11 October 2015

Say something already!



I haven't written a post in a while. Too long really.

I know this because sitting at my computer now trying to put some words on the screen is harder than usual.

You know one of the most commonly given tips for wannabe writers is 'write every day'. The pros hand it out a lot because they know it works. The more you write the better you feel, so write some words before and after every meal! Not really, but you get the gist.

I haven't written anything - well, not anything creative - in almost a month. Work commitments have been huge and family life has been busy and full and there just hasn't been time.

Going that long without working on my novel or even just playing with words and sentences like I do here makes me depressed. I feel all sluggish and mopey and when that happens I lose touch with the everyday creativity-hit that writing brings.

16 August 2015

My Eve Anderson manifesto


Remember this scene from Say Anything?



Of course you do. Hasn't it just got quotability written all over it? I know I've pulled out the "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career" line more than a few times. Once already on this blog actually!

But you know the absolute cleverness of this scene, for me, comes in the form of its ability to stamp Lloyd as a character on the screen. To show us - the audience - that he's an anti-hero, hero. And those ones, those heroes are the absolute best kind.

"I don't know, right now I just want to hang with your daughter," Lloyd tells Diane's Dad. Be. Still. My. Beating. Heart. 

15 July 2015

I am not a cow.


So why do I have a grazing addiction?

I do it in the morning when I wake, at different times throughout the day, and often before I go to sleep at night.

It's not food I'm grazing on, it's content.

You know, checking news websites and scrolling through the stories reading only the headlines and maybe a paragraph or two of each report. Doing Daily Mail drop-ins where I'll flick through the latest in celeb pictures and gossip for just a few minutes at a time. Making flying visits to blogs where I sample from the posts but rarely commit to consuming - um, sorry that's 'reading' - a full one.

Yep. GRAZING.

It's a terribly insubstantial and low-commitment way to live and I'm addicted to it.

25 June 2015

And you call this a blog!


Sheesh, it's been THREE weeks since my last confession. I mean 'post'...three weeks since my last post.

That is so slack. What kind of amateur-hour blog am I offering people here?

I apologise. Sincerely.

The only excuse I can provide is this: I got swallowed by a synopsis. My synopsis to be more precise, as in the synopsis of the novel I've written.

5 June 2015

Jake Ryan. Puh-lease!


So one of my recent searches on Google for all things Lloyd Dobler threw up this poll from the Tampa Bay Times.

A columnist the paper refers to as Stuck in the 80s Steve Spears asks readers: Who was the best 80s movie boyfriend? Lloyd Dobler or Jake Ryan.


28 May 2015

Would Lloyd be OK with this?


I know imitation is the most sincere form of flattery but some things are just sacred, you know?


24 May 2015

Sad songs make me...

Lloyd, you will forgive me (hopefully) for stepping off course this week and penning a post not inspired by your awesome words. Fear not beloved muse this distraction won't last. I guarantee it.



Right. So I was out for an early morning walk today. Earphones in, song list on loop, eyes pretty much closed on the world around me...yet wide open on the one that exists inside:)

And a sad song comes on. I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say by Ryan Adams. Sad? OK, maybe this one's more melancholy. Sad, melancholy: they're both in the same family though aren't they?


It comes on and I'm instantly inside the head of Eve, the central character of my novel. Right now I'm working on a scene between Eve and her Dad. It's a hard one. There are some tricky emotions going on that I really, really want to get it right. I want it to feel authentic. Authentic and delicate. Authentic and delicate and sad.


8 May 2015

I gotta connect...these days it's just who I am


Lloyd's reaction when Diane Court breaks up with him.


"She gave me a pen. I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen."

WARNING. THIS POST MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF RAMBLING. 

Hi there. Sorry about the warning but I felt it was only fair. 


The truth is I started writing this post a few weeks back. I got a few paragraphs in and couldn't really work out how to clearly express what wanted to say. So I did what I do when I'm being unabashedly lazy and bad. I closed the doco and spent some high calorie minutes flicking through the latest celeb news on dailymail.com

Don't judge, please!

So anyways, I came across those jumbled paragraphs last night when I was tidying up my blog folder. I promptly deleted them because they were crap, but I was left wondering if it wasn't worth giving the post another try.

