Voice 101

I had this plan in my head to try and blog Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  I didn't follow the plan very diligently during the weeks leading up to Christmas because I figured, oh well - it's the holidays - people won't be reading blogs too much anyway.

But here it is, the week after Christmas, and a Wednesday, and try as I might, I've got nothin'.  There isn't a single topic rattling around in my head begging to be typed onto this computer screen.

I could sit here and bring up writing again, acting as though I completely know what I'm talking about, and offer advice to people out there in my same position, new authors, working on their craft, forging their way into new and unchartered territory.  But do I really know what I'm talking about?  I'm not sure yet.  Who knows if I do.  I know I love to write.  I know it's enjoyable and frustrating, time consuming and a wonderful distraction, delicious, yet it can leave a terrible taste in your mouth when you've hit a writing block and feel like your brain is stuck on permanent "duh" mode.  But other than that, I can't really claim to know that much, from a technical standpoint.  Yet even as I sit here and say that I don't know much, I already know that in a short time I'll probably pass on some more advice (when I finally think of something to share), hoping there's someone out there who didn't already know it.

So today, and possibly for the next few Wednesdays, since my kids are out of school and I'm taking every opportunity to read like crazy before the school routine resumes and my brain turns to back to mush, my topic isn't going to be about writing - it's going to be about reading - more specifically, voices that leave a lasting impression on the reader.  

I recently finished reading a book that, to be honest, I probably wouldn't recommend to half of the people I know.  Not because it was bad writing (in fact, I thought it was great), but the author wrote in first person, from a male's point of view - so it pretty much said everything the protagonist was thinking, in full detail.  And though I'd never write anything like that, it had me sucked in - feeling sorry for the main character, anxious to hear what happened next, anticipating just how everything was going to come together (or not) in the end.  

I wondered if I will do my readers the same justice - if what I have to say will be entertaining, even during the "down" moments of the plot. Which brings me to today's topic - the voice - from a reader's POV.  I'd love to hear what has sucked you in, my readers - the kind of characters you get into - those that make you forget about time and the dirty dishes sitting in the sink and the laundry piling up next to the washing machine.  

You can name a specific book, describe a protagonist or antagonist's character traits, if you prefer to read from a male or female's point of view.  Anything goes.  I'm going to call this Voice 101.  Share whatever you enjoy or appreciate about your favorite books - what makes you devote a part of your day to the joy of reading.  And thanks in advance for my first lesson!


A resolute New Year's resolution

writing-1.jpg picture by munchi5gal

2010 is only a few days away.  As I finish packing away the last of the Christmas decorations and organize piles of new gifts our family has accumulated over the past few days, I'm trying to put my finger on just what exactly this year's resolution is going to be.

For me, the same few things come to mind each December as the year draws to a close. I need to start working out again.  It wouldn't hurt to lose a few pounds.  Maybe I should resolve to be more organized.  Or maybe I need to practice letting things slide once in a while and occasionally just go with the flow.   Do more activities with the kids.  Plan more outings with Lovemuffin, things we can do as just the two of us.

The only thing I know for sure as I look into the future, is that I want the next step in this whole writing process to begin.  I'm anxious, anticipating the results from editing, wishing I knew someone else - a non-partial person who could sit back and sift through my work with unbiased eyes and tell me that I'm either 1) truly ready to start querying or 2) still need to fine tune a few things - at this point either one  would be fine with me, because it would mean progress, a push in the right direction.

But I don't have that - someone I can sit down with and talk to, or ask questions.  (Not locally anyway.)  I'm on my own here - learning from what I can find in books and online, learning by reading work of other authors - deciding for myself what I do and don't like in their writing, then comparing it to my own voice and my own work, respectively.  

I'm pretty close to the timeline I set a couple of months ago and this is right where I wanted to be.  So I'm thinking the best resolution for 2010 would be to continue moving forward.  To push myself, keep the goals I've assigned to this project, set dates (not set in concrete, but dates nonetheless) to keep me going in the right direction.  

These next few months might possibly keep or take away my sanity.  But I'm going to be resolute - I'm not going to give up, no matter how discouraged I get.  Because it's just like Dorrie (my favorite character in Finding Nemo) says - "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...what do we do? We swim!"  And I'm going to do just that.  I'm going to swim along (even if it's upstream and difficult or frustrating at times), and push myself until I get to the next step, then the next one, and so on.  I resolve to push forward and give this my all - to take a break when I get tired, ask for support when I need it, and ultimately, in a few months, (hopefully) have something new to report regarding "I'll Love You Until". 

In the meantime, I plan to continue working on two new ideas that have been in my head (which is what writers are supposed to do, from what I understand - move on to the next project, while waiting on the process of the previous one).  

So there you go.  My resolution for 2010.  What's yours?

S'more questions, anyone?

DSC_0487.jpg picture by munchi5gal

The Christmas letter is finished!  Yay!  And I've mailed out about half of them.  Still way behind compared to usual, but oh well. 

I wanted to try something different this year, so I asked a friend of ours, (who I will refer to as "K" from here on) to come up with some questions of her own to ask us.  I was thinking along the lines of a magazine article interview -- and told her to think in that category when coming up with different topics for our family to talk about. 

Little did I know how much fun our little "interview" would be!  K and her boyfriend/our friend snuck into the backyard when the girls weren't paying attention and went out of their way to set up a cozy atmosphere for our "interview", complete with Christmas music, a bonfire, & smores fixins to help get us in the holiday spirit.  (Which, according to my middle kid, was "awesome"!) 

K even had an agenda written down, with a hula-hoop contest to break the ice a little bit before we got started (the hula hoop lit up and everything).  My youngest went about 3o seconds before one of the dogs got in the way (very dramatic reaction to that, let me tell you), my middle daughter went almost two minutes.  My oldest didn't go close to as long as the middle one, which was nice, because someone different won something for a change.  Lovemuffin and I -- well, we gave up pretty quickly (Lovemuffin's didn't rotate even three times I don't think!  ha!). 

After the hula hoop contest Lovemuffin got out his cell phone and we sat down, bellies stuffed full of smores and bodies toasty from the cardio of the hula hoop contest (and crackling fire pit, of course).   Lovemuffin asked the questions K had come up with, recording our responses the whole time on his phone so I could go back later and share the "exact" reactions.  

A few minutes after we concluded our "interview" I headed into the office and listened to the recording.  Some parts were more entertaining or funny than others, but I had to pick out the most interesting quotes only,  because when doing an interview-type letter, a lot of empty space is used up each time there's a hard return.  (Which I did often to show someone else was talking... so that's why magazines have a few columns on a page... to cram more words in! Duh!)

