Noticing Magic Everywhere

Kate Comings' journal


1 Comment

Saw this book on display in the library and grabbed it.

IMG_0094

The jacket blurb says, “…the first book we fall in love with shapes us every bit as much as the first person we fell in love with.” For Laura Miller, it was the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. That got me thinking–what books did I most love as a child? For sure, not Narnia. The first books I checked out of the library over and over and over again were Ruth Stiles Gannett’s Elmer Elevator stories: My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland. They were published between 1948 and 1951 and are still in print.

IMG_0095

I fell in love with Boris, the blue-and-yellow striped dragon. He was nothing like a conventional dragon; he looked like a cuddly stuffed animal. Elmer, the 9-year-old hero, was amazingly independent and responsible. The lists of supplies he packed for his rescue missions were unexpected and hilarious–pink lollipops, chewing gum, magnifying glasses (to better see fleas) and hair ribbons.

I also loved horse stories like Black Beauty and Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden started a lifelong love of gardening and of mysterious doorways.

I didn’t read the Narnia books until I was older. C.S. Lewis has an engaging, almost conversational writing style. He talks directly to the reader and draws you right in… then he bludgeons you over the head with his heavy-handed religious imagery and his proselytizing agenda. Laura Miller’s extremely well-researched book explores Lewis’s life and his friendship with J.R.R.Tolkien.  It brought home to me everything I didn’t like about university. I have serious problems with elitist academics and their continuous bickering, criticizing each other about things that have no connection to the way we live our lives and how we treat other people. What really got me while reading this book, besides the academic rivalry and stubborn old farts bickering back and forth, is the way different books and poetry resonate with different people. What hits one person on a deep level (Lord of the Rings for me) will strike someone else as shallow and just plain bad. Laura Miller and I don’t have the same taste in literature, but this book of hers was a fascinating read that I couldn’t put down.


Leave a comment

Perseverence furthers

Photo on 6-19-14 at 10.27

Playing in the Apocalypse is available now at Amazon as a paperback book!

Formatting a book turned out to be incredibly hard–I won’t be trying that myself in Word again. I admit I’m a beginner when it comes to things like section breaks, but I kept ending up with headers on the first pages of chapters, where they didn’t belong, as well as blank pages that didn’t show up in the manuscript but nevertheless ended up in the proof. I don’t know how many proofs I went through before I let it go, but it was a LOT.

At UCSB, my friends and I carted around copies of the “Yellow Book,” The I Ching, a Confucian text full of Chinese wisdom. We had no bamboo sticks, so we’d toss quarters like dice to get readings, which came out uncannily appropriate for whatever situation we found ourselves in. I most remember the phrase, “perseverance furthers” — good advice for authors. I mutter it to myself during tedious proofing, formatting, and even writing when it’s going slow.


2 Comments

Writing

IMG_0955

Thought I’d share a bit about my own creative process since I spend so much time parked in front of a computer. The great thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere. Sometimes I’ll take my laptop to a coffee house or to the library, as a change of scene stirs things up and lets new ideas download into my fingertips. I often don’t know what’s going to happen until my fingers type it. My friend Kelly and I sometimes get together and write for a couple of hours at one of the Burgerville hamburger joints here in Portland.

Mostly, though, I write at my desk. I honor my writer self—put flowers on my desk, and sometimes I light a scented candle. While I’m having my morning coffee infusion (which I can’t function without), I read over yesterday’s writing to get a run on where I am and what I want to do next. I use Scrivener. It’s a scene-based application for authors. I write from multiple points of view and it’s perfect for me. Because I’m a “pantser” instead of a “plotter,” my chapters and scenes end up needing to be rearranged, and it’s a lot easier in Scrivener than it was in Word. I keep two documents open, side by side. On the left is my main/real manuscript; the one on the right is for notes, where I type in new ideas for something several chapters ahead so I won’t lose them. I also use that “notes” document for rewording something I’m not happy with, which happens quite a bit. Then when I finally get it right, I paste it in. Having the two documents open at the same time somehow makes it less scary, because I have to admit, writing can be a very scary business.

Sometimes I have no idea what to write or what comes next. When that happens, I grab a spiral notebook—I buy about 10 a year during the back-to-school sales. With notebook in hand along with my Waterman fountain pen, I sprawl on the sofa, music pounding in my ears, and free-write anything that comes to mind. Peeves I have, what the dogs are doing, what I want for my fictional characters, who by now don’t feel fictional at all and are as real as my friends. What I end up with is always a surprise—but that’s what makes writing fiction so much fun.

Music drives my pen, or my fingers on the keyboard. I have iTunes playlists for every imaginable mood: Laibach for the dump trucks full of gun-toting cops in Isla Vista; Crosby, Stills, and Nash for Joel and me, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” for my whole philosophy at the time… music puts me in whatever place I need to write about.

How about you? I’d love to hear about how you write.


Leave a comment

Wordstock 2013

I’m so glad I went. This is the last year Wordstock will be at the Oregon Convention Center, and the next Wordstock literary festival won’t be until Spring of 2015.

A few photos from around the book fair…

IMG_0384

IMG_0390

IMG_0391

IMG_0395

Saturday, my first stop was a panel discussion with thriller writers, “The Dark Side, Creating Suspense” with Adam Mansbach (The Dead Run), A.M. Homes (May We Be Forgiven), Mark Sullivan (Rogue), and Chelsea Cain (Let Me Go). These guys were having a ball talking about writing thrillers, and I will be reading their new books.

IMG_1446

Jennie Shortridge reading from Love, Water, Memory, about Lucie, a Seattle woman in a dissociative fugue, who “wakes up” knee deep in the San Francisco Bay, remembering nothing. I’m halfway through that book right now; I can’t put it down.

IMG_1451

Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, Boxes, and Saints, and Craig Thompson, author of Blankets and Habibiall graphic novels. Creating a graphic novel is hugely time-consuming. Yang said, “Comics have a way of eating your life.”

IMG_1452

Alissa Nutting, Leni Zumas, Tom Barbush, and Benjamin Percy.

IMG_0398

Sunday, I arrived early to catch this panel, “The Short Story vs. The Novel,”  because Benjamin Percy was on it. I had never heard of him before I heard him read from his book, The Wilding two years ago. His stuff is very dark, scary, and creepy, but his writing is gorgeous, maybe the best I’ve ever read. I’m not familiar with the other authors on the panel and will check them out. Alissa Nutting was hilarious– “The good in the world is, like, extinguished daily.”

IMG_0404

Adam Mansbach read from his new book, The Dead Run, and Mark Sullivan read from Rogue. I can’t wait to read their books.

IMG_0406

Tom Spanbauer read a whole chapter from his upcoming book, I Loved You More. It was So. Incredibly. Sad. Wow!

IMG_0413

Benjamin Percy read from his latest book, Red Moon, a terrifying episode that kept building and left me wrung out and shaken even though I had read the book a couple of times. Listening to anyone else after that would be a let-down, so I called it a day. I don’t know when I’ll go to the Convention Center again since Wordstock is moving. I took a couple of farewell shots on my way out.

IMG_0414

IMG_0418