22 April 2015

Go on, I dare you.


So yesterday I met up with my writing critique group (shout out to Yvonne, Amanda and Simon here...hope the three of you are reading this).

Once a month we meet for coffee and critique 10 pages of each other's novel-in-progress. It's something I find both fun and intense (we really do give each other open and honest feedback) and I have to say I always come away from these critique sessions with my brain buzzing. This state of crazy, interconnecting thoughts set on high volume inside my head generally continues for a couple of days after.


14 April 2015

The beginning is just that...the start of something


I found this last week. I won't admit to just how regularly my fingers type Lloyd Dobler into Google and then click on search, but let's just say it happens a bit.

This one. This was a real find...something that set off a flutter of dancing butterflies in my stomach. It's the first page of the very first draft of Say Anything.

PLEASE, please note the title underlined at the top of the page: GOLDEN YEARS
Hard to believe, right? There is NO way the movie could ever have been called anything but SAY ANYTHING.

I read this page of typed folder-bound screenplay, first with the restlessness of bubbling excitement.

Then I took a deep breath, calmed my mind and read it again. Slowly.

I think what struck me most was this: sitting on the computer screen in front of me was the actual beginning. This was where a movie that I, along with countless others around the world, have loved, laughed with, felt both individually and inextricably connected to, started.

As Cameron Crowe writes in the post that accompanies the page on his official websiteIt began as a story about a golden girl, Diane Court, who also worked in her father’s nursing home, helping the residents through their “Golden Years.”  Over time, and many more drafts, the story also became about the lovelorn kick-boxing suitor — Lloyd Dobler — who identified himself and his mission in the very first scene.

SO the SAY ANYTHING that we know and love started out being something quite different.

I think I really love knowing this little snippet of background because it parallels so perfectly with the changing shape of my novel as I dig deeper and deeper into my 2nd draft.

Characters are revealing more of their layers, strands within the story are beginning to connect themselves in ways that I never expected and yet these connections make perfect sense. My central character feels so real to me now I may just know her better than I know myself. 

On days when I'm feeling a bit down about just how LONG re-drafting seems to be taking, it's this global strengthening and re-shaping of my story that I can see is happening which perks me up. It might be taking me a while to get there but when I do I won't be disappointed by the view. I just know it.

Oh, before I sign off, there's one other pearl from the post by Cameron Crowe that I MUST share with you.

Is this perfect or what?


Oh and thanks also to Lowell Marchant, my neighbor at the time, who knocked on the door one day when I was trying to write and introduced himself.  “I’m Lowell,” he said, extending a handshake.  “I’m a kick boxer, sport of the future… “
  



31 March 2015

Dynamic dialogue: that's what I'm talk'n 'bout

Lloyd and Diane discuss the fate of their relationship...




Now that is what I call great dialogue.

OK, so by this point in our growing acquaintance with each other you will be coming to understand that the things characters like Lloyd have to say (yeah, I'm talking about the 'wow that's so cool/true/funny/brilliant/heartbreaking I want to repeat it to my family and friends' lines of dialogue), are hugely important to me.


I'm a dialogue devotee, if you will.


That's why - and I'm delivering you an insider's secret here - I want dialogue to be the hero of my novel.


When I say 'hero' I mean it in the way that hero used to mean something special, which was before every reality television cooking show contestant out there felt the need to identify 'heroes' in boring old bowls of spaghetti and pedestrian plates of fish & chips.


What I want is for people who read my book to come away:


a. Thinking to themselves WHAT A GREAT GODDAMN READ. 


b. Feeling somewhat mournful that they won't be hearing my characters speak anymore. This is because, much to the reader's surprise, it was the dialogue in my book they loved the most.


Now, not all novelists decide to make dialogue king but I'm taking my cues from greats like John Steinbeck and Elmore Leonard. They are writers whose dialogue is so real a reader can hear it as if its being spoken aloud. And that's what I want.


Alright, so I never said my goal wasn't a lofty one.


Good dialogue takes work. Great dialogue takes a LOT of work and, I'd wager, a little magic in the form of characters who just know what to say to each other (they do the talking, the author does the typing kinda thing).