Was this year's Christmas letter the *best* one ever, in my opinion?  I'm thinking probably not. That's kind of what happens when I don't come up with my idea six months ahead of time (which I will do in 2010 - mark my words!)  I'm hoping what I chose to share will at least give a little insight into the kids' personalities, and show everyone how we interact as a family.  And at this point, that's good enough for me.   

The only thing that sucked a bit was the fact that I was sooooo intent on getting the letters out immediately, I didn't really think my beginning all the way through.  So about 20 people have a boring opening talking about what year it is, and then the rest of the recipients' letters  are more "interview" styled in the beginning.  Oh well.  You win some, you lose some.  Well I wouldn't say I lost anything exactly,  maybe "learn" would be a better word.  I learned a couple of things with this year's Christmas letter.

First, sitting down with the family and having smores on a school night (something I normally wouldn't do) didn't kill us.  The girls still went to bed on time, there wasn't a huge mess, and that evening is something they'll probably remember for a long time.

Second, planning ahead is still my very best friend.  Not having an idea way ahead of time just adds stress to my life that I truly don't need!  More proof to Lovemuffin that I just can't handle anything spur of the moment!

And third, friends are a wonderful commodity -- especially the ones who go above and beyond to do those little, unnecessary things that'll put a smile on your face.  I have a few friends that I love to do little unexpected things for, and it made me remember that we can't always assume our friends know how much they mean to us --  showing our appreciation with words or kind gestures once in a while should be automatic (and that rule could go for family as well).

Well enough sappiness.  I'm off to print out as many letters as possible before I run out of ink (I'm guessing I'll get about four done, if I'm lucky).

Oh - I forgot to mention, I did list a few websites and my email in the letter as well, so if I connect with anyone new via the Internet, that will just be a bonus=)

Christmas letters are so boring. Or are they?

Dear so and so... This year our family did this, this, this and - oh yes, we did some of this, too...  Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Sound familiar?  That was a pretty accurate example of my annual Christmas letter there for a few years.  It worked out great at first, since Lovemuffin and I welcomed a child into the family three years in a row.  (Gotta mention the new rugrat, and inform everyone about how the older rugrat/s are reacting to the new one, right?) 

After a while though, my letters began to sound a bit boring.  I imagined people were opening up their letters and saying “Oh no – it’s two pages long – again!  Blah blah blah…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”  and stuffing the letters back into the envelopes (A habit Lovemuffin has – and may I say that I don’t get it?  Why would you read a letter or card and stuff it right back into where it just came from?) or chucking them onto the counter with the bulk mail, or worse yet, dropping their letter directly into the trash. *Gasp*  So a few years ago I decided it was time to spark things up a little. 

One year I shared a play-by-play example of a typical chaotic morning at our house.  It looked like a screenplay, with each person's name next to their lines and everything. (Verrrry time consuming.)  Another year I re-wrote “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by summarizing my family’s activities in rhyme.  And last year my letter came in the form of a multiple-choice quiz, with pretty obvious questions and a few quirky false answers thrown in the mix. (One question asked which member of the family had just gotten braces, and I threw our dachshund's name in as one of the possible answers.  Not sure if anyone else found that funny, but I sure did.)

I can’t believe it's time to write my tenth Christmas letter this year….and this year, well… I still haven't decided what to do yet. (Panic is setting in, people!)  We take our family photos today and the letters must go out this weekend (for my sanity), which means that I am running out of time, and fast!

For those of you who haven't done a Christmas letter before, I'd like to suggest you do one this year (it doesn't have to be long - in fact, I think mine are a little too long half the time).  Maybe it's the reader in me talking (or, er - typing), but I actually wish I would receive more letters - especially from friends and family who don't live nearby. 

I thought I'd share a Christmas letter ideas link to help get you started, and a few more ideas are below.

1)  Think numbers.  I found this idea on a blog, and if you're number oriented, it's a great idea.  Instead of summarizing the past twelve months by explaining what you've done, break it down by numbers.  For example - 

This year we traveled 5,600 miles, lost 12 teeth (some baby, some permanent), played 15 football games, gave 53 groundings, lost 42 pair of socks, ect.  (You can also do a matching version, by having the readers match the numbers to the facts.)

2)  Where's Waldo?  Do your own version of Where's Waldo - take a picture of your family (or individual family members) and add a lot of other pictures of people and objects to the page.  Then photocopy the entire assortment and have your readers try to find you, either all on their own, or by giving hints.

3)  Re-invent a Christmas song.  This is kind of like re-writing "Twas the Night Before Christmas".  (Make sure to inform your readers in which tune the letter should be read!)

4)   Movie Madness.  Compare family members or specific incidents to movies.  You can either make it a trivia sort of game where the readers have to choose which things go together, or do it in a more conversational way and tell a story.

5)  Mail a game.  There are many games you can create, depending on the amount of time you have to spend.  Memory would be one of the easiest (copy 2 pictures of each family member onto a regular sheet of paper and send instructions telling them to cut the pictures out), and a Monopoly kind of game (using your child's school, place/s of employment, favorite restaurants or parks as the properties, ect.) would be more time-consuming.

6)  Write a letter.  A good, old-fashioned letter never hurt anyone.  In fact, they're quite popular, and are the easiest thing to do if you haven't done anything like this before.  Here are a few simple rules to go by-

* Use the spell check feature on your computer. Your readers will thank you.

* Make sure not to brag.  There's "We had a wonderful year..." and there's "Our year was the better than everyone else's...".  Try not to do the second one.

*Date your letter.  You can do it the classic way and have the date at the top, or incorporate it into the body of the letter.  Either way, it's important - because some people do save them, and it would be nice to know in which order they were received.

*Don't go too crazy with your font choice.  It would be a crime to go to so much work and then have it so difficult for people to read that people don't want to finish it, or have to get out a magnifying glass in order to see the words.

*Have fun!  Involve your family - quote them, ask questions, incorporate pictures or drawings.  The more personal the letter, the better.

*Sign it.  This last one is my favorite.  Typing your name is easier, but taking a few more minutes to sign each one will make the letter seem all the more personal.

Each year I print out four extra copies as I'm stuffing envelopes - one for me, and three for my daughters' scrapbooks. We pull out the old letters and read through them at least once during the holiday season, laughing and tearing up (okay, I'm the only one who gets a bit emotional) about things we'd long forgotten about.  And even though I stress myself out trying to figure out new ideas, it's well worth it - because the letters will be a neat, personalized summary of our lives, long after the girls and grown up and moved out of the house.  

