Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Project Runway Moment: Human Hair...

As fashionable decorative trim??? For the love of all that is good in this world, Chris, back AWAY from the hair extensions!!! I'm so sorry Bryant Park will miss out on your effervescent self, your witch-cackle giggle, and your often stunning designs, but you have to know that when your collection activates Tim Gunn's gag reflex, you ain't makin' it to the tents. I did feel a pang of sympathy when Tim compared your design studio to the monkey cages, a metaphor for the unpleasant aroma of your aesthetic. A little harsh, in my opinion.

I'm off to study for a humongo exam reading Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" and Robert Frost's "Directive" among other things. I plan on using the terms "humongo" and "gag-reflex" and "monkey" as often as possible in my essays, just to shake things up.

Think it'll work?

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Monday, February 25, 2008

My Town Monday

Inspired by my friend, Travis Erwin, I've decided to join in his efforts to take Mondays as a day to celebrate (or bemoan) the events, culture and quirks of our current hometowns...which for me is Fort Worth, Texas.

Today my daughter is at home sick and I called our doctor's office to schedule an appointment. I like my doctor's office because it's five minutes away from my house and is across from a drive-thru pharmacy, which comes in handy when you're stumbling around half-blind with pain from a sinus infection. (Maybe that's just me?) Of course, the office was booked solid and the receptionist put us in the nearest appointment--for noon tomorrow. Which seems like an eternity when your tweenager is drifting listlessly around the house with a fever and the cough of an eighty year-old smoker. Then the receptionist told me, not unkindly, that if I'd called earlier I'd have probably gotten an appointment. It wasn't a reprimand, more like a friend-to-friend commiserating on my bad luck. I agreed, thanked her, and said goodbye.

A few minutes later she called back. She'd talked to the doctor directly and wrangled a spot, because, as she said, "Eleven year-olds don't like to be sick, do they?" "No, ma'am, they don't." And their mamas don't like it either. I told the receptionist we could be there in five minutes after she said go, and she said, "Why don't you just come on down right now?" I said, "You precious woman, we'll be right there."

So, here's what I love about my town: That even in the medical marsh that is today's healthcare system, a busy woman will go the extra mile and put in a good word for another busy woman. That a sick child can travel a few short blocks and see a competent, professional doctor (who gave us nose spray for free! whoopee!) That I can, without embarrassment, call that lady who helped us You Precious Woman. That we probably made each other's day better, in a small way, simply by trading kindnesses.

So, readers o' the blog, I hope you go forth to spread and experience kindness in your town today. Report back, and tell me what happened...


Friday, February 22, 2008

DFW Writers Conference This Weekend

Just a quick post to let you know I'll be teaching a workshop at the DFW Writers Conference this weekend in Grapevine, TX. It's not too late to sign up, and the conference is stacked with agents and editors, along with published authors, to help you along your writing journey.

My session is at 2:30 and my topic is "Exploding the Moment: Write Now!" Notice the punny wording. We'll be going over some exercises to help break through writer's block and to bring depth to your fiction. Should make for a great time. Many of my writer friends will be there, including the fabulous Candace Havens who will deliver the lunchtime keynote, which you won't want to miss because she's a) hysterical b) supertalented c) quick with gossipy quotes about everything from the book industry to Hollywood.

So, hurry up to register and drop by and see me.

Fashion dilemma--I need your votes! For the conference should I wear:

1) Black shirt and jeans (safe yet authorly)
2) Flowy skirt with flat boots (boho chic)
3) Brown slacks, pink oxford and ankle boots (sassy yet professional)
4) Pajama bottoms and a sweater (my daily at-home gear)

Please, feel free to come up with your own combinations...

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Best Burger Ever and Genre Fear

Totally unrelated topics, but yesterday I had the best burger of my life. It was the Dirty Love Burger (excellent name, no?) at Tim Love's eponymous Love Shack in Fort Worth, Texas.

The famous chef has outfitted a beer-garden spot in the stockyards with little tables and either fire-pits (winter) or fans (summer), for the delight and comfort of burger-noshing regulars (plus Europeans in Texas for extended holidays.) Yes, the people watching is exquisite (dark socks! sandals! funny accents!) and the place is lined on three sides with beer cartons ready for the evening revelries, but the real show-stopper is the food itself. The Dirty Love Burger comes with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, a thick slab of bacon and Love Sauce..topped with a fried quail egg. Never had quail egg on a burger? Don't be frightened, my friends. It's a flavor explosion without the messy yolk, and served with a side of their pitch-perfect onion rings, is close to heaven itself. I think if Jesus were to walk around Fort Worth, he would definitely hit the Love Shack.

As I mentioned in the last post, I had a great time with The Village Book Club in Dallas. Aren't they cute? (I was relieved that someone else wore jeans. Must remind self: Dallas is fancier than Fort worth.)

As I mentioned the previous post, one of The Village Readers (as opposed to The Village People) as this question: Is there a genre, as a writer, you would shy away from? The answer is yes, and it would be detective or murder-mystery fiction. The problem is I absolutely adore a great mystery. Whether it's a movie, book, or television show, I'm into figuring the thing out from the get-go, and when I'm right it's soooooo disappointing. As a writer, I'm not sure how I'd handle the twist factor with the balance of relevant clues--and I'd hate if ANY reader figured it out before the end. Maybe one day I'll give it a shot, but for now I'll stick to character-driven regional realism. (Who's in graduate school? Me, that's who!)

Burger fan? Where do you go for The Best Burger Ever?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines or Any Tines

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's a pic of some glorious roses from my sweetheart. And yes, eschewers of all things shmalz, I'm a sucker for red roses, any day of the year.