But, when my five beta readers (that's the handful of people you hand your novel to when it's ready to be looked at by eyes other than your own; the step before you submit to a publishing house)...when those guys come back to me with their feedback I'm going to be banking on them telling me the dialogue is on point, excellente...the shiniest star in a sky full of them!


Now if I was really brave this is the point at which I would share with you a dialogue scene from my novel and ask you what you think.


Sorry, I'm just not that brave...not yet.


I will get there though, so stay tuned.


Until then, how about a little dialogue from a true master.


From John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men


'I forgot,' Lennie said softly. 'I tried not to forget. Honest to God I did, George.'
'O.K.—O.K. I’ll tell ya again. I ain’t got nothing to do. Might jus’ as well spen’ all my time tell’n you things and then you forget ‘em, and I tell you again.'
'Tried and tried,' said Lennie, 'but it didn’t do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George.'
'The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you ever can remember is them rabbits. O.K.! Now you listen and this time you got to remember so we don’t get in no trouble. You remember settin’ in that gutter on Howard street and watchin’ that blackboard?'
Lennies’s face broke into a delighted smile. 'Why sure, George, I remember that…but…what’d we do then? I remember some girls come by and you says…you say…'
'The hell with what I says. You remember about us goin’ into Murray and Ready’s, and they give us work cards and bus tickets?'
'Oh, sure, George, I remember that now.' His hands went quickly into his side coat pockets. He said gently, 'George…I ain’t got mine. I musta lost it.' He looked down at the ground in despair.
'You never had none, you crazy bastard. I got both of ‘em here. Think I’d let you carry your own work card?'
Lennie grinned with relief.









19 March 2015

Moody blues




Lloyd Dobler: Why can't you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while.
Constance: Gee, it's easy.


This week I've had mood issues. I don't know about you but for me a bad mood that's sparked by one thing can very quickly become an infectious disease scenario. It leeches it's way into every aspect of my life.

So it was no surprise to find that this week's arrival of Bad Mood Brown took a toll on my writing. Whenever I sat down at the computer I just couldn't get it happening.

The chapters in my novel that I'd planned to re-draft to perfection by Friday (today) remain a hot mess.

The contract writing that I do to earn a few dollars here and there: it took twice as many hours as usual to complete (extra time that, of course, I can't charge for).

And my fledgling blog? The little slice of Sare that I'm putting out into the world...it threatened to flatline. I've started three new posts this week but could I get past the second paragraph on any of them? No.

What am I even doing? I thought, as my moodiness delivered a crashing wave of insecurity. Does anyone really want to read these stupid posts that I'm putting time and effort into? Does anyone really care?

The answer is...well, the answer is: maybe not.

But that's actually not the point.

If you could just check your crappy mood at the door for a while Sarah, I told myself, then you'd remember that this blog is supposed to be something enjoyable. A place where you can write and share and, hopefully, grow.

Oh.

So now, having wasted far too much time wallowing, I'm doing my best to shake off the shitty 'tude and do what Lloyd Dobler suggests: decide to be in a good mood.

Writing this post has helped.

So has the mug of milky earl grey tea and the creme brulee tart I consumed while I wrote it.

Happy mood to you.

       

12 March 2015

What took me so long?


Lloyd Dobler on what he wants to do with his life.

“I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.”



When I was nearing the end of high school, much like the evasive Lloyd, I had little idea about what I wanted to do with my life. At 17 it's a big question right? And at that point in your development as a person the answer you choose to give has a lot of potential to be more about other people's wants than your own.

In my family there was the weight of expectation (five older siblings had done well academically and all had embarked on law degrees). I spent year 12 feeling periodically shit-scared about the day my OP would arrive in the mail - the day when my father would learn that I had no chance of getting into Law at uni. No chance. I say periodically here because I was lazy enough (as my marks would attest) that it wasn't a weight I carried around 24/7. 

So, under these pressure-filled circumstances (when I was in the mood to feel the pressure, that is) I plucked a new narrative out of the sky and ran with it. I declared that I had NO interest in studying law, marks or not. Instead my heart was set on becoming a journalist. There wasn't much, if any 'heart' in it of course...the choice was little more than a stab in the dark.