One last tip - and this is my personal preference - make sure to share your email address, website or blog on your letter.  I've never been contacted that way (and I send out around 75 letters), but I'm one of those people who will literally run to the computer to check out a blog I didn't know a friend had, or add a new email address to my contact list. Let the internet help keep you connected!   

So what are you waiting for?  Go write a letter already!   And oops - I almost forgot - Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! 




Hey! They stole my line!

Have you ever felt as though someone stole an idea from you, even though you'd never said a word about it?  My fellow mothers out there know exactly what I'm talking about - we've all been caught saying "Hey - that's what I was going to name MY baby!"  or "Wow, I like that name, I think I'll use that!"  *hangs head in shame for the second one*

I’ve been working on a new WiP for a little over a week now, and maybe I’ve been under a rock the past few months or something (I'm willing to admit I probably have been), but when I came up with the name Collin as a character in my new WiP, I was pretty darn proud of myself.  I didn’t know any Collins personally. I wasn’t able to recall hearing the name Collin at all in recent years, and I spent days researching names online until I’d found the *perfect* one for my character.  I was happy as a clam, sitting at my computer for hours on end, writing “Colling this” and “Collin that”, in an inspired writing frenzy.

Then Lovemuffin and I watched The Ugly Truth.  And what is the main male character’s name in The Ugly Truth?  (Those of you who’ve seen it, please feel free to say it with me…)  Collin!  Suddenly I was seeing and hearing Collin all over the place  - especially in TV shows and magazines.  Oh, and Made of Honor?  I've seen it at least five times.  Can you guess what Kevin McKidd's character's name is?  Colin!  (So I had heard the name, even though I didn't realize it.)  I was like WHAT?  Who do these people think they are?  They stole my name!  

 It didn’t help that a week before I’d realized Collin was the new “Andrew” (or whatever the popular name is at the moment – like I said, I’ve been under a rock I guess, so I have no clue what “the” popular name is at the moment) almost an entire scene I’d thought up (and was quite proud of) was played out right in front of my eyes on  a TV show.  And about a month and a half ago I was watching a rather popular movie – a love story mind you, written by a very famous author (which had been adapted into a movie), when halfway through the movie I realized the main male character’s name was the same as one of my mine in I’ll Love You Until!

I pondered over that last dilemma for over a week, worried it would look as though I’d copied that particular story.  But do you know what I finally decided?   After much contemplation I said to myself, “Oh well!  This movie may be a few years old, but I’d never read the book, I just barely watched the movie – no one ever told me the plot – and I’m NOT changing my character’s name!”   Good for me, right? 

One reason the same story lines and names appear quite often, in my opinion, is the fact that we are constantly inundated with media, especially those of us who frequent the internet. We can go youtube, twitter, myspace, facebook, and so on and so forth, in a matter of seconds.  Videos, stories, comics, interviews and pretty much anything we can think of are constantly flashing before of our eyes.  TV shows are debuting and being cancelled faster than I can say “Hey, I think I’m starting to get into this show.”, and movies are accessible more than ever before, thanks to redbox, Netflix, itunes and other convenient services.  And so, with all of those ideas and stories appearing before our eyes and soaking into our subconscious, how can we not be influenced by it all? That has to be how Collin got into my head.  (The other two issues though, they must have just happened to be coincidences.)  

The whole situation got me thinking, so here are my questions for this week -  How many other writers have dealt with this same issue?  What was your reaction when you saw a key scene in your writing show up on a weekly sitcom, for example, or when a particular setting you’d thought as original ended up being already written by someone else?  Did you revise, and change it?  Or stand firm with your decision?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts!



Christmas Gift Ideas for Writers

AsaspiringwriterFrostywassomovedbyh.jpg An aspiring writer Frosty was so moved by his little friend's gift that he didn't have the heart to point out that his arms would never be able to reach image by jcdarezzo 

Not sure what to get the writer/s in your life this Christmas?  Have no fear - I've compiled a list of items any writer would love, to make your shopping easier!  (Fellow writers - feel free to add ideas I may have forgotten in the comments!)

 1)  Bookstore gift cards.  Writers love to read.  We don’t always have the time to do so, but most of us have a list of books we’d love to curl up with, if given the chance.  Being given a gift card to a bookstore is the equivalent to handing cash to a kid in a candy store, in my opinion -  because the possibilities are endless.  Not only can we buy books we’ve been wanting to read, we can also purchase other author's work for “research”, along with “how to” books, journals, planners, calendars, bookmarks, and much more – and best of all, gift cards work online as well!

2)  Laptop skins or covers.  Most people enjoy making a statement by personalizing their possessions, and a skin or cover can do just that and protect it at the same time!  Etsy has some wonderfully handmade items for laptops.  Check out skins here and covers (not only for laptops but also ipods, kindles and more) here.

3)   Journal/Notebooks.  Regardless of how many writers out there still use paper and how many have converted to computers, notebooks are still the most convenient way of jotting down spur of the moment thoughts and ideas.  Check out two neat journals here and here

4)  Subscriptions to magazines.  I've learned from experience that you can't find literary magazines at the local grocery store or supermarket.  Quite frustrating.  But you can find a list of them here.

5)  Voice recorder.  Compact and easy to use, a recorder can be a lifesaver, especially if the writer you know spends a lot of time in the car.  Cassette recorders start at about $20, while digital recorders start at approximately $40.  They're available at most office supply stores or places like Best Buy.

 6)  CDs or itunes gift cards.  Music is inspirational, and it can also help drown out noisy distractions.  I’m always looking for more songs to add to my ipod – and can actually point out certain pieces I’ve written and tell you the exact songs I had playing when they came to me!  And now that I think about it, music is also a great tool when trying to relax before another writing spell!

7)  A massage.  A shoulder/lower back massaging device (one that could be used in a chair would be ideal) or gift certificate to a favorite massage therapist would be appreciated, I'm sure!  After a while of sitting in the same position and hovering over a keyboard or notebook, our bodies tend to get a bit cranky.

8)  Caffeine.  I realize I’m a little biased here, because as you all know I cannot live without my coffee, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Coffee or tea (depending on what your particular writer drinks) is always a great idea.  Gift cards to the local coffee shops is one way to go (as they usually serve tea there as well) or purchasing a few bags of coffee beans or boxes of tea is another nice touch. Another idea is a coffee or tea club – Gevalia has one of my favorites.

9)  Mugs/teacups.  Now that I’ve brought up the caffeine, it’s the perfect time to mention the mug!  If you know of a particular thing (a specific color or theme) that your writer likes, a coffee mug or teacup is the perfect gift!  You can google "mugs for writers" or check out two sites  here and here.