Had a fabulous time with the book club at The Villages in Dallas last night. Will post a group photo soon. One of my favorite comments was about my characters Mark and Amanda from Potter Springs. Beverly said, in kind of a dreamy voice, "I think he really loves her..."

Yes, Beverly, I think he does, too. I so love my job.

Among many interesting questions, one of my favorites was posed by Melissa: "Is there any genre you would shy away from writing?" The answer is yes...and I'll tell you which one in another post.

Recommended for Romance (on Valentine's or Any Tines):

Movies: Atonement and Juno. Haven't seen 27 Dresses or Definitely Maybe, but the chick in me wants to catch both.

Music: Soundtrack to Juno--earthy, clever songwriting from Kimya Dawson and (surprise) The Darjeeling Limited. Love the Indian flair with tracks from Satyajit Ray and quirky selections ranging from the Kinks to the Clair de Lune.

Food: Steak, shrimp, asparagus and red wine. And a little salad with baby greens, raspberries, feta cheese and pecans. At least, that's what I'm having. We cook at home because the last time we tried to eat out on Valentine's day, between the long lines, inept service and the price gouging, we nearly got divorced.

Question: Valentine's -- overhyped greeting-card marketfest or an opportunity to celebrate all things love?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Prize Winners and Book Clubs

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Aimee LaBrie, author of Wonderful Girl, which won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize from UNT Press this year.
Aimee read from her collection of short stories and did an excellent job of capturing the attention of fatigued students with her vivid prose and wicked humor. I was Aimee's first reader on this prize...and had the experience of mining the gold from the slush pile. As a writer, reading for the KAP contest helped me see the other side of publishing: that daunting mountain of manuscripts (this year we had almost 300) and the overwhelming responsibility of slogging through each one, looking for glimmers of brilliance.

Yes, there are the manuscripts with clip art (bad idea) with themes of unicorns and princesses (bad, bad idea) and the strange single-space formatting, or worse, italics. Those, thankfully, are the minority of entries, and each year the contest is filled with better and better applicants. The majority of entries we see are from people who publish widely in literary journals, authors who write with competence and confidence. To find the winner is no easy task. We separate the cover letters from the manuscripts for readers, so each entry is reviewed "blind" without the weight of accolades to push it past its prose. Which helps, I think, in giving an honest read.

Aimee's book came through with such shining strength, I had no trouble passing it along for a second read and in voting for it as a finalist. When it won, I did a happy dance, and it was no surprise that the author turned out to be just as engaging and witty as her writing. If you're interested in crafting short stories that get published, you should check out her collection and treat yourself to a great read. You won't be disappointed.

I'm off tonight to Dallas to visit with members of a book club who chose Potter Springs for this month's read. I always enjoy meeting with readers who spend their time with my stories, since I think in today's world time is one of our most precious resources. I also like the questions and insights that other people bring to my work...when they argue over a character or see themes I hadn't pre-conceived on the page. I'll report back on the most interesting comments...

In a Q&A session with an author, what question would you ask?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Careers, Superpowers and Puppies

Which one are you?

Thanks, Travis for helpful time-suckage hint. After visiting your blog, I had to take the test for myself, and this is what I got. (Although, I can defend my wasteful actions because I got in my full five pages today!)

You Should Be a Doctor

You are practical, sharp, and very intuitive.
Optimistic and energetic, you are a problem solver who doesn't get discouraged easily.
You are also quite compassionate and caring. You make people feel hopeful.
You're highly adaptable and capable. You do well with almost any curve ball life throws at you.

You do best when you:

- Are always learning new subjects
- Use your knowledge to solve problems

You would also be a good therapist or detective.

Britta says: Aha! A therapist or detective! Or...a writer, which is where the two meet.

Your Superpower Should Be Mind Reading

You are brilliant, insightful, and intuitive.
You understand people better than they would like to be understood.
Highly sensitive, you are good at putting together seemingly irrelevant details.
You figure out what's going on before anyone knows that anything is going on!

Why you would be a good superhero: You don't care what people think, and you'd do whatever needed to be done

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Feeling even more isolated than you do now

Britta says: Isolated? Who's isolated?

You Are a Chihuahua Puppy

Small, high strung, and loyal.
You do best in the city with a adults - young kids could crush you!

Britta says: No kidding! I have two chihuahuas (see my photos page) and nearly fell out of my chair when this happened. I will refute the high-strung assertion, however.

If you take the quizzes let me know...which are you?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How to Escape...

A Giant Octopus.
(From Joshua Piven and the fine folks at Worst Case Scenario.)

1. Pull away quickly.
2. If you do not escape, do not go limp. Octopi tire easily, so continue to put pressure on the arms by attempting to swim away.
3. Prevent the octopus's arms from wrapping around your arms.
4. Peel the suckers from your body. Give the octopus a spear, raft, surfboard, or other object to latch on to. Work quickly, before the arms grab you.
5. Detach the octopus from its anchor.
6. Turn somersaults in the water to irritate the octopus.
7. Swim towards the surface.

I think what intrigues me about this is most of the tips could easily apply to a toxic relationship. Ever been entangled by one of those? Read through the steps again, and see what might apply. Pull away quickly (go for a clean break.) No limping out. Peel that sucker from your body, and if necessary, deflect them to another source. Better do this quickly, before they suck you back in. Turn somersaults (or whatever else it takes) to irritate this person, then swim with all you've got toward breathable air.

Ever been attacked by an octopus? A wild animal? A toxic stalker?