Thursday, June 30, 2011

how do you carry your drops of oil?

After a long and sleep-deprived cross-country trek, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend are finally settled in at their most recent nest, this time a rustic cabin in the Maine woods. Internet is spotty at best (and picked up via a Rube Goldberg-esque antenna contraption Techie Boyfriend assembled from twist ties and bits of metal, which must be pointed North at all times and never, ever touched, especially by INTERN, whose touch has the awesome power of rendering most technological devices unusable). If the rate of posts on this blog is somewhat erratic this summer, you now know why.

All this rustic living (outdoor kitchen, outhouse, gallons of water carried from a pump, fireflies at night and tiny wild strawberries growing in tall grass) has put INTERN in a storytelling mood. So here goes.

There was once a young adventurer, let’s call her Brunhilde, who wished to receive the great secret of life from the queen. She traveled many days, crossing deserts and paddling through oceans and thwacking her way through thick, prickly, brush, and finally arrived at the queen’s palace at the top of an icy blue mountain.

She went into the palace and took a number from the small plastic machine at the door, and when her number came up on the digitial display, not unlike the one at the DMV, which was hanging from the pressed-copper ceiling, the queen received her in her throne room.

“Why,” said the queen, “have you sought an audience with me?” She was clad in a plain black suit and sat behind a mahogany desk twirling an ostrich-feather quill pen.

Brunhilde quivered in her boots.

“I wish to know the great secret of life,” she said.

The queen smiled. She opened one of the drawers in her desk and took out a silver spoon. She opened another drawer and took out a small crystal flask full of polar bear oil. Without saying a word, she opened the flask and poured a few drops of the precious oil into the silver spoon, and handed it to Brunhilde.

“Go out and enjoy the wonders of my queendom,” she said. “There are many marvels. Go explore. Come back and talk to me in a few days. In the meantime, hang on to this spoonful of oil for me.”

Brunhilde took the spoonful of oil and dutifully did as she was told. She went to the carnival district and rode the Ferris wheel; she went to the polar bear district and played with the cubs; she had a wild fling with a fellow explorer she met in the palace pub. When a few days had passed, she returned to see the queen.

“Your queendom is marvelous!” gushed Brunhilde. “I went on a sleigh ride and took a pottery class and sampled ten thousand flavors of halva at the market. Truly, your queendom is the most beautiful and stimulating place in the world.”

The queen accepted the compliment demurely. When Brunhilde was finished talking, she cocked her silver head and looked Brunhilde in the eyes.

“I’m glad you had so many adventures,” said the queen. “But pray tell: what happened to the drops of oil in the spoon?”

At those words, Brunhilde blushed. Somewhere between the Ferris wheel and the tilt-a-whirl, she had forgotten all about the silver spoon, and oil had splashed out on the ground.

“I forgot all about it,” Brunhilde confessed. Fearing the queen’s wrath, she began to quiver in her boots once more.

But the queen opened the drawer in her mahogany desk and took out the crystal flask.

“Hold out your spoon,” she said.

Brunhilde did as she was told, and a moment later there were three more drops of oil in her spoon.

The queen looked her in the eyes. “Go out and explore my queendom for three more days; then come back and talk to me.”

This time, Brunhilde resolved to be more responsible. She never took her eyes off the drops of oil in the spoon. Instead of riding the tilt-a-whirl, she stayed on the ground where it was safe. She was so worried about the oil that crossed the street whenever she saw people coming, for fear they would bump into her and cause her to spill the oil. Most of the time, she just stayed in her tent where the oil would be safe.

When Brunhilde went back to see the queen, the queen questioned her again.

“My queendom is full of marvels—tell me, what did you see?”

But this time, Brunhilde confessed that she had not seen anything. She had been too busy guarding the drops of oil in the spoon.

“What a shame,” said the queen. “All these days you could have been attending the kite festival, or learning to dance the electric rumpus, or trading bits of poetry with that lover of yours, and instead you spent the whole time watching a spoonful of oil.”