10)  Fuzzies.  This might work more for a woman than a man, but I wanted to mention it anyway.  I love writing or editing with something fuzzy. A blanket or some warm fuzzy socks or slippers help keep me comfy when I'm in the writing zone.

11) Office Supplies.  Ink! Paper! Paper! Ink!  As you’re reading this post, thousands upon thousands of printers are spitting out pages, all over the world. (Okay the count is probably much higher than that – but I am not mathematically inclined, thank you very much.)  I can’t even begin to add up what I’ve paid for ink in just the past six months alone.  A gift card to an office supply store or box of white paper and/or toner would definitely be a welcome gift in any writer’s home or office.

Still not sure what to get the writer in your life?  CafĂ© Press has a variety of great writer’s gifts. 

Just for kicks - Starbursts Should be Outlawed

Stores aren't the only  busy places this time of year as people shop until they drop - it's also a pretty productive season for movie theaters.  I thought I'd share a blog posted originally posted on my website back in March of this year, just for kicks.  Enjoy.

starbursts.jpg starburst image by dancerkj1351

Starbursts Should be Outlawed - Pet Peeve #3
Originally posted on March 30, 2009

This has been a major annoyance of mine for some time now, but when Lovemuffin & I went to the coast for his birthday a couple of weeks ago I vowed I would post this on my blog. (I just finally got around to it.)

It has come to my attention recently (thanks, honey!) that it is not “normal” to be annoyed constantly by loud noises, constant movement, or repetitive phrases.  I can honestly say that I thought I was one of many who got extremely annoyed & distracted after a time of hearing someone say “you know” after each & every sentence - or who fights with all of her might not to give a sly elbow-jab after her husband has been wiggling around for over ten minutes during the sermon - or who wants to just turn around in the theater and stare down the person who won’t stop poppin’ the popcorn and is crunching away with their mouths open during the most crucial scenes. 

I really, truly thought that I was normal. Come to find out, according to Lovemuffin, those things don’t bother most people. And I cannot, for the life of me, understand why. (Well in Lovemuffin’s case, it’s because he’s been on construction equipment for over 15 years already...he's practically deaf already.) Which leads me to pet peeve #3...

Eating starbursts during a movie.

What in the world possessed the movie theater franchise to think that starbursts during movies was a good thing?  I mean, they could have a few wrapper-less pieces in a little baggie (like gummy bears) or something...but instead, they sell these big, hard to open bags that make lots of noise (notice no one is ever in the mood for their candy until it’s a suspenseful part?) and they fill them with tons of air so that they can make as much noise as possible as they’re being opened.

It’s the most important line of the movie - you’re all into it -  it could be just you and the big screen you’re so sucked in...“You can’t handle the--” **crinkle crinkle crinkly crinkly crinkle**  “What? What did he say?????  Whaaaaat????”

UGH it drives me nuts. And one, right after the other, right after the other gets eaten...I seriously think they cram like 20 into those bags.  After the first two crinkly crinkles, forget the movie, all I can do is sit there and shoot daggers with my eyes at the person doing it, wondering if they really truly DON’T HEAR how loud they are. And they never seem to notice.  (I won’t even go there about popcorn...and the fact that most people think that closing their mouths while eating popcorn is an impossibility. It’s not! And I can prove it!)

So do me a favor, my readers - the next time you are at a movie, think of me and my oversensitive ears.  Don’t get starbursts. Or if you do, stick them in your purse, or under your jacket and open them there. Heck - you can even do it while you’re walking to your seat! And I bet you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is for YOU to hear the best parts of the movie too!

How did we get to December?

whew.jpg whew image by ruthanthonygardner

Hello?  Hello I say… is this thing on?  A-hem.  It’s been so long since I’ve been on here, I thought maybe I’d forgotten how to blog.  Ahhh. It’s all coming back to me now…  (Did anyone else think of Celine and Meatloaf after reading that line?  Cuz I did.  I almost sprang right off my bed – which is where I’m writing this blog – and sang the rest of the verse, but then I reminded myself,  “Priorities, Jessica!  Priorities!”)


November has been a busy month for me.  (As if it’s been super slow for everyone else.  I suppose I should have stopped after the word “month”.  Oh well.)  I finished re-editing I’ll Love You Until amidst the busy schedule, and am currently waiting on opinions and edits.   The whole process never fails to frustrate me though – I’d felt content with how everything came together, and was quite happy with the end result.  But as soon as the copies were handed over and I’d promised to sit on the story for a while (giving it a break is an important part of the process – sometimes we can get overzealous and start chopping it to bits, or worse – think adding to it will make the story better when in reality it should have been left well alone), my nerves began to get the best of me again.  What if I just fooling myself? What if they hate it? What if everything I thought made sense was in fact, just the opposite, and no one is going to like it now?   What if…

How many writers out there have felt that way as well?  Laughed or cried as you were writing, and then later thought “Holy crap, what if I’m just losing it?”  I know a lot of us go through different periods of excitement, inspiration, and doubts, but if there are people out there who finish writing their final draft and think, “That was perfect – I rocked it – everyone is going to LOVE this!” please tell me how to master that thinking!  (Or even better, hold a class – I’m sure it would be a sell-out!)  It’s strange how one minute I can be proud of my work and on top of the world, and the next I’m biting fingernails and hoping it is going to be decent, at least.   (Okay I didn’t phrase that right, I am always proud of my work – but at times I worry that I’ll be the only one proud of it.   Just had to clear that up.)

 I’m not as far along on NaNoWriMo as I’d hoped, considering today is the last day of November.  And now for a bit of good news – the pressure has been coming at me full-force to at least try and get a few more words written, and I plan to use that feeling to my advantage and get as much done as possible by the end of the day (no matter how rough of a draft it might be).  I’m almost to ten thousand words – not bad since I just started a few days ago.   (Okay… technically I started at the beginning of the month.  But I got sidetracked editing the final, and well, a few days ago something else came to me, so I kinda started on that instead.  I still have a lot swirling around in my head for They Don’t Make Fur Coats in Camouflage...but this other one is presently taking center stage in my head.)

But enough of what’s been going on in my life – as this month draws to a close and everyone sets their sights on December – decorating, taking family photos, crossing items off our gift lists, and in my case, writing the annual family Christmas letter, I just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.  I hope you all get what you want and more out of this time of the year, whether it’s in writing or reading, spending time with your family, whatever.  

I’m going to try to do something this month, as I know I need to keep on blogging, but will be pretty busy.  Once a week I’m going to ask a question that I would love to get everyone's input.  And then I’m not sure what else I’ll do.  Maybe it’ll be a surprise. Yes, that’s right, of course – a surprise.  (I planned it that way all along.)