A lucky-ish one though. I did become a journalist. And my degree taught me things I still return to on an almost daily basis. This was followed with three fledgling years spent working in newspaper journalism. If I'm honest about it, I don't think I was ever a real journalist. I didn't have the instinct for it. The thrill of the chase never EVER drove me. Mostly because 90% of the time I was worried about stuffing up. Which I did. Several times.

Before long I crossed over to what was considered by my journo colleagues to be 'the dark side' of news-making: Media and PR. To my surprise (there was no grand plan involved here, remember), this proved a much better fit for me. There were more aspects of the work that I enjoyed and therefore more things I felt I was good at.

I worked in this field, on and off, for 11 years. And I liked it, well enough. For a lot of that time I was working from home and it was a job that managed to fit in quite nicely with me and the changing shape of my life (i.e. the periodic introduction of children: 1; 2; and then 3).

Then two things happened. 

1. On a whim I started writing a novel.

2. I had my 4th baby.

Both were exhilarating and addictive. But I already knew that about babies. I didn't already know it about creative writing.

I can clearly remember the day I sat down at my computer and told myself to 'just write'. The words, they came thick and they came fast. Lets not talk about whether they were good. They weren't. Let's talk about how they transported me to a place I'd never spent enough time: my imagination. Ok, so I've just typed the word imagination and, really, I think even it sells short what I'm trying to describe. The place writing took me that day - where it takes me every day - is imaginary but it's also so real and so gripping I can never seem to spend enough time there.

A passion had been ignited in me that felt so amazing I couldn't imagine ever doing anything else. I still can't. It's why I have slowly but surely grown my commitment to writing from something that I played at to a pursuit that I'm deadly serious about.

That's taken some effort and a fair amount of personal resolve. You see, I may never get there (having books in shops with my name on them) and if I do it might take another four years...perhaps more. It feels a bit like I've signed up for an apprenticeship with no end-date. Some people just never get their tradie's license on this one. That's the reality.

And yet, I turn up for work every day. Because I want to be there. No-one pays me, friends and family have long since given up asking about my progress. In fact, my kids are the only ones who characterise me with blissful ignorance. Mum writes books, they proudly tell people. Well, technically I do!

But it's all ok. Perfect actually. Because this is what I want to do with my life.

The only thing that ever bugs me is this: why did it take so long for me to work it out?








2 March 2015

My year of listening dangerously





The scene at the party, where Lloyd does his best to look out for best friend Corey (a girl), whose obsession with her ex-boyfriend, the promiscuous Joe, has manifested itself in the writing of songs.

Lloyd Dobler: Joe. Joe. She's written 65 songs... 65. They're all about you. They're all about pain.

Joe: So, what's up?

OK, so my memory is sketchy in places, but if I think hard enough about it I can kind of manage to pull together a basic soundtrack to my life so far.

Dancing in front of Rage aged five as Billy Idol sang (screamed) When the Rebel Yells in the weekly countdown. The smell of Juicy Fruit chewing gum and McDonalds' cheese burgers pairing perfectly with Buddy Holly's upbeat Everyday as it played in the tape deck of my Dad’s yellow station wagon on the drive from Brisbane to Charleville in 1985.

Listening to Tori Amos' album Little Earthquakes (the first CD I owned) aged 15, on the CD player my Japanese host family had gifted me when I spent a week in their Osaka home in year 11. Tori's lyrics were so genius I even peppered them through an english assignment I wrote that year. I got a C+


The song that would become my nightclub anthem at 20, Madonna's Ray of Light. I'm not sure why Madge moved me exactly but she was who I'd ask for at the end of the night when drunk enough to hassle the DJ for a song request.


The Counting Crows tape (tapes weren’t quite passe at that point) my husband made for me two weeks after we met. Mr Jones still takes me back to sitting on the wooden floorboards of my room in the share house I lived in at the time, listening to the entire tape over and over again feeling that music could, like, totally connect people.

And so on...

So yeah, music hasn’t NOT been there in my life. It's been around. Here and there.

But is just 'around' really enough? That's the question I started to think about towards the end of last year.

At the time I'd become addicted to a podcast my sister put me onto. You may have heard it, BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Every week a celebrity guest is asked to choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item they'd take if they were cast away on a desert island. Throughout the program the celeb discusses his or her life and the reasons for their musical choices. [Check it out if you haven't already. My fave interview, I think, is Dustin Hoffman.]

