Saturday, April 18, 2015

Films About Writers

Arg. I thought this would be a quick, fun little post about a few of my favorite films about writers. But then there just kept being more and more and... well... I really love movies about writers, and there is a long, long list of fantastic movies about writers, whether it's about the process itself, or just a study of the kind of character who likes to study characters.
So, here's the first ten (eleven) that popped up in my interior Films file, in no particular order -

Wonder Boys - Based on a book about writers, so this one is a double threat.

Becoming Jane - Are hipster guys dressing like Mr. Darcy yet? Because I would have no problem with that.

Sideways - Every one of us is a little bit Miles at some point on the writing journey. Hopefully our id is a little more controlled than Jack

Listen Up Philip - He should have listened. But at least watching him not listen makes for a great movie.

Kill Your Darlings  - Ah, the Beat Poets. You set a high bar for literary inspired debauchery, gents. Well played.

Midnight In Paris - Still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts, and a magical cab to whisk me off for a night of drinking and dancing with our finest artists of the roaring 20s.

Adaptation - Because its important to have those moments, when your manuscript is giving you fits, to say "Hey! I'm in charge here! I'll do what I want!"

Last Night - Only secondarily about writers, but one of the most beautifully crafted films I've ever seen.

Young Adult - A much more realistic portrayal of the glamorous writing life? Maybe not all of it, but we'll each recognize a choice moment, and be thankful that no one films us looking or acting like that.

The Basketball Diaries - I saw this before Leo was Leo. That's how old I am. And him. We're both old. Sigh.

Shakespeare In Love. Yes. This.  Shakespeare, writing, guys with soulful dark eyes, fancy outfits. Perfect. Thank you.

So, what else? What brilliant, writing inspired films would you heartily recommend?

Film Count 2015 : 88
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Girl Most Likely
Obvious Child
The Big Lebowski*
Life After Beth
All the Light in the Sky
While We're Young
Spirited Away 
Searching for Sugarman
The Pact
Kicking and Screaming

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 17
New this week:


Books of 2015 : 15
New this week:

The Scorpio Races (finally) 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Deadly Serious Advice for Writing

I'm not saying this is the only way to do it. I'm just saying this is how I do it. So if you find anything helpful here, I welcome you to add it to your routine.

1. Buy Track Pants.
They are just as comfortable as pajama pants, and you can wear them from bed to your desk and back to bed again, and also pretzel yourself in your chair as you work - thus the basis of the appeal of pajama pants in the first place - except that you can also go out in public, without changing your clothes, and you won't look like an antisocial slob. You will, in fact, look like there's a possibility you've just been working out.  Or you're in the mafia. Either way, more respectable than old hello kitty pajama pants with cheese dip stains on them.

2. Get a Cat.
Let it get accustomed to sleeping in your lap. Then, when you start to get distracted and think about wandering off to do something besides productive writing (all those random projects and chores that become super high priority when it's hard core procrastination time-  I need to deep clean the carpets! We need to fix that sink that's been broken for six months RIGHT NOW. Are those venetian blinds a little dusty? Well, we can't have that! What if the Queen of America stops by for tea? What then??) No need to worry with a warm cat trapping you in place. You'll feel too bad about moving the adorable sleeping kitty, and you'll be stuck sitting there, but hey! you're already at the desk, so might as well write a few words. Genius.

3. Get a Coffee Lad.
This is not an appliance. It's a real guy. One who will refill/reheat your coffee on request. For practicality, I repurposed my husband for this job. He works from home, as do I, and every 90 minutes or so, he'll wander into my office to chitchat about whatever he just read on his fb feed while filling his own coffee mug. So while he's up, he warms up my mug, too. Gotta love him.

4. Build a Garden
You can't get a book written without actual time sitting down in front of your computer (or with your pen and notebooks). But it turns out that sitting down all day, while good for your books, is probably utterly terrible for the rest of you. Exercise has to be included somewhere. Jogging is good, or joining a gym, or finding a yoga studio, but no matter what you pick, most of us will get bored with it eventually. My solution to not enough outdoor acting like a human time is my garden. I have things planted all around my house, and we're adding and changing it a bit every year. It is a lot of manual physical labor to build, weed, water, plant, clip, mow, trim, clean, rake and sweep, but that's the point. It's outside, it requires a lot of different movements and muscles, it's inspiring and meditative at the same time, and I get a beautiful view out the windows for all the work. (sure, other exercise might make me look better, but how often do I get to see myself? And would I want to stare at myself all day, or the beds of flowers outside my office windows? )

5. Do Not Take Yourself Too Seriously, or Not Seriously Enough.
This one's actually about the work. Do not worry that your idea is too serious. Do not fret that it is not serious enough to warrant your time and effort. In short, don't justify why you write what you write. Write what you want to write. What inspires you to buy those track pants, get that pet cat, build that garden and start conditioning your significant other to bring you the coffee carafe like a diner waitress.