Happy December, my readers!

November "To Do" List

I can't believe we're almost in November. This year has gone by faster than any other year.  (I'm sure it's my age -- there, I said it...thought I'd save you all some time!)  In two short months we will be in 2010. Where did the last ten months go?

As if I don't have enough on my plate already, I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo (click on the link to learn more about it) this year.  That is the main thing on my November "To Do" list.  For those of you who aren't familiar with National November Writing Month, it's actually a huge deal out there in the literary (and internet) world.  It's basically a 30 day marathon for writers to try and get at least 50,000 words written in that designated amount of time.  Not a small feat.  

My reason for doing NaNoWriMo is this: there's another story in my head that has been driving me crazy.  I have a bit of work left to do on I'll Love You Until (Am I procrastinating, you ask?  No. Well maybe a little bit. But not really.), so I figured I'd take advantage of NaNoWriMo (though I doubt I'll make it even close to 50,000 words, but at least this way I can get everything written down and stored in one place).  Plus it's a fun contest and there's a large chance I will meet more writers in my area, so why not try it, right?  The contest rules are simple.  If you reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, you're a winner. Tah-dah!  

Are you all at least a teeny bit curious about the other story I have brewing? (Well even if you aren't, I'm still going to give you the title. But that's it. Unless you offer me chocolate or coffee, in which case, I just might not be able to control myself and hopefully I'll be able to keep from blurting out the ending.  Oh wait -- I don't know the ending yet -- whew! I'm safe!)  It's called "They Don't Make Fur Coats in Camouflage". Quite catchy, don't you think?  (I can totally hear it now, people saying that in coffee shops and book stores and texting "TDMFCIC" on their phones, and then everybody busting up about the awesome inside joke that *yours truly* started and...okay sorry about that... I'm getting a little ahead of myself.) 

So NaNoWriMo is the first item on my agenda.  The second is getting "I'll Love You Until" polished and ready for one last critique before the final editing process.  And then queries! Hopefully the step of querying agents will begin before the first of the year.  That's my goal anyway.

My last "To Do" item is Christmas shopping. I love Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. Giving to friends, family and others is so fun and exciting.  Having my shopping completely done before the first of December would be awesome. We'll see. 

What is on your November agenda?  How many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo, and if so, what is the reason?  Is it your first time, or are you a pro already?  Is there anyone out there having books published around the end of the year or beginning of next year?  I'm pouring some virtual coffee as I type this and would love to hear what everyone else has on their November plates.  (Well not really, don't try to visualize that because obviously it won't work. I may be a mother of three, but I can't do the impossible.)  So anyway, come on over and spill it! (Your latest news, not your coffee!)  

Please put your hands together for...the introverted author!

I've decided that I'm a performer.  It all makes perfect sense now.  That's why I am scared to death to meet strangers, but I have no problem being in front of strangers if they stay...strangers.

In high school and junior high I loved being in plays.  I sold Avon for years, and had quite a large customer base, if I do say so myself.  I've thrown tons of bridal and baby showers and birthday parties.  Want me to volunteer somewhere? No problem.  Stand in front of a group of people and give a seminar?  I don't think I'd give it a second thought.  All of those things involve meeting mainly large groups of people -- always on my terms.  But tell me I'm going to meet someone new, and even worse, that there's only a few people, and I totally and completely freak out.  Because that makes it personal. Which is scary. Personal and performance are two totally different things.  Keep this in mind as I tell you what happened to me earlier this evening.

For the past month or so, I have been trying to get together with a few local authors that I found via the internet.  I haven't met them yet, though we've been trying to get together for a while.  A few weeks ago one of the authors was nice enough to inform me about a local published author speaking at the library here in town tonight.  She thought going would benefit me, and I did too.

Now let me just say that my normal modus operandi is to plan on something like that up until hours before, and then flake (or freak) out and not go.  That day always ends up being insane (and today was) and I use that to help me feel better about not going.

Today I refused to give in to my usual routine.  I stood in the bathroom all sweaty and stressed tonight after warming up left-overs for dinner (while getting to hear complaints about this or that, not to mention yelling at the kids to "Please leave some for your dad!") and visiting with a friend for a bit.  I tried to start my flat iron a thousand times (no matter how many times I punched the breaker and turned on the iron over and over again -- for some reason, the light wouldn't go on). 

Then I decided to try something different and plugged in my curlers. What-do-ya-know, they worked just fine.  After going to an outlet on the opposite side of the house and testing the flat iron (yes, of course it turned on) I went back into my room and plugged it in again for about the tenth time, and the light lit up immediately. (What the?)

So back to the sweaty and stressed part.  I stood there trying to do my hair.  Curlers? Or flat iron?  Curlers. No...flat iron. Wait....  I finally decided the flat iron would make me less sweaty than the curlers.   After doing my hair and getting dressed (amidst kids coming in and out -- one had a hurt ankle and was crying, another was working on a book report, and the other was bugging the one who was trying to do a book report before finally deciding to tell me the events of her day in great detail and at an even greater decibel) I started doing my makeup.  At that point my brain was screaming "Don't go! Don't go! Don't go!" but I'm so proud of myself -- I ignored it.

I sat outside for a few minutes to cool off and contemplated not going again.  Five minutes after the event was supposed to begin, I got into the car.  (Being on time is never my strong suit anyway.)  I blared my ipod all the way there to get myself pumped. I can do this. I can do this!  I. Can. Do. This.

Parking turned into a small feat for some reason, but after the fourth try I finally parked in the stall correctly (nerves, I'm telling you), and forced myself to get out (Sanitizer? Check!  Cell phone? Check!  Purse? Yes in deedy!) and walk down the long sidewalk to the library's front doors.

One deep breath and I was opening the door.  And of course this huge whoosh of air blew over me as I walked in (air conditioner?  Psycho winds?  Little devil flying over to land on my shoulder and scream "Don't go in!" one more time? I dunno) -- my hair went flying everywhere and all onto my lip gloss.  But I kept walking.  And let me just tell you, my readers -- I'm glad I did.  

If you're wondering what I did next, I really didn't do anything.  I snuck in as discreetly as possible and sat in the back where no one could see me.  Then I listened. I listed to this woman and mother and wife tell her story of queries and refusals and queries and more refusals, and self-publishing when she gave up on the queries, and then I listened to her talk about finding a publisher. And getting a deal.  A five book deal.  

I found myself excited FOR her.  Happy for this person I'd never met.  Excited and proud for this person who'd decided one day to write for fun, who had only a few short years later made a name for herself, able to stand there in our library and say that she had a publisher and an editor and that her next book was coming out in a few months.  