At this, Brunhilde grew frustrated in spite of herself.

“What’s this?” she cried, stamping a booted foot. “If I partake in the marvels, I spill the oil. If I guard the oil, I miss out on the marvels.”

At this, the queen shook her head sadly.

“The great secret of life,” she said, “is to enjoy all the wonders of the world—but never forget the drops of oil in the spoon.”

To INTERN, this story (a version of which she encountered for the first time several years ago) has always suggested a multitude of writing metaphors.

The drops of oil are a story’s theme, its kernel of truth, that writers must carry gently through the hall of marvels without either losing control or clinging too tightly.

The drops of oil are a middle path between being a pantser and being an outliner: a way of keeping your goal in the back of your mind, even as you make room for the unexpected.

The drops of oil are your readers: do you lose them in your flights of fancy, stifle them with too much explaining, or guide them with a light touch?

Wishing you all ten thousand marvels!


Monday, June 27, 2011

on whoopie pies and elephant rides

So you’re walking down the street one day when you overhear a couple of people gushing about whoopie pies.

“They’re so delicious!” you hear them say. “And so hot in New York right now!”

One of your foodie friends confirms the rumor: whoopie pies are the hot new street food. As a matter of fact, there are food carts popping up all over the place selling whoopie pies for six dollars each, and they’re making a killing.

“Six dollars each?” you think to yourself, incredulous. “For a whoopie pie? Hell, why don’t I make some whoopie pies?”

You go home to your kitchen, pull out some ingredients, and start messing around. Your first few batches are nasty, but you get the hang of it soon enough, and it isn’t long before you have a caseload of whoopie pies ready to sell.

You wheel your case of whoopie pies out to the corner and stand there waiting for your first customers. You’ve only been standing on the corner for ten minutes when a man in a designer suit and sunglasses sidles up to you.

“Whoopie pies, eh? So delicious. And so hot in New York right now. Are you in the market for a business partner?”

A business partner. It seems premature—after all, you only started making whoopie pies a month ago. But the attention is so flattering. And the man seems so convinced that your business can succeed. Why not jump in right away?

You and the man sign a deal, and soon enough he’s standing on the street corner right next to you, helping you sell your pies. He’s good at what he does: he orders you a nice big sign full of flashing lights, which attracts lots of customers to your stand. He writes brilliant copy advertising the tender sweetness of your whoopie pies.

“I’m not making any promises,” says the man, “but I have a feeling you might be able to quit your job soon and make whoopie pies full time.”

A week later, he strides up with the news: he’s snagged a deal with Whole Foods. A huge, unprecedented, four-whoopie-pie deal. For the next four years, you will come up with a new flavor of whoopie pie every year. Your pies will be distributed to 440,000 Whole Foods outlets across America. World whoopie pie rights have sold to Sysco Systems. Soon, everyone on the planet will be devouring your whoopie pies. Isn’t that great?

You’re overwhelmed. Flabbergasted. You can’t believe your luck. A four whoopie pie deal. Nobody gets a four whoopie pie deal. This is amazing.

Your business partner immediately launches a full-scale marketing campaign. From now on, you will be known as the Whoopie Queen. When people see your face, they will think “whoopie pie.” When people hear your name, they will think “whoopie pie.” You will live and breathe whoopie. You and your business partner will both be set for life.

This is amazing. This is amazing, you tell yourself. But also a little uncomfortable. After all, you started making whoopie pies on a whim. Because you heard they were hot. Because you knew they would sell. It seemed like fun, at the time. Just a fun little whoopie pie project on the side. But all of a sudden, making whoopie is your life. Your whole identity. And you didn’t exactly plan on that.