And that's about all I have for the moment. You are now fully prepared to write a book. Or at least, no more or less so than anyone else who's set out on this baffling, challenging, winding, weeping beautiful calamity of a road. Good Luck, fellow travelers.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It's A to Z Time!

So, it's been a kind of nutty month for me (details soon, I promise) and there's no way I can keep up with the A to Z challenge this year (again, boo) it is still a fantastic way to find new blogs to follow. There still may be time to join, if you get moving like, right this minute, but go. Now. Go Here. And then come back. 

Are you back? Great! 
This has been a movie heavy week. Why do I watch so many movies, you ask? Well, it's the nightly ritual of Mr. Cate and I, once the little son is in bed, and we pry ourselves away from our many projects, to watch a movie. Neither of us really watch any tv anymore, at least not regularly. We don't even have cable anymore, as no one was watching it. We do, however, both loooove movies. This past week, we even made it out into the world of the normals and saw It Follows in a real live movie theater. 
I actually liked it more than Mr, and horror is really his thing. Oh, and romance. He really loves almost any movie where love happens. Exhibit A - Twilight. I hadn't actually seen any of the films before the original appeared on Netflix recently. 
So, we watched it. And then the next night, we found New Moon on Amazon. And then Eclipse. And Mr. has actually asked when we're watching the other two. And I'm realizing that it would have been a blast to see those movies at the midnight screenings, with a packed house of superfans. At least I'll know for next time (oh yes, there will be a next time. You won't know when, and you won't know where, but the next phenomenon is right around the corner, just wait) 
Can you guess what it is? What will be the next humongous ginormous thing?? 

Film Count 2015 : 76
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

The Armstrong Lie
What If 
It Follows
New Moon
Breathe In
Save the Date
This Thing with Sarah

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 17
New this week:

Doctor Who 

Books of 2015 : 14
New this week:

Impatiently waiting for Scorpio Races to show up. It is rushing through the night to get here, I am assured by UPS tracking. But still. I want to read NOW.  

Things I am Eagerly Awaiting in 2015 
The new Noah Baumbach movie, While We're Young. And the Rolling Stones at Summerfest. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Who Would You Choose to Read Your Book?

Aloud, that is.

Today I ran across the recording of Sally Gardner's The Red Necklace read by one Tom Hiddleston, who, it turns out, has not only the most beautiful speaking voice, but is also a pretty impressive voice actor, with a good range of accents at his disposal.   (and he was in a few superhero movies, I have been informed)
And, I wondered, who would I pick, if I could have any beautiful voice in the world, to read my current WIP when it eventually becomes a real manuscript, and, hopefully, an actual book?

This was trickier than I thought. I love playing the casting game, picking actors to play our favorite characters thought I have gotten in trouble with a few fellow writers for my unconventional picks. Sorry, fellow scribes, I stick by my choices!
For my last manuscript, I have no idea. But the one that's on the drawing board right now? That would have to be Tilda Swinton. In fact, if I could get her to read me the passages as I write them, that would probably get this written a lot faster, so let's see if I can hook that up.

How about you? Who would you trust, with your words?

Film Count 2015 : 68 
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Skeleton Twins
Jamie Marks is Dead
Earth to Echo
How to Train Your Dragon 2*
Frances Ha*

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 16
New this week:

Penn and Teller

Books of 2015 : 13
New this week:

Nothing as of this posting. Working on my own writing and rewriting for the past few days. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On Finding Your Genre as a Writer

So, why do you write what you write? Is that the simplest hardest question in all of the writing world? 
Many writers work in multiple genres, of course, but they almost always have a foundation genre, the one they are known for, the one they totally own. And as we all know, one of the major obstacles (okay, THE major obstacle?) of going from wanting to write to actually writing is figuring out just what in the world we're going to write about

For me personally, it happened somewhere in the year after college, when I was working in a bookstore. 
I had been a writer since the first grade, and by the final semester of earning my BFA (in sculpture, of course) I had decided that I was going to start writing again, and taking it seriously. But what to write? 
Well, spending 50 hours a week surrounded by books is a very good way to go, if you're a little shaky on what exactly you want to write. 
That's where I found Middle Grade. Ah, my people! 
I love reading every genre, from memoirs to cozy mysteries to high fantasy to fussy literature, but when it came to writing, there was something about the middle grade category that seemed so freeing, and open, and inspiring. I thought of all the books I loved to read when I loved to read the most - as a kid. Suddenly, I had all the ideas in the world, and all the energy to work on them, hour after hour, through the many years that would follow, while I learned what an agent was, and how submitting to publishers worked, and how fantastic and supportive the kid lit community can be even across the country or the world, because they told me all these things, and read my earliest, cruddiest work. 

So, when did you find your genre? Did you always know what you wanted to write? Are you still looking?  

Film Count 2015 : 61 
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Listen Up Phillip
Magic in the Moonlight
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2*
Top Gun*
Ferris Bueller's Day Off*
Marie Antoinette*

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 15
New this week:

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Books of 2015 : 13
New this week:

The Map to Everywhere
Wonder at the Edge of the World 

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Bunch of Little Things

1. Snow. Ugh. I love winter, but this one has been bitter cold and extra long, and I'm ready for some gardening, and running outdoors regularly, and not having to chip ice off of anything (especially my car) for at least a full day.