So I was listening to all these fascinating people (actors, writers, singers, entrepreneurs, you name it) talk about their lives and the music that has punctuated big and small moments in them and the reality of how stunted my exposure to music was - is - hit me. Like a brick.

I found myself beginning to compile little lists. At the end of each episode I'd scribble down the different songs and pieces of music that I wanted to go and seek out on iTunes. Seriously, so much of it was soooo good and most of it was stuff I'd never have known existed otherwise.

While this was happening, another thought struck me. It was about my house and what fills it everyday: NOISE. Well, I do have four kids who like to fight and scream, A LOT. But rarely, within all that noise, is there music playing. The CD player that once sat in our lounge room and was only ever used sporadically died about five years ago. Then the advent of docking stations and bluetooth speakers kinda passed us by and we never replaced it with anything.

To return to Desert Island Discs for a moment: I'd hear a celeb say how they remember growing up in a house filled with music, and all I could think was: shit, that is so something I should be providing for my kids!

OK, so, long story short, out of all of this I decided that in 2015 I wanted... no, that I needed more music my life. So did my kids. Music EVERY day. And a wide-variety of it.

I took myself to JB Hi Fi and felt like a loser as I asked how bluetooth works. Then I got the now slightly irritated 20-something shop assistant to take me through speakers and set-up.

I bought a set of speakers and then it began. My year of listening dangerously.

The speakers sit on the bookshelf in our kitchen/living area and since January I've been growing playlists of a seriously eclectic mix of tracks. From Frank Sinatra to Regina Spektor. From Johnny Cash to The House Martins. From Sia to Strauss.


I try to have music playing when I'm writing; when the kids are running in and out of the house in the afternoon after school; when we're sitting around the table eating dinner at night.


It really is a pretty perfect accompaniment to life.


Afterword

I can, on occasion, take a project like this a little too far. Such as last week when my 10-year-old daughter wanted me to turn off one of the playlists I'd compiled so that she could put on one of her own. When I attempted to highlight the story-telling merits of, say, a singer like Sinatra over that of Taylor Swift I'm pretty sure I achieved zero traction.
Mum, don't you know anything! Taylor Swift writes ALL her own lyrics.


23 February 2015

Why everything Lloyd Dobler says is gold



When the title for my blog came to me I had just been working on a scene in my novel where the male protagonist, Andy, quotes a line from one of his favourite movies, Say Anything, to Eve; the girl who is at that very moment breaking his heart into an intricate collection of puzzle pieces.

Yeah, I know you're now dying to learn what the line is. Sorry, but I’m not going to tell you. You'll just have to read my book...when it gets published that is!


Anyway, I digress.

As luck (or fate?) would have it Say Anything - a Cameron Crowe classic that I’ve watched approximately 37 times since my brother first rented it from Col’s video store back in 1990 - offered up a blog title which fit pretty neatly with what I was hoping to do here i.e. get a little courageous and share some of the musings that are forever playing out inside my brain.

So what I did was I took ‘Say Anything’, then added my name, ‘Sare’ to the end. Then I entered my schmick newly-created title into Blogger and pressed submit to see if it was gonna fly.

Tick, came the response. sayanythingsare@blogspot.com had entered the blogoshpere.

I was so excited I decided to celebrate by watching Say Anything for the 38th time.

That was when I realised this timeless American romcom was going to inspire a whole lot more of my blog than just the title.

The line I mentioned earlier - the one my character Andy quotes to Eve. It really is a great line.

It is uttered by Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack), a high school senior whose left-of-centre sensibilities make him swoon-worthy in all the ways the standard dream guy of American teen films isn’t (so, yeah, it’s a given that I’m in love with Lloyd Dobler and have been since 1990).

Well, that line, it’s not the only great one.

As I sat barricaded in my home office (the only way to get my husband to attend to the kids for an hour-and-half!) watching my now slightly scratched Say Anything DVD on the laptop, I was reminded that Lloyd Dobler has so, SO many great lines.

Umm, light bulb moment!

Oh my gosh, I thought, blocking out the background noise of children fighting without reprimand...the various lines of Lloyd Dobler dialogue would be soooo perfect as a starting point for each post on my blog.

Gold.