You start thinking about all the other projects you wanted to do before you got caught up in all this whoopie business. You used to enjoy baking bread, and growing vegetables. You sort of wanted to become a soup maker, before all this whoopie stuff started getting big. You used to love the feeling of pulling fresh vegetables out of the earth and transforming them into a nourishing, unusual, completely organic meal. Sure, making these elaborate soups took a long time and you never made a cent, but you loved doing it. Not that you don’t love making whoopie pies. Whoopie pies are fun. It’s just….it’s just…

You talk to your business partner about this whole soup idea. He’s sympathetic; he’s totally behind the idea of you being a vegetable soup maker. For now, though, it’s important for you to focus on making whoopie pies—just while you’re building your audience. After that, you can branch out into soups. You have that four-whoopie pie deal to think about, and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.

But by the time you’ve fulfilled the terms of your four whoopie-pie deal, your audience is huge and rabid and they want whoopie pies, nothing but whoopie pies. You’d feel bad disappointing them. You’d feel bad disappointing your business partner, who already has plans for another big whoopie pie deal. Besides, it’s not like you have time to experiment with soups anymore: being the Whoopie Queen is a full-time job.

You tell yourself you should be grateful for all your whoopie-making success, but deep down you’re frantic: how did this happen? Where did you veer off-course? Can’t you have your whoopie pie and eat it too?

It reminds you of that time when you were six when you went to the carnival with your cousins. As soon as you saw the elephants, you screamed “Elephants!” and ran to get in line to ride one. As you waited in line, you were so excited you squirmed. You were going to ride an elephant and it was going to be so much fun!

Finally, you got to the front of the line. The elephant man hoisted you up onto the elephant’s back. There you were, riding the elephant! It couldn’t get any better than this! You might as well be famous!

You turned around to wave at your cousins. But while you were getting onto the elephant’s back, they’d all wandered off to get cotton candy. Suddenly, the elephant felt scary-huge. It started lumbering away with you on its back.

“Wait!” you said, panicking, but the elephant man didn’t hear. You twisted around and saw your cousins laughing together, walking off with their cotton candy to find another ride. “Wait!” you shouted again.

“What’s wrong?” said the elephant man. “Didn’t you want to ride the elephant?”

You burst into tears without knowing why. Yes, you wanted to ride the elephant. But you thought your cousins would stay. Now, they’re all having fun without you, and you’re stuck on the elephant, high up and all alone, and who knows what other things you’re missing out on?

The elephant man was exasperated. “Aren’t you the little girl who begged to ride the elephant?”

“Yes,” you said, “Yes—but I didn’t understand!”

“Didn’t understand what?”

You clutched the elephant-saddle and sobbed. You didn’t understand that riding the elephant meant missing out on other things. You didn’t understand it was a choice, and making a choice meant giving up one thing for another. You didn’t understand that one tiny choice could carry you away on its back, while everything else you knew and loved got smaller and smaller in the distance.


Sometimes, you dream of riding an elephant all your life, and when it finally happens it’s a dream come true. But sometimes, you don’t realize you’re climbed on an elephant’s back until you feel it start to move beneath you.

Still, INTERN can’t decide if it’s better to choose your elephants wisely, or if the universe smiles on those who jump blithely onto the elephant’s back—or those who have the courage to jump off if they realize their elephant is moving in the wrong direction.

Where has your writing-elephant taken you lately? Are you conscious of your long-term career direction when you start a new writing project? Or do you chase dreams as they come to you, without worrying about where you’ll end up? Have you ever changed directions? Why? Was it hard?

INTERN wants to know!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"come on, baby, let's start new": on getting back together

So it's been a few months since you and your manuscript broke up. At first, it was great—the freedom! the not-needing-to-share-your-sandwich-with-anyone! But lately, you've found your thoughts drifting back to the good times. Remembering all the cute things your manuscript used to do. Playing back those sweet sentences in your head. And you get to wondering what your manuscript is up to these days.

Your best friends say you're crazy. They point out that, mere months ago, you did nothing but whine about it. You and your manuscript used to bicker over the stupidest things. Your manuscript couldn't even bring up That Subplot (you know the one) without making you sulk for hours. Let's face it: you fought all the time. That's why you broke up in the first place. What makes you think this time will be any different?