To be honest, it was just downright inspiring.  Not from a "okay I'm totally going to do this and be fine and get a five book deal too" point of view, because I know it's not that easy, and the likelihood of that happening to me as well is very small.  It was more along the lines of inspiring because she did something she loved and had an absolutely wonderful result.

I can't wait to be that person.  At the rate I've been going lately it may be years from now, but I do want to be that person.  Someone who can stand up in front of people and speak/perform in front of a bunch of strangers (which will work out great, because that's what I do well) and my loved ones and say "I am an author!  And I'm published!"  It's going to be awesome.  I can't wait to have my family sitting there in the back of the room, with the same proud smiles on their faces.  

This will happen, my dear readers. In time.  Someone will say, "Put your hands together for Jessica Brooks!".  I will stand there holding the microphone, after the usual insane day, and tell my story.  And hopefully someone else will be inspired.

Great Rules of Writing

We writers try to follow many rules when writing. Some are easy to follow, others take a little bit of reminding every now and then.  Here are a few quotes I enjoy, especially when the process itself tends to bring me down.  When I can sit back and laugh at myself, knowing I'm not the only writer who's been frustrated or had to go back and revise my story over and over, my creative spark is re-ignited once again.

Great Rules of Writing

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire

Writing & Editing

Every writer I know has trouble writing.  ~Joseph Heller

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you.  And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.  ~Arthur Polotnik

If I'm trying to sleep, the ideas won't stop.  If I'm trying to write, there appears a barren nothingness.  ~Carrie Latet

Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer.  But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.  ~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.  One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.  ~George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947

And lastly, my favorite, by Steve Martin --

"I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper."

What are some quotes or sayings that inspire you to keep going?

Dear Blog...

Dear Blog,

I miss you blog, I really do.
Haven't been on here much, it's true.
I'm just so busy, how 'bout you?
When's my next post? I have no clue.

The thing at the school is keeping me busy.
In fact, these past few days, I've actually felt dizzy!
Everything should calm down by the end of the month.
(I couldn't think of a rhyme, my brain's gone all fizzy.)

Until I can post about my writing once again,
The least I can do is check in now & then.
So here I am, doing fine -- and my writing's been...
Well let's just say that it's been.  

Been waiting, been on the back burner, been lonely, been begging for some attention.  (And I'm obviously out of practice because that poem was atrocious!)  There's a lot going on around here at the moment, but as things pop into my head I'm jotting them down.  One person I've wanted to receive feedback from will finally have time to read/critique my WiP in the next two weeks or so, and then hopefully I will be off and running again, and maybe even finalizing the entire thing. (One can hope.)

I just remembered... I did do one writing-involved thing the other day...I entered Nathan Bransford's contest.  Just for fun.  I can't wait to see who he chooses...most entries were far more interesting than mine;)  (And at the insane rate of contest entries he's receiving, I think it will take him quite a while to read through all of them!)

I miss the time-consuming aura of constantly writing and typing -- and can't wait to get back to that very soon...but I will say, I don't miss the writer's bottom or crooked neck. So until I can post on here again, my readers, I will leave you with a neat poem by Judith Pordon -


Beautiful blank pages 
kiss our 
with backgrounds 
that demand precision. 

Our black letters cross 
on tightrope lines, 
without wavering 
across deep, invisible currents. 

These beautiful blank pages 
are promises of our 
Our gentlest strokes 
of darkness upon light.

You asked, I answered...

To those of you who asked questions after my "Interrogation" post, thank you!  I'm going to jump right into the answers, so without any further ado...

Anita asked if one of my characters is ill.  The answer is no. Not a single ill character in the book. Wow.  They must use a lot of sanitizer.

Candee asked which one of the characters most resembles me and why.  Well, Hallie Barnes, the MC (main character) is definitely the most like me.  She's my age, she has children, and her personality is a bit like mine as well.  I've found that I write best about what I know, and I know a lot about those things! =) She's also different in a few ways as well, the main one being that the big issues she deals with have never happened to me personally.

Betsi wanted to know if the timeline in the book is longer than a year.  And the answer is...no.  It's actually just a few months' time.  There's a little bit of backstory which goes back a few years, but the actual time frame only goes through about three seasons.  She also wanted to know if there were any lemurs.  I hadn't thought of that, but there could be a possibility!;)

Bethany asked a question, and I actually spoke about the answer quite a bit in my second post here on blogger. But I'm going to re-tell it anyway.  One night last May, a few weeks before school got out for summer break, I was lying in bed thinking as usual, while trying to fall asleep.  A scene suddenly popped in my mind, where my (now) MC and another person were in the middle of a very awkward situation.  I could see the looks on their faces, understand what was going through my MC's head, and in the next few days things just evolved from there. I had to figure out who rest of the characters were going to be, and once I did that, the story line just sort of began to come together.  Of course, throughout this process a lot has been modified (plot-wise) for flow purposes, but not a thing has changed about the scene that sparked me into writing in the first place.  I've always enjoyed writing, it's definitely one of my strong suits, so there really wasn't a question of "if" I could do it in my mind, it was more like "how" was I going to do it.

What have I learned about myself through this, Sierra?  I think I've learned that though some things end up being harder to do than we initially thought, it doesn't make them not worth doing.  I knew going into this that there would be a lot of hard work, but obviously plots and hooks and showing versus telling and all of the other things we have to incorporate sometimes get in the way of the "dream" part of writing and require a lot of time and effort (as most first time and even seasoned writers would probably agree).  But I know I can do it.  I can follow through, I can work hard and not quit, and I can use any frustrations I have and turn them into inspiration. I've also learned that I have some great friends that I've met via the internet who continue to help me when the going gets tough.

The "what have I learned about what I want in life" question, at this point, is an easy answer.  Along with being a good, involved mother and wife, I want to share this story (and any future stories I write) with others.  I want to entertain my readers -- to make them laugh,  make them cry,  make them not want to put the book down, and I want to hopefully have them sit back after reading the book feeling better to have read it.   And of course I want to be known for my writing, if I'm being honest.  But that option is still quite a ways away.

So there you go, the answers to your questions about my WiP.  And again, thanks so much for asking!


It has been a while since I've said a whole lot about my WiP from an informative point of view.  I mean sure,  I'm constantly tweeting or blogging updates about the writing process -- my word count, my frustrations, and most recently, the tools I use to keep me going.

