Day 9 of 100 Days of Writing

Yesterday I sat down to do my writing and I felt downright resentful. I was so cranky that I had to marvel at myself. I love writing. I crave it. So why does actually sitting down to get started feel like pulling teeth sometimes?

Well, I don’t actually have the answer to that question, but I do know that if I don’t write those pages, no one will. Nine days in and my commitment to write every day for 100 days is feeling a lot more like a marathon than I had expected. Either I’m struggling with some tough story issues, or I’m really out of practice. Probably a little of both.

So let’s hear it for discipline, and inventive ways to hold yourself accountable. (If you’re new to the discussion check out the 100 Day Writing Challenge here).

Now back to work.

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Day 7 of 100 Days of Writing

I don’t know if it was the heat here yesterday (LA saw record highs, up to 113!), or what, but yesterday was one of those days where everything went awry.

First the internet went down (which is why I’m posting a day late), then the then the AC, and lastly, as I lay sprawled on the bed, too hot to do anything, the TV just stopped working. Oh, man…

Well, today is a new day. My amazing husband made quick work of all the household woes. Twenty minutes after he got home I was checking emails, while watching a 30 Rock rerun, and basking in the miracle that is air conditioning.

Today I’m back on track. I’m on day day 7 of my 100 days of writing challenge, and I’m struck by how much writing is all about baby steps. Each day I write for at least one hour, and it doesn’t seem like much, but when I look at my little score card I see hours of work that I wouldn’t have motivated to do otherwise.

Then I look at the work and see how far the project has come in a few short hours. I’ve officially broken through the section that was holding me up and am on to a new chapter. It feels really good.

Though I probably won’t make it to the end of this challenge – it was pointed out to me that my 100 days will be up on December 30th and my baby is due on the 15th – I know that every day I commit to sitting down and writing is a day I can feel good about.

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100 Days Of Writing

Now and then, we all need a kick in the pants.

Writers in particular sometimes need a way to get back into the practice of writing regularly. It’s like exercise – when you do it regularly you don’t think much about it, but when you stop for a while, getting back to the gym seems like an incredible challenge.

Well I strayed away from my novel for a while (to work on other projects), and I’m having trouble getting back to it, so I’ve decided to participate in the 100 Days of Writing challenge, presented by WritingSpirit.com.

The thing that caught my attention was her pitch to “finish 2010 strong.” Whaaaa? Finish 2010? 100 days? How did the end of the year sneak up like that?

As some of you know, I’m expecting a little baby boy on December 15th. After seeing the WritingSpirit web challenge I pulled up my calendar and realized that 100 days of writing would land me at December 8th. Perfect. I had been looking for a way to motivate myself to get some good writing in before I degenerate into a sleep deprived, diaper changing, nursing machine. So I printed out the handy 100 Days of Writing challenge chart and started yesterday.

Only 99 days to go. Anyone want to join me?

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Great Uncle Art

I recently read Liz Gilbert’s “Committed,” and just loved it. It’s full of insight, humor and honesty. Though I adored “Eat, Pray, Love,” it appealed much more to my girly sensibilities, while “Committed” is a book I think my husband would enjoy as much as I did.

Anyway, there’s a short section in the book that has me thinking. She talks about how people live on in the stories we tell about them. Take for instance, my Great Uncle Art, who I talk about with some regularity. He came to California in the dust bowl and became a migrant fruit picker. At six foot four, with a giant wing span, he excelled at this profession, traveling up and down the coast with the harvest, and visiting different girlfriends in every city. My memory of him (he died when I was fairly young) was of a gruff, hard-smoking, hard-drinking tower of a man, who loved to knit.

Every time I saw my Uncle Art he had some new little doll he had knitted for me. I was always fascinated by how his giant, rough hands ever managed to make something so delicate. After reading “Committed” I got to thinking about how, in a small way, Uncle Art lives on every time I tell someone about him, and the realization I had this morning was that he will live on in the same way even if I turn him into a fictional character.

The thing about fiction is that we read it assuming that it’s entirely made up, but every detail had to come from somewhere, and where else could it come from but the writer’s life? And so I come again to the idea that fiction and non-fiction are divided by such a blurry line. I think that is why we read fiction, for great stories that ultimately tell great truths.

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The Writer’s Headshot

Last night I got an email from a magazine editor I’ve been working for. He had a few minor changes to clear with me on an article I wrote, and asked (I’ll admit, not for the first time) that I send a head shot.

My writer head shot is something I’ve been avoiding for a long time, as you can probably tell by the photo I used for my web page. It was intended to be a placeholder, but kind of settled into permanent.

I know I need a good photo of me – for my website, for bylines, for (hopefully someday soon) book covers. I know this. Every professional I’ve spoken to about it says I need a good, professionally taken head shot. I just don’t know where to start.

If my head shot could appear magically before me, I would look interesting, charming, not at all like a boring book worm, and not super made up, just simply stunning, maybe even radiant. And therein lies another problem. I’m six months pregnant. Right now I feel anything but radiant.

