Monday, November 26, 2012

European Big - Fenerbahçe Style

Fenerbahçe Spor
Coach said: "He's European Big. He should play 3,4,5." Or something to that effect anyway.

I squinted at him and agreed. Coach knows what he's talking about. I'll just let him do his thing.

So here I am, researching what this all means. (Die-hard basketball fans can move ahead to the last paragraph.)

My son is not going to be seven feet tall.
So, if he wants to achieve his dream of playing for his school team, he needs a strategy.
A scaled down European Big strategy, to be precise.

To inspire him, I looked up some Turkish teams for a role model. There were plenty, but I picked Fenerbahçe's Forward, Number 7, Ömer Onan. (I may be biased because he was born in Mersin, our Turkish home town.) He's in the middle of the front row in the team pic, and at 6'4", you can see he isn't even big for Euro Big.

The most important point: He's on a great team and he's got game.

How great is this team? Check this out:

NBA Europe Live: Fenerbahce Ulker beats Celtics in debut against NBA 

Ömer Onan gets mentioned a few times, and he's quoted in the end.

Now my son was trained to be a 5 - Center, right next to the basket, in the paint. He's taller than most  kids around here, but if he tops out at 6'4" or 6'5" as the doctor predicts, he will be too short. Even Euro Big starts at 6'10" for a Center.

Coach now has him playing 4, Power Forward. A similar role, but Euro Big PF starts at 6'8".

So hopefully he'll work up to a 3, Small Forward. Euro Big SF starts at 6'4". Just right. (Feel a bit like Goldilocks here? I do.)

Says wikipedia:

The small forward position is considered to be perhaps the most versatile of the main five basketball positions, due to the nature of its role, which is sometimes similar to that of a power forward, and other times more resembles the role of a shooting guard. The small forward and shooting guard positions are often interchangeable.

Versatile? That is music to my ears.

He'll have to work harder on his shots, and I see years of training ahead, but it's his dream. I want him to fulfill it, no matter how many nights I'll spend on a cold, hard bleacher.

Is the moral of the story to be a big fish in a small pond? Maybe. My guess is you go where they feed the fish. And this applies to writers too - big press, small press, vanity press:

Follow your dream.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo for Kids

If you think writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is hard, try NaNoWriMo as a 6th grader. For homework!

Granted, the goal for the kids is only 50 pages, but I have plot nightmares just thinking about it. (Even if it does make me secretly wish I could go back to middle school.)

Imagine a library full of kids chattering, bouncing ideas, patching plot holes with dragons. Their fingers fly as they click away on their netbooks, focusing on the assigned foreshadow or flashback.

Five hundred kids. Writing.

I had the chance to witness this because (via WNBA Charlotte) I helped Monika Schroeder arrange an author visit as part of the NaNoWriMo event at Marvin Ridge Middle School. (All made possible by a grant from North Carolina School Library Media Association, and Brita Mann, our awesome Media Coordinator. Union County Weekly ran a half page article with more details.)

Over the course of the six week program, other authors are Skyping in too, giving the kids plenty of inspiration. John Claude Bemis was there last week, which was when I visited.

John gave a presentation and ate lunch with some of the kids. (How cool is that?)
He took fan questions about his books, and questions every aspiring writer/author asks, like:

What happens if I'm coming to an end, and I still don't have enough words?
Answer: Be mean to your character. Create more problems.


Did people think you wouldn't be successful as a writer?
Answer (paraphrased): It was more me telling myself I couldn't do it.

Ouch! That hit close to home.

In between sessions, I spoke with John about good reads, and good writing workshops. He was very encouraging. (Former teachers can be like that.)

Anyhoo. The moral of the story:

The whole experience kicked me out of the "Woe, is me." tailspin so fast, I sat down to my writing again the very next day. Also, I have a feeling my list of acknowledgements will be very long, someday. In the meantime: BICHOK, people!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sultanahmet Jail Hotel

The Ottoman calligraphy across the lintel reads:
"Capital City Murder Jail",
but I'd pay 370 Euros to stay for a night,
if I had any spare Euros to spend, that is...

A lot of other people think it's worth the money too, because this is not only the old Sultanahmet Jail, it is now a 65 room, five star hotel: the Four Seasons- Istanbul at Sultanahmet.

The elegant neoclassical style of the building belies the original purpose- on purpose. Perhaps the proximity to nearby Ottoman palaces and public buildings, and the caliber of the actual prisoners (writers and educated political dissidents) warranted a more gentle architecture.

While all that was fine in 1918-19 when the jail was built, by 1968 the prison was shuttered. It's historic, old city location was of no consequence to the growing needs of the new Istanbul. The jail was put to use for a brief stint during a coup d'etat in the 80s, but quickly abandoned again for more than a decade.

Then in 1996, the prison's wide windows and high-arched hallways welcomed a transformation. The building was repurposed, clad in marble and mosaics, and the courtyard was outfitted with a garden, terrace and gourmet restaurant. In 2012, the resulting boutique style hotel was rated #1 on the Top Small City Hotels list by Travel + Leisure

But take a closer look. A sort of gothic gloom lingers, intentionally, as a reminder of the building's history. Brass rings keep their firm hold on some of the old cell walls. An inmate's inscription still marks up a marble pillar - and wish I knew what it says! Somebody please take a picture and send it to me. Some of the inmates were poets, so maybe the wording is poignant.

