Playing and Discovery

A friend who’s an actor recently shared this interview with Mark Rylance talking about spontaneity and ‘playing’ with other actors as a way to develop character. The part I like starts around 1:40 minutes in:

I don’t do a lot of plotting when I’m drafting a novel, so I can totally relate to to this idea of being in the moment with characters, and the joy of discovery that comes with that. Even though I’m married to a playwright and have a lot of friends in the theater, I never thought about spontaneity and character development in the same way in terms of acting. But it’s really cool to see that artists can have similar methods of exploration, despite working in different artistic spheres.

Do you feel a sense of play and exploration in your writing or other artistic work?

2016 Book Resolution Recap

Confession: I kinda forgot that I made reading and writing resolutions for 2016, at least in an official way. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t make some progress! Some recaps from 2016 reading and reading

1. Finish book series I’ve started: I did manage to get through a few series that I’d started, including Dairy Queen, the Wolves of Mercy Falls, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I still have some series hanging out there, but at least I didn’t start a bunch more series that I couldn’t finish.

2. Read a few books for grown-ups: I did read outside of the YA sphere, but they were all non-fiction. I think that counts.

3. Add some non-fiction to the list: Totally nailed this one! I ended up reading way more non-fiction that I’ve read in years.

4. Pick from books already on my shelves: Well, I think I did that once…

Audio Book 5. Read more, tech less: Oddly enough, I think getting into audiobooks actually helped me reading more while tech-ing.

6. Finish my current WIP: I did get through a revision of this WIP, but it needs some more work before it goes out and is currently on a break. (Sorry, characters, I still love you.)

7. Complete a new first draft: I ended up completing a new first draft! It’s still way early in the revision process, but I really like this one.

8. Write when I think I don’t have enough time: I definitely could have been better at this. It’s so easy to think that a half hour isn’t enough time, when you can do way more than you think you can.Happy Dog

9. Start outlining new projects: I’m not an outliner, but I did start a spreadsheet of potential projects with notes about what they might include.

How did your 2016 reading and writing go? What were your successes, surprises, and challenges? And what’s on tap for 2017?

Be on the lookout for my 2017 resolutions, hopefully tomorrow!

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! It’s the last Friday of 2016, and I am super glad to kiss this year goodbye. Let’s endeavor to stay strong, stay focused, stay positive, and stay supportive in 2017. In the meantime, let’s close out 2016 with a look at what I’ve been reading in fifteen words or fewer (because it’s winter break and I’m on vacation).

Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti
Caletti’s writing is beautiful, and Mads and Billy are heartbreaking.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
A fun, British-fueled romp toward the apocalypse. I need a miniseries now.

26.2: Marathon Stories by Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson
I guess I’m the kind of person who reads sports writing now. Yay running!

Imagery, Humanity, and Storytelling with Miyazaki

When I want to watch a movie on a random night, there’s a good chance I’m going to pick a movie by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Movies like Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle are some of my favorites, and I go back to Miyazaki’s work over and over. The storytelling is thoughtful and the art is fun and beautiful, and even in fantastical settings his characters feel so real.

I love this video that talks about why Miyazaki’s films are so successful, including his focus on precise character actions, clear character needs, and fostering human empathy on screen.


Basically, Miyazaki’s films are a masterclass in storytelling and character development. So when I watch them over and over, it’s totally for professional reasons.

Don’t Stop

It’s been a weird time for me as a writer. I’m at the beginning of a new project, but I’m having a really hard time getting going. It seems like everything that’s going on post-election is so much more significant than stories, and I’m doing a lot of soul-searching about what I want my writing and my career to be. It’s even been hard to focus on reading fiction, so I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction (mostly about running, in preparation for my 2017 Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber team).

The running theme has also extended to podcasts, including this episode of Human Race from Runner’s World. I went into the episode thinking it was about an 85-year-old woman who’s still running marathons, which is impressive on its own. But then I found myself practically crying in my kitchen as I listened to Sylvia Weiner’s story of surviving three concentration camps in the Holocaust and learning to run to combat PTSD. This is a powerful story and an incredible woman.

One quote in particular stuck with me, when the interviewer asked Sylvia if she had any advice for her:

“If you’re tired, if you’re really tired, okay, you’re allowed to take a rest…but don’t stop. If you have it in your mind, you won’t stop.”

Sylvia has survived so much more than I can imagine, and she still manages to run everyday, make people laugh, and share her story. Sometimes things can really suck. Sometimes you might have to take a break. But if Sylvia can keep going, we can keep going.

You can read more about Sylvia here, and I highly recommend listening to the whole Human Race episode about her. And don’t stop.

Quote of the Day

Photo by Marjory Collins, Jan. 1943

For election day, from “Ghazal: America the Beautiful” by Alicia Ostriker:

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

It’s been a hard election cycle, but seeing so many friends talk about voting with hope and love gives me a lot of hope for tomorrow.

If you need a little more poetry today, also check out “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes and “Election Day, November, 1884” by Walt Whitman. And rock that vote!