Well, here's why:

"Baby, I've changed."

Before, you were immature. Irresponsible. You'd stumble in at 3 AM to find your manuscript waiting in the kitchen with its arms folded. "I was just out for a good time with my writer-friends!" you'd say. "Aren't I allowed to have fun anymore?"

Now, you make time for your manuscript. You make sure writing comes first. When your gamer friends call you up to play Dungeons & Dragons, you say something snappy like "pages before mages, bro!" When your math friends call you up to do algebra, you say "words before nerds!" When your zombie friends call you up to go staggering through the streets, you say "manuscripts before crypts!"

OK, INTERN's done.

"I'm finally man/woman enough to be with you."

Before, you adored your manuscript, but you just weren't strong enough as a writer to handle the challenges of being in a relationship with it. You didn't know anything about structure, or you thought that having your characters make lengthy speeches was the right way to express your themes. You were head over heels in love with your story idea, but you just couldn't make it work.

Since then, you've read some more books. Written some more stories. Aged a few years. Lived a little. Now, you've finally grown into that story idea like a too-big pair of shoes. You have the skills and insights you lacked before. You've picked up the tools. You've finally become the writer your manuscript needed you to be all along.

"We can work out our problems."

Before, you'd fight with the same old scenes every day, tinkering and tinkering but never making them work. It's the frustration that killed you in the end. The sense that no matter what you did, the manuscript never got any better.

Now, you're taking a broader view. Instead of tinkering with those stupid scenes, you're going to cut them and rewrite. In fact, you're going to cut everything, and you and your manuscript are going to make a fresh start, in a whole new town, where there's less of a chance you'll fall into your old patterns. This time, you're going to have a better plan. A killer outline. Or at least a commitment to work those problems through to the end instead of throwing up your hands in despair.

"Nobody else makes me feel the way you do."

After breaking up with your literary fiction manuscript, you flirted with some historical romances, thinking they'd be "easy". You were sick to death of symbolism and lyricism and all that snobby stuff that made your first manuscript fail, and for a while you ran around with picture books and weight loss guides, anything you could write.

It was fun for a while. But you know what? It also felt empty. You didn't have that passion you had for your literary fiction project—it was all about chasing money, or chasing something. You're ready to go back to your literary manuscript, even though it means hard work. At least it made you feel alive.

"Just give me one more chance."

You get down on one knee with a rose clenched between your teeth.

"TAKE ME BACK!" you say (which makes the rose fall out).

Then you run into each others' arms...

Friday, June 17, 2011

on finding beauty again

There comes a point during revision when you stop seeing your manuscript as a work of art and start treating it like a leaky toilet: “shit, I got Chapter 6 to work, but now Chapter 9 is loose and I need a whole different kind of toilet-glue to hold Chapters 10 and 11 together.”

You make endless trips to the hardware store of your imagination, lugging home ideas and fixes that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. You screw scenes on and rip them out again, come up with the perfect sentence only to realize that you’re going to have to scrap the entire subplot it belongs to.

Where you once had a manuscript, you now have a messy construction site. Your book doesn’t even look like a book anymore—it looks like a pile of broken stuff waiting to be hauled to the dump. You don’t feel like a writer anymore, either—you feel like a deranged cook sweating over a boiling vat of soup that only tastes worse and worse with every ingredient you throw in to fix your last mistake.

You can’t remember what inspired you to write your novel. It’s a vicious ugly cold-hearted thing and it’s eating you alive. You’re a vicious, ugly, cold-hearted thing too, an evil plumber with a bag full of tools. You couldn’t find the pulse of your novel if you tried. It’s turned into a dead thing—or a thing towards which you’ve become dead.

“Writing is hard work,” you reassure yourself.
“Don’t tell me to take a break,” you snap at your well-meaning loved ones.

You fight your way grimly through the brambles.