Alas, no images of the inscription exist, at least not anywhere I've searched.
Instead, here's a poem by the Sultanahmet Jail's famous inmate and International Peace Prize winner, Nâzım Hikmet.
(Remember my post about Hiroshima Girl?)

Lion in an Iron Cage

Look at the lion in the iron cage,
look deep into his eyes:
like two naked steel daggers
they sparkle with anger.
But he never loses his dignity
although his anger
comes and goes
goes and comes.

You couldn't find a place for a collar
round his thick, furry mane.
Although the scars of a whip
still burn on his yellow back
his long legs
stretch and end
in the shape of two copper claws.
The hairs on his mane rise one by one
around his proud head.
His hatred
comes and goes
goes and comes ...

The shadow of my brother on the wall of the dungeon
up and down
up and down.  


Monday, November 5, 2012

The Metaphor of Minestrone

Recently, I spent a week in manuscript therapy at Your Best Book, surrounded by the brilliance of:

  • Lorin Oberweger and Brenda Windberg from Free Expressions Literary.
  • Emma Dryden from Drydenbks.
  • Josh Adams and Tracey Adams from Adams Literary.
  • Authors/YA Muses: Veronica Rossi, Talia Vance, Donna Cooper, and Brett Ballou.
  • Nancy Conescu from Dial Books.
  • And fifteen amazing, aspiring authors.

I got to spend all day with these people! From breakfast at 8:00 am, to the craft chat that wrapped up at 9:00 pm, there was no stopping the flow of amazing.

Some days I got overwhelmed by the information. Some days I couldn't contain my euphoria.

First, daily classes on craft and the publishing business blew my mind. Deep POV? Deep Scene? I'm still looking back on my notes and finding gems. My favorite takeaway was from Brenda Windberg on world building: React to details, don't just note them.

Then there was a visit to the book doctor.

Lorin and Brenda evaluated my first pages and synopsis for plot holes, or flaws in point of view -like an x-ray. I needed this is on a couple of fronts, but I was glad to learn some good things are already in my bag of tricks.

I wasn't prepared for the book therapist.

Lorin and Brenda took my outline and analyzed the meaning, looking for the emotional path to a better manuscript - like a brain scan. Scary things live in my head, I tell you.

When combined with daily intense critique sessions, the Book Doctor and Book Therapist visits resulted in an epiphany brought on by:

Josh Adams, who saw my antagonist pages and helped me see my story in an enticing new way.


Nancy Conescu, who told me I needed to write realistic fiction.

The two ideas didn't sound at all related, but they were the seasoned experts. I needed to stop and listen.

Apparently, I was trying to cram three stories into my current ms.
(Wonder if that was why I felt the need for three POV characters?)

At the end of the week, I came home exhausted, grumpy with a capital G, and convinced I needed to throw out the entire manuscript.

And then I made the worst minestrone of my entire life. (Chopping veggies was therapeutic, you know?)

"Is this what's going on in your head?" My husband asked as he ladled the concoction into a bowl.

Sigh. How right he was. Garbanzos, and lentils, and green beans, and kidney beans, and stars, and diced tomato, and... I spilled the red pepper flakes which made it almost inedible. There wasn't near enough broth to go with all the stuff swimming in that soup.

Metaphor? Definitely.

So here's the recovery plan: Sleep. Then separate the stories.

Instead of tossing everything, I'm outlining the third story, stripping the current manuscript of idea threads from the other two, and keeping a "cuts" file for everything. The first story will have to simmer while I keep an eye on it.

PS. This reaction to an intense workshop is not uncommon. A week into November, I've found my direction again, hopeful for a finished, brilliant revision by January.

Did I mention that I'd recommend this experience to any writer I meet? Epiphany seems such a small word for all the enlightenment.

Friday, November 2, 2012

ROUGE Cover Reveal!

ROUGE via Leigh T. Moore
Just look at that gorgeous cover!

My critique partner, Leigh T. Moore, is doing it again. Her YA contemp, THE TRUTH ABOUT FAKING (TTAF), is a success. Now she's getting a little bit gritty with an edgy release, ROUGE:

Trapped in the underground theater world of 1890s New Orleans, Hale Ferrer has only one goal: escape. But not without Teeny, the orphan-girl she rescued from the streets and has since raised as her own.

Freddie Lovel, Hale's wealthy Parisian suitor, seems to be the easy solution. If only his touch could arouse her interest like Beau's, the penniless stagehand who captures her heart.

Denying her fears, Hale is poised to choose love until an evil lurking in their cabaret-home launches a chain of events that could cost Hale everything.

What can I say about ROUGE? (I'm partial, you know.)

As with TTAF, Leigh's instinct for story is spot on. She demonstrates flexibility with the cross-genre release of this Historical Theater Romance: Not too heavy on the historical, lots of luscious theater, and steamy romance equals a perfect balance.

The dark secrets in ROUGE are for a more mature audience than TTAF, but don't let that hold you back! Available November 13th. Check Leigh's website for details.


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