumped on it (she seems to have a knack for these things - I'm sure you remember the James Frey debacle), and the guy ended up with a book-and-movie-to-follow deal.

He forgot to tell everybody the whole thing was FAKE.

In the article, the guy is quoted saying, "I wanted to bring happiness to people. I brought hope to a lot of people. My motivation was to make good in this world."

Good for you, dude. We all want to "bring happiness to people." (Okay, fine, maybe not all of us. But I'm sure some of you do.) You don't have to LIE to us to do that.

I'm sure your story is very pretty. I'd like to read it. But I'll have much more happiness brought to me if I know what I'm reading - if I read it and then find out it was all a BIG, FAT LIE, then I'm not going to be too "happiness." I'm not going to be full of hope, I'm going to be full of angriness for being lied to and duped. You don't "make good in this world" by deceiving people.

And, dude, when you're caught in your lie? Just admit it, and apologize. Don't try to feed us this "I just wanted to make people happy" crap. Your tale of triumph over adversity stops being inspirational when you lie about the level of adversity you overcame. Your tale of true love conquering all also suffers the same fate when you make up the circumstances your true love allegedly conquered. Nobody's saying you can't write that story -- write it, but don't sell it as a true story just to get it sold.

The lying gets to me. Am I being overly sensitive? What's wrong with calling fiction "fiction"?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Things I would do if I had unlimited time:

  • take photos (enough to justify the purchase of the Nikon D90)
  • oil paint
  • volunteer at a children's hospital, reading books
  • make prayer shawls
  • market my freelance business
  • get a Master's in French
  • get a Master's in creative writing (probably the bilingual program offered by UTEP)
  • get a PhD
  • learn Italian
  • learn German
  • scrapbook
  • yoga
  • read all the books I own
  • read all the books I want to read
  • tap dance
  • do theater shows
  • karaoke
  • hang out with my friends more
  • write more

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas, classy

Drove to Austin today, to hang out with the family for the holidays. Driving into my mom's neighborhood I saw all the pretty Christmas lights, hung from the rooftops with care. I passed the orange and white Bevo on the street leading up to my mom's, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the blow-up figures in my mom's next-door neighbor's yard, but I didn't look at them because I was counting cars and trying to find a parking space in the vicinity of my mom's driveway.

It wasn't until I got out of the car, and heard the tinny notes of classical music pieces featured in Fantasia (the first one), that I remembered the neighborhood's annual Christmas decorating contest. First, second, and third place awards are given for Best Street and for Best House.

This guy (Mom's neighbor) is a big fan of the gaudy blow-up yard decorations for each and every holiday; apparently this year he's found a way to add music to his lovely decorations.

My favorite part? The next morning, when the blow-up figures are lying on the grass, deflated, looking like the remains of a drive-by shooting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

And speaking of books making great gifts...

... here's a few to add to my Christmas list: Books for the Word Lover, from Flashlight Worthy*.

I think the word nerd in me needs a few of those titles: Alphabet Juice (Roy Blount, Jr.); Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue(John MrWhorter); The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English (Henry Hitchings); and Verbatim: From the bawdy to the sublime, the best writing on language for the word lovers, grammar mavens, and armchair linguists (Erin McKean).

*Now, I myself never did the hiding-under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight-just-to-sneak-some-extra-reading-time thing, but isn't this the most romantically apropos blog title?

Books make great gifts!

Okay, so you "responsible" people probably are all done with your Christmas shopping already. Because you're overachieving teacher's pets and all. Fine.

Now, for the rest of us... friends, procrastinators, lazy men (uh... and women), lend me your ears (uh... eyes)! Books make great gifts.

Really. books are awesome. It's so great to have them. To touch them, to smell them, to look at them all lined up so pretty on the bookshelf, and to read them. Owning books is fun. It's also expensive, if you're much of a reader. Especially if you're a fast reader, and finish the book in one weekend.

When you think about it, books are the perfect "pamper yourself" gift. It's something you'd like to buy for yourself, but you don't want to spend the money on it because you can just as easily get it from the library (of course, then you have to pay late fees, if you're like me, and forget to ever return the books on time). But owning a book of your very own? It's so much nicer!

They also make great personalized gifts - write a special note on the inside cover. But, please, write legibly, because when I find that book in my grandmother's collection or at some Half-Price Books or other second-hand store, I want to be able to read what you wrote. And please put the date, because that makes the find that much more fun.