Meanwhile, the world goes on lush and sun-filled just outside your field of view.


The realization that you’ve become numb to beauty is a terrifying thing. To wake up and discover that for days—weeks, months—you’ve been living like a machine. How can this machine-person create a work of great beauty? How can this person who sweats and curses and won’t even stop to take a walk in the trees ever expect to move people?


You panic.

Take the break they’ve been telling you to take for days/weeks/months.

Go for that walk you’ve been putting off.
Let yourself (gasp!) spend time with friends instead of scuttling off to your work space the second that dinner is over.

At first, it feels like it isn’t working. You’re just as wound up and single-minded as you were a few days ago. If you’re going to be like this, you might as well just work.


But when you try to work, you just get frustrated. So you go for another walk. You cook a meal. You dig in the garden. You read some poems.


You’re still too much of a machine to appreciate anything.

You’re hard inside. Functional. You’d rather be working.

But slowly, imperceptibly, beauty starts to push its head out of the ground like a tomato seedling. Your heart still feels like packed clay, but there it is—something living.

When you notice it, you’re so relieved you can’t help it: you fall on the ground and cry.


You can lose your soul doing just about anything. You can lose it in an office, you can lose it at an ashram, and you can lose it writing. The holiness of a given endeavor depends on you, not on the project, and even writing or painting or dancing can become savage and awful when you’re doing it out of fear instead of love.

There’s a fine line between working hard and becoming a monster, but it’s there and it’s real and it’s terrifying.

Today, INTERN is grateful for tomato seeds, and for all the people and songs and books that help her find her way to beauty again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Having An Agent Is Weird

Last night, INTERN was chatting with a writer-friend about all things bookish, and they got to talking about agents. How the internet is stuffed with advice about snagging one (always snagging!) but goes curiously silent after the proverbial wedding day, like so many fairy tales. Just like the (presumably awkward) deflowering scene that happens off-stage in those fairytales, there's something the internet doesn't tell you about agents: Having An Agent Is Weird.

Why is having an agent the most awkward thing ever if you've never done it before?

It's a bit like dating your first boy/girlfriend.

If you are the least bit neurotic, you will constantly ask yourself "Do we talk enough? Am I too needy? Too distant? Amy and Brad call each other, like, every hour. Should I fly to NYC to visit him?"

You are the least bit self-doubty, you will wonder, "Does she/he really like me? Does he regret going out with me? Is he just waiting for the right moment to dump me? Is she embarrassed to be seen with me?"

If you are least bit insecure, you will find your friends and relatives rolling their eyes every time you say something like, "Sorry, I can't come over for dinner—me and my BOYFRIEND AGENT have a phone date." or "My AGENT said the CUTEST THING on Twitter today!"

Once you realize your agent is dating representing 10-50 other people besides you, your anxiety will only soar higher: "Everyone else s/he represents is so much more famous than me! What if s/he's just dating me out of pity?" "All his other clients are bestsellers. I should BURY MY HEAD IN A HOLE."

Your friends will tell you to chill out and stop overanalyzing things. You will spend all your time doing quizzes in Cosmo and Seventeen in a desperate attempt to assess the rightness or wrongness of your relationship with your agent. When you finally meet your agent (for something intimidatingly classy, like gelato or salade frisee or, like, some weird pâté thingie you don't know how to eat) you will be so excited you will almost wet your pants. After the meeting is over, you will walk away thinking, "hey, maybe that wasn't so awkward after all!"

You will go back and forth on revision stuff, or submission stuff, or contract stuff, and you will gradually realize that you are in a businessy creative relationship, not an angst-ridden romantic one. Then, and only then, will the Weirdness start to ebb.

So there you go. Having an agent is weird—at least, it's as weird as you make it, until you realize all you have to do is act normal. Now you know!

Monday, June 13, 2011

three cups of lame: wily non-fiction bandits strike again

So, you've probably heard about the recent legal ensnarglements surrounding Greg Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea, the latest of which is a personal injury lawsuit filed by irate readers who claim to have been "damaged" (to the tune of twelve bucks) by the discovery that parts of the book weren't exactly true.

