Friday, June 29, 2012

Oh Deer, You Startled Me!

I've been a shabby blogger. As a peace offering, I share with you my last post from Quirk and Quill:

I spent a lot of time in grad school studying the fantastic. For my critical thesis, I adopted Tzvetan Todorov's definition from The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1975):
In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know ... there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world.

Is that a DEER driving a town car?

If there is a plausible real-world solution, we have experienced something "uncanny." If something truly supernatural has taken place, we are in the realm of "the marvelous," the world is not as it seems, and all bets are off.

Deer don't drive in our world, so there must be another solution. The brain starts spinning as we try to work it out.

According to Todorov, "The fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty."

Marianna Baer's fantastic (double entendre intended) Frost is a great recent example of this. It resolves by leaning towards one end of the uncanny-marvelous spectrum, but I won't spoil it by telling you which.

Fantastic stories often lean one way or another eventually because the fantastic is a balancing act. The reader feels off-balance, and it's the writer's job to keep him there as long as she chooses.

As a reader, I love this not knowing, but as a writer, I want to know everything. Now.

In my current WIP, I keep rushing ahead to one end of the spectrum. It's so much easier to deal with a known quantity, and I'm finding it hard to write something that revels in uncertainty when I so badly want certainty in my plot.

Maybe the fantastic needs to wait for a later draft when I've made some firm decisions about the rules of this world -- it's hard to write the beginning until you know the ending etc., etc. -- or maybe I need to feel off-balance and appreciate the myriad possibilities of this stage.

Have you decided yet about the deer? Was it a man in a deer suit? The next step in evolution? A case of elaphine possession? (That's a word for Linden's grandpa!)
On the uncanny-marvelous spectrum (from top to bottom), these options might look like this:

UNCANNY: Man in suit.

FANTASTIC: Genetic mutation, but is the source of the mutation scientific or alien or magical?!?! We may never know for sure!

MARVELOUS: Haunted deer.

As long as you haven't decided, things are fantastic.

When you decide what you saw was a happy accident, an illusion captured on film, things may get less interesting, but if you're close to the end of the story, a satisfying answer may be exactly what you want . . .

I mean, I will sleep better knowing that deer isn't driving around my neighborhood. Plus, it's super cute.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mia Bella!

The year has wrapped up at Barrel of Monkeys' after-school program. We won a visit from the Headless Horseman, which I blogged about on the Monkey blog.

The final performance included hand puppets from the little ones . . .

. . . comedy stylings from the middlies, and an amazing, full-length Monkey show from the oldest group.

This shadow play was an adaptation of Bella's story, "Object Survival" about a little bird lost in a post-apocalyptic world. It was eerie and beautiful.

I first taught Bella in 2008, and it's been so cool to see her and all the other kids in her group grow with the program. Of Bella's oeuvre, I have had the privilege of playing the protagonists of her "Standing Cat" and "I Won the Wolf Races" in both Celebration of Authors and Grandma, and hey, there's that Standing Cat in Loyola Park, Live!

All this makes Bella one of my most long-standing and lauded collaborators.

She is currently 10 years old.

Friday, June 1, 2012

All the things

It's been a busy life, you guys. I went to Barrel of Monkeys' Big Prom!

Why, yes, that is Matthew Broderick and Mia Sara on my Prombassador pin.

I visited those schools, making my first school visits as an AUTHOR-to-be. That felt a little surreal, but oh so good. The AUSL Schools of Excellence were excellent and covered with life-affirming messages, even in the stairwells: 

I helped the students write bios and choose excerpts from their writing to share on display boards for their celebration. They asked great questions and said smart things along the lines of, "Isn't it interesting how the protagonist in a dystopian novel is often a member of the society that's being critiqued? For example, in Fahrenheit 451 . . ." That was an 8th grader.

They really did have faces. I've just blotted them out for privacy.

And my poor puppy had an allergic reaction! He was actually pretty happy when this picture was taken, but he looked like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon.

Since then, we have started a food trial, discovered all the messy side-effects of steroids, and spent lots of money. It is going okay.

The Loyola Park After-School Program wrapped up for the year. More on that to come.

I acted in the Monkey Morton and Dixon shows and the matinee plus evenings round of Grandma.

I sang with Laura on Laura in a Yelp Song! Walgreens Madrigal:

I blogged about my hood at Quirk and Quill and guest-blogged about Zombies for the Neos. 

Amidst all of that, and oh so much more, I've been advancing with my current novel in progress. It makes me feel like this, which is real good:

Now I'm getting ready to do Celebration of Authors -- the 300 something seats are SOLD OUT! And I get to play a nervous werewolf, so I'm pretty psyched.