If you're looking for some books to give, you can check out Meg Cabot's, Justine Larbalestier's or Moonrat's suggestions (courtesy of my Google Reader subs). If I have time this weekend I'll set up a Shelfari account (I have one under my teacher persona, and thought I was too lazy to make another one for myself as a person but then I decided I wanted to anyway) and you can see all the lovely things I've read that I like. Or the things I want to read, if you're looking to get something for me.

Because, yes, so many of you are - I can tell.

If you are shopping for Harry Potter fans, according to this blog J.K. Rowling is donating all proceeds from The Tales of Beedle the Bard "to an east European children's charity chaired by Rowling, called the Children's High Level Group." So there - the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Help save handmade toys

For the full story, go to Marcy's blog and read her post about it. For the jist, read below:

A new law will go into effect Feb 2009 giving strict guidelines for the manufacturing and testing of toys, to make sure they're safe. This is great, except that it will force small toy makers - especially handmade toy manufacturers, such as independent toy makers on Etsy - out of business, because they cannot afford all the third-party testing and labeling of the toys.

Small toy manufacturers in the US, Canada and Europe already comply with all the safety regulations, they just can't pay a third party to test all their toys to verify that their toys don't contain harmful chemicals used in large-scale (corrupt) toy-manufacturing.

To get more info, you can visit The Handmade Toy Alliance; on their site you will find a letter template to send to your Congresspeople, an online petition, and a proposal for safety guidelines for handmade toys that will not destroy independent toy makers.

If you're lazier, like I am, you can go here and enter your info, and they'll send the letter to your Congresspeople for you.

Thank you for taking action!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Christmas List

  • A new purse
  • A new pair of jeans
  • Nikon D90 SLR camera
  • Fancy lenses for the camera
  • Pretty, pink camera bag
  • Crochet markers (also acceptable: Lilac, or pretty much any pink/purple/pastel colors)
  • Those Sandra B-something crochet hooks
  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
  • The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron
  • The Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde (Half-Price Books copies perfectly acceptable and welcome)
  • Pretty earrings
  • Pretty pendants: Alice and Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, All Wrapped Up, Mermaid, Clearance Lot Assortment (with can-can girls)
  • Skoy Cloths
  • A meeting with Meg Cabot's agent
  • Juicy blackmail material on Meg Cabot's agent
  • A hybrid bike, pink
  • 8x6 stogare shed (professionally installed by the storage-shed-installation elves)
  • A vegetable garden (maintained year-round by garden faeries)
  • A weekend visit from the wedding-scrapbook faeries
In case you're wondering what to get for Freddy, My Love, he would like a few bottles of Chateau Haut Brion, 1989.

Divine intervention via Twitter?

The past month or so, I've been seriously reconsidering my career choice. You know, that same career I decided to leave for good a year and a half ago... but then came back to six months later. I've been back for almost a year, and I'm doubting again whether I belong here.

I'm a pretty angry, negative person to begin with. And there are quite a few major problems with the public education system, so there is plenty to be angry and negative about.

Today I was having a particularly end-of-my-rope day, and thinking I was done for good with this (however, given the nature of my day job, I can't put in my two weeks' notice until two weeks before the school year's out). My mood lifted slightly in the last hour or so, then I read this post by Janet Reid, about the publishing industry and its naysayers, and the last two paragraphs struck me:

If you've worked for ten years in an industry you don't value or respect, with people you find distasteful, that says more about you than it does about the industry.

So take a piece of advice from me: quit your job. Leave the work to those of us who love this damn industry more than we should, despite its myriad flaws, against all odds and really for no good reason.

Shut up and get out.

I'm a couple of years shy of ten, but everything else fits. Is God trying to send me a message? (If so, he's pretty nifty - I clicked on her blog post link on Twitter.)

I have a bit of sorting out to do. And I have plenty of time to do it in, since I can't change my job status until June. But I think I should keep these words in mind as I sort.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Video by Andrea Dorfman, lyrics by Tanya Davis. (Found on the French Word-a-Day blog, even though there's no French in it. Meh.)

The daunting task of editing...

Some writers in our NaNo region have decided we want to stay in touch through the year, and edit all those lovely words we've written in November. I already have a weekly critique group, but I like the idea of keeping in touch with my NaNo buddies year-round, and a second set of eyes can't hurt.