According to the lawsuit,

"Mortenson and CAI committed actual fraud against Plaintiffs by inducing them to donate to CAI and purchase the book that Mortenson and CAI publicly represented to be a true work when in fact Mortenson’s books contained numerous fabrications."

Shocking, yes. But there's more:

“The purpose of these fabrications was to induce unsuspecting individuals to purchase his books and donate to CAI.”

Actual Fraud! Inducement of unsuspecting individuals! You'd think Mortenson had conned their grandma on the subway, not written a freaking book. INTERN isn't saying these readers aren't justified in feeling cheated—especially when you throw the whole charity thing into the mix, which changes everything. But what is it about truth—or the bending of it—that turns perfectly nice readers into a pack of hyenas? Why do we feel such personal affront—such outrage—when authors fail to meet our expectations of truthiness? What's the value of all this truth stuff anyway? And why are we, as a culture, so obsessed with it?


You might remember the James Frey settlement, in which the author of the memoir A Million Little Pieces and his publisher agreed to give angry readers their money back as long as they sent in a mangled piece of the book and some kind of maudlin victim impact statement in which they swore they would never have bought the book if they knew it wasn't 100% true. According to the New York Times:

“hardcover buyers, who are entitled to a $23.95 refund, must submit page 163 (chosen at random, according to the source familiar with the negotiations); paperback buyers (entitled to $14.95) must send in the front cover of the book; those who bought the audio book ($34.95) will have to send in a piece of the packaging, and those who bought the e-book, at $9.95 apiece, must send in some proof of purchase.

People making a claim will also have to submit a sworn statement that they would not have bought the book if they knew that certain facts had been embroidered or changed.”

It's that last sentence interests INTERN. When you buy a memoir, do you buy it because you believe it to be true—is truth just that titillating? Or do you buy it because it sounds like a good story about growing up in the '30s/being a call girl/surviving abuse? INTERN suspects it's some combination of both: the story sounds interesting, and the fact that it's "true" makes it all the more compelling—because we have a yearning to know the details of other people's lives, or because we find inspiration in stories that "actually happened" because they make us feel like anything's possible.

In real life, intimate relationships are characterized by a high level of honesty and truth-sharing. Couples and best friends tell each other secrets and make confessions they wouldn't make to anyone else. For better or for worse, many people experience the same feeling of intimacy when they read a memoir. Not a tempered, I've-never-even-met-this-person kind of intimacy—the same intimacy. Otherwise, why do so many readers react just as strongly to an untruthful memoir as they would to an untruthful friend or lover?

In Greg Mortenson's case, the whole intimacy thing is made even more complicated by the fact many readers of Three Cups of Tea also trusted him enough to donate to his charity, the Central Asia Institute. And yes, when you're asking people to donate to a charity, you owe it to them to use their money how you say you're going to use it. But when it comes to writing a memoir, how much truth you do you owe your readers? Is 95% OK? 90%? Or will only 100% do?

Personally, INTERN would rather read great books than 100% true ones. She also hates—hates, hates, hates—the way that litigation (or the threat thereof) stifles/poisons/kills all sorts of creative endeavors in this country, and would rather read a wonky memoir or two than live in a society that threatens its artists and writers with class action lawsuits if they don't conform to some arbitrary definition of truth. If we need to create a new genre to deal with this problem—sortamemoir, anyone?—INTERN is fine with that.


INTERN wants to know: How much truth do you expect from a memoir? How fake does a memoir have to be for you to feel cheated? Have you read Greg Mortenson's book? (INTERN hasn't). Do you feel cheated by it? Why do people love suing people so much in this country?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Autoresponse: Out of Office

INTERN will be locked in a moving vehicle with a bunch of axe murders from craigslist out of office for the next but seriously, if you don't hear from INTERN within a couple days, please notify the California Highway Patrol 2-3 days as her and Techie Boyfriend complete Stage 1 of their madcap scheme well thought-out plan to move onto their friends' commune artist community for the summer.