It’s not that I don’t like the way I look with this extra weight. In fact, I kind of enjoy how it softens my features a bit, but this is not the “normal” me. If I’m going to spend some cash on a photo that will more or less brand me for the coming few years, I want it to look like the normal me. Then again, that version of me is kind of on hiatus for a while (what with three more months of pregnancy and then the time it will take to get the weight off again).

I guess I should get over the vanity, suck it up and go have a photo taken. It’s well past time.

Anyone know of any good photographers in LA?

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“Nonsanto” Goes Out Into The Publishing World

I had lunch with my agent on Friday to discuss my non-fiction project “Nonsanto.”

For the past few months I’ve been working with her on the proposal, which consists of a nine page introduction and discussion of my platform, a five page chapter outline, and an eighteen page sample chapter. It’s actually been ready for weeks, but by the time we were ready to show it everyone in the biz was either out of town, or preparing to leave for vacation. My agent decided (and I of course agreed with her) that it made sense to wait until everyone was back at their desks after the Labor Day weekend.

So she’s sending it out today. She’s pitching it as Michael Pollan meets “Julie & Julia,” which is really flattering. Up until now I was able to maintain a wait-and-see attitude, but that wise stance has officially been replaced with excited anticipation. It will probably be a few weeks, if not more, before we know what will happen with the project, but I’ll tell you, it sure is great to have someone on my side who believes in the project as much as I do.

Fingers crossed.

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Wanting For Words

I was wondering the other day if there is a verb that describes the act of realizing you’re stressed out and taking a breath to try to calm down.

For years I’ve wished there was an adequate adjective for the color of a full moon on the surface of the ocean.

Once upon a time I knew the noun for the space between my headboard and the wall, but I’ve forgotten it.

Often I feel at home with words, languid and wrapped in them like blankets deliciously twisted by afternoon loving. Some days I feel woefully unprepared for the task of expressing ideas adequately – like if I lived a thousand years and learned every word in the OED there would still be times I was left wanting.

I guess today is one of those days.

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Getting Back Into My Pages

Today I jumped back into the beginning of my novel. I should say, for those of you who follow the blog, that I’ve actually not been working on my fiction since I got back from the New York Summer Writer’s Institute at Skidmore about a month ago.

It was such an intense experience, that afterward I felt like I had to set the story aside for a while. That was compounded by working on some paid work, and polishing up the pitch for my non-fiction book (which my agent is taking out to publishers after Labor Day). So it was just finally today that I pulled the novel back out for some tinkering.

One of the things I really had time to explore at Skidmore was the idea that I needed to push back the introduction of one of my characters. I kind of knew I needed to, but it’s so much work that I put it off, and as I’ve learned, nothing makes a tough writing challenging easier than ignoring it for a month (insert sarcastic laugh here).

I’m finding it really hard to get back to. I totally understand how people get halfway through a novel and never finish. I’m halfway through the second draft and I’m jumping back to rewrite the first half again. Rookie mistake or vital adjustment to process in the name of understanding my story better?

As I often find myself saying, I just don’t know, but I’m going to keep writing until I figure it out.

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You Are Not Your URL

I was talking with a friend last week about good resources for writers. I directed her toward my usual go-to sites, like Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and for those of us looking to submit shorter works for publication: NewPages.com.

She in turn introduced me to a few writer websites that are pretty awesome. My favorites right now are “Sage Said So,” the site for Sage Cohen, and Rosetta Thurman’s self titled website. I like to look at these two sites side by side. Sage is a poet with an impressive publication list, and Rosetta is a blogger writing about social change. I’m fascinated by how their websites seem to totally match their personas.

At the New York Summer Writer’s Institute I met a young man who engages in none of this kind of self promotion. He’s not even on Facebook. While I admire that sort of literary homesteading, I personally hope to give myself every advantage in growing my career as a writer, and so I need a kick ass site. Every time I look at Sage and Rosetta’s sites I get to thinking.

Is it time to revamp my site? What kind of site design says “April Dávila”? Right about then I hear a Brad-Pitt-In-Fight-Club like voice in my head laughing and saying something along the lines of “you are not your URL.”

Still, I can’t help but click over to my site and think about what colors would better represent me, what fonts would more adequately help people know who I am. Silly? Yes. A necessary part of being a creative individual in the modern age? Also yes.

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Overflowing Shelves

Yesterday I cleaned off my bedside table of all the books that have stacked up there over the last six months. I usually finish books in bed, late at night, and more often than not, I’m not ready for sleep. I want the next book. So I took some time to collect the books from around the house (the ones I haven’t yet read, but want to) and stack them up so that I can just reach for the next one without even thinking about it.

It got me thinking about book shelves. We have one in the kitchen, two in the guest room /my office, one downstairs in the hallway, two in the bed room – one on my side, one on my guy’s. We even have a book shelf in the garage that is overflowing onto the small table beside it.

So I have recently made a policy of not keeping books unless I love them so much that I can’t stand to part with them, or they are signed by the author, but what to do with all the books that I’m done with?

It seems I need to get more serious about finding homes for books that I no longer feel the need to keep. I guess I could donate them to a library, or a school or something. Anyone out there have any great ideas on this front. Or hey, maybe you want one? Check out the bio page on my website for a list of everything I’ve read in the last couple years. If something grabs you, let me know – these babies just need a good home.

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