So, as I start the daunting task of editing my 2004 NaNo, I'm asking for help. I posted this on the Google group we set up for the critique group (we'll meet in person, but have the Ggroup for organizational purposes), but I figured I could ask for help here, as well:

My first project (uh... first NaNo project; I have two other pesky things to get out of the way first) is my 2004 NaNo. I actually started editing it after I finished it, and when I printed it out I saw I'd gone through 152 of the 224 pages of the manuscript. This was three years ago, however; I remember few of the details and I know I know more now about writing than I did then.

How should I approach this project, then? Do I sit down and read it through, once, to know what I'm dealing with? See the big picture, then jump in and nitpick it? Or do I start nitpicking from the beginning, and let the big picture fall into place as I work with the novel? (Meaning, take it apart chapter by chapter, then worry about story arc, character development, plot, recurring threads, etc. as I work through it, or after the "detailing" is done?)

I feel that I should read the whole thing once through, just to get it all in my head, especially since it's been so long since I've touched it, but I also know that I'll be itching to grab that red pen even if I tell myself I'm not supposed to do that yet.

What are your thoughts, comments, suggestions? How will you attack your editing projects?

:) Criss.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Prop 8: The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

I change

I decided to transfer all my Google products from one account to another.

I was doing everything under my original Google email address, even though I didn't use it much anymore. But I had all my other email addresses forwarded to that first inbox, and every time I signed in to Google I used that account, even though I didn't use that particular email address. So I decided to change it all. I think I might be almost at the "completed" stage of the process.

I still need to work on Google Reader. I figured I could share my old account with the new account, and that would let me see everything the old account had subscribed to, but no. That would have been too simple. So I'm doing it the slow way - logging in to the old account, writing all those blogs down, then typing them into the new account. Then I have to set up the shared items thing over again, but hopefully I'll manage.

I started every one of these paragraphs with the word "I," which is terribly bad form, but I'm too lazy to fix it. I hope you can deal with it.

Ode to the AlphaSmart is still coming, fear not. As is some more rambling on my job woes... I think. And another blog post that was on the tip of my fingers as I typed the last sentence, but by the time I got to the end of it and was ready to write it, it disappeared. Huh.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Hello! And welcome to my pity party."

I've been playing by The Rules this year. I've been working hard to be good. I've stayed on top of it - as much as I've been able to.

Even during NaNo, I made sure to put in my time for school stuff before going off to write-ins or doing NaNo-related stuff.

And it's still not working.

I like teaching. I discovered that the first time I quit it. It's all the other crap I can't handle.

I wish I could do my job part-time: that would give me enough time to get my job done well in a regular, 8-hour work day. If I could teach four, maybe five classes a day, all the same subject/level, I would have time to do everything that is expected of me without ignoring certain aspects or cutting corners or giving up my life.

Because that's the part that's killing me. I like teaching, but I like my life. I have other stuff going on. I refuse to give up my self in order to feel successful at my job. It's a day job, really. And it's not the only thing I have, or want, in my life.

Right now, doing this well and having a life outside the school are mutually exclusive. And that's not going to work for me.

Today, I had a half-give up day. This afternoon, I've spent a lot of it wasting time. I have not done this so far this year. I do not check my home email or browse my Google Reader subscriptions until I get home. Today? Nah.

Now, part of the reason for popping on over to the home email inbox was because we were discussing crucial matters (the who, what, when, where of Christmas - when you're family is as big and complicated as mine, this is a serious issue that demands time and your full attention. Trust me). But, before today - before last Friday, when the penny dropped - even that kind of discussion would have waited until later.

I had a conversation Friday that made me realize this job is stressing me out. And it's stressing me out more than normal, because this time I'm doing everything the way I am supposed to be doing it. Before, when I was behind on grading and overwhelmed by the endless to-do list and harrassed by parents, I knew part of it was my fault. I wasted my time instead of focusing on grading stuff early. I didn't plan out my lessons ahead of time. I didn't do X and Y and Z the way I should.

But now I'm doing all those things, and getting the same results. Actually, getting worse results than people who do a much crappier job than I do. So how the heck does that work out?

So, here's me. Here's the towel.

Here's me, contemplating throwing it.

Do I suck at my job?
Am I too angry and inflexible to be in this kind of job?
Is this just the December blues, and everybody's feeling it?
Do I need to get back on medication?
Or start doing yoga again?
Cut out sodas and other sugars?
Or maybe I should go the other direction, and start drinking heavily?

We'll think about it.