In case of emergency, please contact INTERN's secretary, Slartybartfast, by waving a towel at the sky.



Monday, June 6, 2011

little nudges, big effects: thoughts on #YAsaves

If you been within two feet of a computer this weekend, you've undoubtedly already read about or participated in the massive #YAsaves thingie that erupted in response to this Wall Street Journal article deploring a perceived Grittiness Overload in YA. YA, the article implies, ought to be cleaner, safer— you should be able to grab it off the shelf like one of those "eating right" TV dinners and be sure you won't be getting more than 6 grams of swear words and 300 calories of Depravity.

A huge number of readers and writers have already written eloquently about how YA literature has given them empathy, hope, a lifeline, or just good readin'.

One thing INTERN finds interesting about the whole ferschnuzzle is the question it raises about the role parents should (or shouldn't) play in vetting what their kids read.

INTERN is speaking as a person whom YA explicitly *didn't* save—but not for the reasons listed in WSJ.

In INTERN's case, INTERN's mom didn't stop her from reading YA books because they were too gritty. INTERN was shamed out of reading them because in her (rather snooty when it comes to reading) family, YA books weren't considered "real books". She remembers hiding her copies of Speak and Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging out of sheer embarrassment. Most of the time, she stuck to "adult" books just to be safe. To this day, INTERN feels a prickle of self-consciousness when she lingers in the YA section, and not just because she feels (looks?) like a creepy hobo with spiders in her hair.

INTERN graduated straight from Wolves of Willoughby Chase to House of Leaves. At fourteen, she could give you all sorts of tips on living in a boxcar, but had no idea what it meant when her best friend started cutting. At fifteen, she could talk your ear off about post-colonialism, but was as awestruck when one of the prefects at her school came out as if he'd declared he was a Martian. A little dose of YA—gritty or otherwise—would have been instructive in both situations.

Until the #YAsaves thing happened, INTERN had never given much thought to the ways in which her parents influenced her reading. But now that she thinks about it, the influence was there, and it was huge. The attitudes you absorb about certain kinds of books when you're a kid—whether it's "those books are too hard for me" or "those books aren't worth reading"—those attitudes really do end up shaping you as a reader, and by extension, as a person. When you go to a library with a kid and comment on her selections, you send a strong message, whether it's validation or disdain. Those messages don't just dissolve into thin air.

So INTERN really, really wants to know: Did your parents or parent-figure(s) vet your reading material? What kinds of things did they push you towards? What did they push you away from? How did your parents' attitudes about books and reading influence your own?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

how to RUG.

You have doubtless heard of RUE—Resist the Urge to Explain.

From INTERN's personal lexicon of literary terminology, a lesser known rule:

RUG: Resist the Urge to Google.

RUG refers to the temptation, in this age of wifi-enabled coffeeshops and writing rooms, to interrupt writing every fifteen seconds to google a piece of crucial "research" for one's novel instead of figuring it out for oneself by thinking about it.

In the past few days, INTERN is guilty of googling the following:

"how to survive fall from fourth-story window"
"how to climb building"
"parkour how to climb building"
"what rhymes with "affordable"
"Pocky ingredients"
"how to drywall"
"schedule for #17 nightbus"
"how to true spokes"
"causes of accidental death in America"
"Fender guitars"
"causes of homelessness"
"homelessness statistics"
"Pocky flavors"

etc. etc. etc.

Only one of these searches resulted in information INTERN actually used. INTERN should have been more RUGged in her determination to stay focused.

INTERN wants to know: what stupid, pointless, barely-relevant things have you Googled recently in the name of novel research? Do you use "research" as an excuse to break the flow of your writing? Would you like to join INTERN in a sacred oath to stop Googling stupid #^$% when you're supposed to be writing? Yes?