But it just occurred to me that I haven't said a whole lot lately about the story itself.  Occasionally people are considerate enough to ask how my work is going, and it's hard to say a whole lot in answer to that question.  One reason I find difficulty with that specific question is because when one writes, things are constantly changing.  Characters evolve, scenes appear (and then disappear), dialogue emerges.  (Lately I've been hacking away at all of my unnecessary adverbs.  Oh how it pains me to let them go.  But I have to...I know I do.)  Plus, as writers, we tend to treat our current WiP as our baby.  We're very protective of everything about them and don't want too much to get out before everything is done exactly how we want it.  Not to mention, if the entire story was already out there, who in the world would be interested in buying the book when we (hopefully) get it published?

So after explaining all of that, the reason for the title of this post.  I wanted to give my friends, Romans, countrymen  -- oops, sorry, got a little carried away there, anyone want to tell me the line that follows? -- a little peek into my story, the story that's taken up so much of my time, so much space in my mind, so much of my emotions. (Has anyone noticed that I tend to do things in threes?  I noticed that recently in my writing -- I'm constantly explaining things in groups of threes. Odd.)

I thought I'd do something a little different to give everyone a bit of dirt on the storyline.  It's not a contest per se, but let's just pretend it is one, because that will make it more fun. *flashes a cheesy grin* In the comments section of this post, feel free to ask me anything you would like to know about "I'll Love You Until", and in three days I'm going to answer five of those questions.  (Right now my brain is warning me that I may not even get ASKED five questions...but I'm totally ignoring my brain.)  Keep in mind that I'm obviously not going to answer things like "What happens in the end?"  or, well, for some reason that's the only question I can think of that I won't answer at the moment.  But I'm not going to give anything away that would ruin my teeny-tiny chances of getting my novel out "there".  So I'm sorry if that just made all of you reach for your mouse to hit the "exit" button...but this is my un-contest, and those are my rules.  I'm going to have to reserve the right to choose which questions to answer, though hopefully this will be a fun experience that will leave you all wanting to know more. *throws head back and lets out an evil laugh*

Well what are you waiting for, people? Ask away!

I got the bug.

So over the past few days I got the bug again.  Finally.  I was starting to get a bit worried, I will admit.  Life is time-consuming, and with so many things needing fixing in my WiP, I was feeling overwhelmed.

But a little time off has done wonders.  My house was clean...for a millisecond.  And I cleaned out a lot of places that had been stuffed full of anything and everything for over the past year or so.  Enough to fill two trash cans.  Talk about feeling empowered.  

Speaking of empowered, that's the perfect word to explain how it feels when you have gotten something accomplished in your writing.  It could be thinking of a new scene, or funny dialogue, or even just watching the word tally go up as you type along on the keyboard.  This time my writing bug gave me all of the above.  It was refreshing.  And now I'm on a roll again, with ideas popping into my head at the strangest times of the day.  I love it.  

One of the things that started my writing up again was music.  We writers use many different tools to get us in the "zone".   When I'm in a slump, I go searching for new songs.   Songs I can rock out to, songs that make me sad, songs with words that make me think.  I blare them in my car, play them as I do laundry, listen to them over and over again until my kids know all of the words right along with me.  And it never fails... within a few days I've got feelings and ideas flowing through my veins again.  So here's to music, for giving me the writing bug.

I'm having a birthday party, but you're not invited, but you can come if you want.

The above quote is from one of my favorite movies, What's Eating Gilbert Grape.  (Some of you have noticed hints on my tweets lately, and this blog is what they have been about.)  

For months now I've planning to do a blog based solely on my favorite movies...but after realizing I have way too many favorites, I'm thinking none of them would get the time they deserve if I post them all at once, so this will be broken down into a few blogs over the next few weeks.

We'll start out with my favorite 90's movies, and go through 1993.  Keep in mind that I am just stating my opinion - not all of these are critically acclaimed (Are any  of them? I'm not sure.) or five star rated movies, just the ones that will forever be in my "favorite" list. Ones that I fell in love with, that made me laugh or cry, or both.  

Would I suggest you watch them?  Of course I would. They're my favorites.  (FYI I'm not very picky with movies -- as long as there isn't tons of blood flying everywhere I watch almost anything.  Not a fan of horror though -- sorry horror fans.)

Hope you enjoy the facts about each one. (Keep in mind that movie ratings during the 90's were more lenient than they are now!)  Movies with a ** symbol are ones I would love to add to my DVD collection. (Ebay and I are best buddies.)  Also, I was using the tab key overzealously at first, and had to go to a different format...but in the process a few things stayed spaced out but they will NOT show on my draft...so I apologize.

Very quickly before I start, I'd like to give you all an idea of my age.  I turned 12 years old in October of 1990, so that should put my movie viewing status/tastes in perspective a bit.  And here we go....

*Not sure why, but for some reason I have no favorites for this year.   


My Girl - PG


When your dad's an undertaker, your mom's in heaven, and your grandma's got a screw loose, it's good to have a friend who understands you.  Even if he is a boy. 


Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Macaulay Culkin, Anna Chlumsky (Vada)


Won MTV's "Best Kiss" category, nominated for "Best Breakthrough Performance" for Anna Chlumsky , and "Best On-Screen Duo" for Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin.
Won Young Artist Award's Special Award for "Most Promising Young Newcomer" for Anna Chlumsky, nominated for "Young Artist Award" in the Best Family  Motion Picture category

Memorable quote:  

Vada - "I was born jaundiced. Once I sat on a toilet seat at a truck stop and caught hemorrhoids.  And I've learned to live with this chicken bone that's been lodged in  my throat for the past three years.  So I knew Dad would be devastated when he learned my latest affliction."

Coffee chatter:  This film begins in the summer of 1972 (so yes, you get to hear songs from the 70's).  Viewers see the world through an 11 year old girl's eyes.  I saw this movie in the theater with two of my friends. Love it.

The Man in the Moon -   PG13


Remember when you couldn't wait for your life to begin... and then, one day, it did?


Sam Waterston, Tess Harper, Gail Strickland, Reese Witherspoon (Dani), Jason  London,  Emily Warfield


Young Artist Award nominations for "Best Young Actress Co-starring in a Motion Picture" for Emily Warfield and "Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture" for Reese Witherspoon

Memorable Quote:

Dani - "Are you always this nice to people you just met or are you practicin' up to be a horse's butt?"

Coffee Chatter:  This movie takes place in the summer of 1957 -- and was ReeseWitherspoon's film debut at 14 years old.  (She actually tried out for the role of an extra, and landed a lead role.) 

**Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken -  G


The inspiring true-life adventure of a courageous young rebel who defied the odds...and won.


Gabrielle Anwar (Sonora), Michael Schoeffling, Cliff Robertson, Dylan Kussman, Kathleen York

Memorable Quote:     

Sonora - "Manure just happens to be my specialty."