2. I cannot decide what to revise next. I have rough/early drafts of three different projects, which all have characters, plots, settings, all the good stuff, but need to be sorted into proper books, and every time I start working on one, I get ideas for another, and I really want to pick one and focus on rewriting and polishing, but I cannot. Alas. 

3. I love pottery. I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but I had two uncles who were potters by trade, and one cousin and aunt who still work in the field. I love handmade pottery, and I'm very much in the market for a set of beautiful, unique dishes for use around the Cate household. But I'm also a complete klutz, of the kind that's prone to dropping things and chipping dishes in the sink, which is why we're down to three plates, and I am in the plate purchasing market. 

4. The word "dog" has come up a few times with the pre-teen child. Never in an instant way, but just enough to remind me that he hasn't forgotten a little discussion we had, in which I said we could maybe start entertaining the idea of possibly someday getting a dog. I know I could use the requirement to get up and out of the house every day. (working from home on your own business doesn't mean "loads of free time". It means, "I feel like I should always be working".) We do have a beautiful dog park about half a mile from here, and a big lake, and lots of pretty winding roads for walks and jogging. And two tremendous county parks within a five minute drive. The issue has been put on the itinerary for further discussion, is where we stand at the moment. The idea sounds fantastic in the summer and fall, and horrid in the snowy, snowy winter and the muddy, rainy spring. 

5. We also have one very old cat, who deserves a quiet retirement before we go bringing a huge slobbering animal into the family. She's already 17, and has her good and bad days. She was looking pretty pathetic the past few months, but I've been giving her lots of her favorite food (anything in a can, and lots of creamy things) and she's going through something of a renaissance. Trotting around the house, jumping up on the furniture, snuggling with us at night, which she never used to do. My mother in law stopped by with her dog earlier this week, and the old lady cat shrugged and went back to sleep. It was the "little" cat (youngest and biggest, of course) that was shocked, and spent the whole visit hiding behind my legs.

So that's about it for now. For those of you in sunny climates, my eternal envy. For those of you with even more snow and less mercury than we have up here, I salute you.

Film Count 2015 : 53 
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

John Wick
Chasing Amy*

Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 14
New this week:

House Hunters International 

Books of 2015 : 11
New this week:

Nothin' new. I am getting behind, and it's high time to get to a bookshop! 
Sometime this week, I will go. Promise.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

What Are You Looking For in a Farm?

So, the search for the perfect farmshare begins! 
Step one, research. 
That's easy enough. Just punch CSA and your general location, and find your nearest CSA farms. 

Step two, pick your menu. 
Now, every farm in my area offers vegetables as the staple in your weekly share. You can't really select which vegetables you will get, but many farms provide a list of what they will be grown in the coming season, and when it will be available in your weekly delivery. 

We'll start you off with a salad.
Some of the farms I researched allowed a limited number of requests, such as less "weird" vegetables, more or less greens, but for the most part, you get what you get. Each week your share will include the crops that are ready and available at that time, which should mean your getting the freshest food possible, which is the main point here anyway. Most of my local farms also also offer herbs and seasonal fruit as part of the weekly share, but in much smaller proportion to the vegetables. 

And on to the main course

Many of the farms I researched also have egg and/or meat shares available. This would include any number of items from chicken, pork, turkey, duck, beef and lamb, depending on where you buy. I am not philosophically opposed to eating meat, but I am pretty thoroughly disgusted by the factory farming of livestock as practiced by large scale commercial agriculture. The whole process seems needlessly wasteful, cruel and environmentally dangerous. So if we're going to continue to be omnivores here, we should strive to be conscious omnivores, right? One of the main pluses of CSA food production is knowing exactly where your food came from, and how it was raised, which is preferably with plenty of room, good food and excellent care free of added hormones and antibiotics.
Ideally, I'd like to be getting as much of our food as possible from fresh local sources. So adding meat, eggs and honey to the weekly order sounds fantastic.
The main downside is the quantities - most available meat shares are for a LOT of pounds of product. We don't eat meat every day here, and we don't have a good place for a stand alone freezer to hold dozens of pounds of surplus chops and sausages. I may have to enlist some extended family members to make this work effectively.

Step three, location, location, location. 
So, where do you want to pick up your fresh batch of home grown deliciousness every week? If you live in an urban area, good news! There is probably a local drop location very close to you. 
For us semi rural folk, it looks like we'll be driving directly to the farm. The one I've tentatively decided upon has several strong positives- 
Good variety of seasonal veggies
Fruit with most shares
Long season (4 weeks longer than the other farms I've looked at, for about the same cost) 
Meat and egg shares available, though the meat shares are on a separate schedule. Veggies, fruit and eggs arrive every week, meat every month or so. 
Bridge shares - extra weeks at the start and end of the season - are also available.  

Looks like this might be the winner.