Coffee Chatter:  This Disney movie takes place during the depression, and is based on the true story of a woman who did horse diving during that era.  (Yes, it is exactly how it  sounds - diving into water, while on horseback.)  Wild Hearts Can't be Broken is a very inspirational movie -- though it is rated G and a good family movie, I could watch it over and over again by myself, as well.


Alan & Naomi - PG


(No tagline so I'm using something the product description from Amazon.com)
This atmospheric tale of real love, set in 1944 Brooklyn and shot on a deliciously alive studio street, concerns a young Jewish boy named Alan Silverman (Lukas Haas) who is pressured into providing companionship for a catatonic French girl, Naomi Kirschenbaum (Vanessa Zaoui). The latter witnessed her father's death at the hands of the Gestapo and has been lost in herself ever since. A small crowd of Naomi's boosters, including Alan's parents (Michael Gross, Amy Aquino), hope that his frequent visits to her can resuscitate her old spirit. Poor Alan, however, with his mind on such crucial matters as improving his stickball game, is hardly in a position to understand Naomi's psychological wilderness, let alone penetrate it. Yet his essential decency wins over all else, and if his secrecy about the matter draws the disappointment and wrath of his bewildered best friend--an endearing, tough, Irish-Catholic pug named Shaun Kelly (a wonderful performance by Kevin Connolly)--then Naomi's progressive steps toward trust are worth it. ..." --Tom Keogh


Lukas Haas, Vanessa Zaoui, Michael Gross, Amy Aquino


Won Heartland Film Festival's "Crystal Heart Award", nominated for "Young Artist Award" for Vanessa Zaoui (Naomi) in the Best Young Actress Co-starring in a Motion Picture category

Coffee Chatter: This movie has been very hard for me to find on DVD, but I think I may have finally found it. For those of you who still own VHS players, there are many VHS versions out there.  Alan & Naomi is based on the book of the same name by Myron Levoy (a children's book for the 11-14 year old range - that I have not read).  Wonderful, touching movie.

School Ties - 1992


Just because you're accepted doesn't mean you belong.


Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, Randall Batinkoff


Nominated for Casting Society of America, "USA 's Best casting for Feature Film, Comedy", and Political Film Society, USA's "PFS Award" in the Human Rights category

Coffee Chatter:  School Ties is based on personal experiences of writer and TV producer, Dick Wolf (producer of Law & Order, amongst other things).  The story takes place in the 1950's and one thing it does is show the viewer how people can make ethnic jokes and yet not realize the very person standing next to them may be that exact ethnicity.  If you enjoy watching "pre-star" performances, this is a good movie to check out -- Chris O' Donnel, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Brendan Fraser are all in this movie.


**Swing Kids - PG13


In a world on the brink of war, you either march to one tune or dance to another.


Robert Sean Leonard (Peter), Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey


Won American Chreography Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film" category (tied with "What's Love Got to Do With it"), Young Artist Award in the "Outstanding Youth Ensemble in a Motion Picture" category for Christian Bale, Robert Sean Leonard, David Tom and Frank Whaley

Memorable Quote:

Peter - "It dont mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. Do wah, do wah, do wah, do wah do wah!"

Coffee Chatter: Swing Kids takes place in Germany during World War II.  As the war progresses, the "laws" become more and more strict, until no one is allowed to do anything unless it is deemed "German".   A group of kids who are taken by America's Swing music and don't care about the politics of the war go underground at night, dancing together, wearing long hair (another "law" -- the boys/men were not allowed to have long hair), and listening to Swing night and day (even though they knew anything played by anyone of a different race or skin color other than German was just downright dangerous).  I like anything with music and dancing -- but don't worry -- there wasn't a whole lot of dancing, though when there was, it was great.  (I can't imagine attempting to dance like that - the women are tossed all over the place!)  Again, if any of you like "pre-famous" movies, Robert Sean Leonard (currently on House), Christian Bale and Noah Wyle are all on this movie.

The Sandlot - PG


The adventure of a lifetime, the summer of their dreams... the dog of their nightmares.  


Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar (Benny), Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, Marty York


Won Young Artist Award in the "Outstanding Youth Ensemble in a Motion Picture" category - Brandon Quintin Adams, Victor DiMattia, Grant Gelt, Tom Guiry, Chancey Leopardi, Shane Obedzinski, Patrick Renna, Mike Vitar and Marty York

Memorable Quote:

Benny Rodriguez - "Anyone who wants to be a can't-hack-it pantywaist who wears their mama's bra, raise your hand."

Coffee Chatter:  The boys of The Sandlot all have quirky characteristics which makes you like them even more than you would if it was just another group of boys playing baseball.  The theme of the movie is baseball, yes, but there's more to this movie than that. The Sandlot, based on the 1960's, proves that friendship and determination go a long way.  There have been two more Sandlot movies since this original - I have seen Sandlot 2 once and though it was cute, it wasn't as good as the original.  Sandlot 3 came out two years ago but I only learned about it today as I was researching.  Chauncey Leopardi, who plays Squints in the original, reprises his role in Sandlot 3.

**What's Eating Gilbert Grape - PG13


Arnie knows a secret.  His big brother Gilbert is the greatest person on the planet.


Johnny Depp (Gilbert), Leonardo DiCaprio (Arnie), Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen


Won awards for Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Leonardo DiCaprio in "Emerging Actor" category, National Board of Review, USA for Leonardo  DiCaprio in the "Best Supporting Actor" category, and two foreign film awards.  Nominated for a Golden Globe for Leonardo DiCaprio in the "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture" category, nominated for an Oscar for Leonardo DiCaprio in "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" category.

Memorable Quotes:

Arnie - "Match in the gas tank, boom, boom!"

Arnie - "I killed it, Gilbert!  I killed it!"

Coffee Chatter:  What's Eating Gilbert Grape was a different kind of movie for the early 1990's. The main issue is Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) dealing with the huge undertaking of taking care of his mentally handicapped brother, Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his home-bound mother, but it's also a love story.  For those of you who, like me, watched Leonardo DiCaprio each week on Growing Pains, it's easy to see that he was pretty young in his acting career at this point (WEGG came out a year after those episodes), yet he does an absolutely amazing job playing Arnie.  This movie might have meant more to me considering I have a brother with a handicap, I'm not sure -- but I really recommend watching it at least once.

Until I began to post everything, I hadn't realized most of the movies I love take place at least a few decades ago!  If anyone would like to remind me of more movies from 1990-93, please do.  It was hard to narrow it down to a few, and at the end it may be necessary to list a few honorable mentions for the entire decade. Keep watching for tweets to more lines from my favorite movies -- and if you recognize them, I want to hear about it!