Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Letting the music do the rest...

When I was a freshman in high school I lived my life for my music. The top ten hits that year were:
1. Hold On, Wilson Phillips
2. It Must Have Been Love, Roxette
3. Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinéad O'Connor
4. Poison , Bell Biv Devoe
5. Vogue, Madonna
6. Vision of Love, Mariah Carey
7. Another Day In Paradise, Phil Collins
8. Hold On, En Vogue
9. Cradle of Love, Billy Idol
10. Blaze of Glory, Jon Bon Jovi

There were three things I knew with 100% certainty. First, Jon Bon Jovi would eventually realize that I was the love of his life. Second, Roxette knew me, really knew me, like no one else (she clearly sang It Must Have Been Love for me alone). Lastly, Madonna was the best dressed human on earth. Everything else, from boys to school work was a little less clear to me. I spent so many hours alone in my room, listening to music. I didn't just listen to chart toppers, either. I liked the Pursuit of Happiness and their under-appreciated sudo-hit "Shave Your Legs", which I understand way more at 38 than I ever did at 14.

The book I'm writing right now has a music theme and I'm trying to relive those magic moments when a song didn't take me back to a memory, but compelled me forward to a hope. A time when life was a series of "what-it's," terrifying and tantalizing at the same time. A time when I had so many feelings I didn't know what to do with that it seemed like music was the only was to siphon them off and into the world.

My character is way more connected to music than me because she can actually create it. I spent years writing poetry for lyrics, but my complete lack of musical ability slowed my song writing way down. She has the ultimate way to get her energy out and in the universe. All I have to do is let her unfold on the page. I just have to keep track of that too-young, want-it-all, drowning-until-something-makes-it-all-better feeling and let the music do the rest.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Yes, I want to compete in the middle school Power of the Pen competition. Is that so wrong?

For the last two years I've had the opportunity to see first hand the power of the Power of the Pen writing competition. My daughter has officially graduated from middle school and can no longer compete, but I find myself strangely drawn to it. I think one of my new goals is to become famous enough to be a "celebrity" judge at one of these competitions. Why?

1. Power of the Pen puts creative writing at the forefront and gives talented young writers a place to shine. Sure, the judges' taste is sometimes not aligned with what you might write, but you get to go and spend a whole morning putting pen to paper and bringing your own world to life. Nothing like that existed when I was in middle school.

2. Some of the prompts are just so fascinating to explore. Too often we go into writing with a plan for what we will do and we languish trying to put words on the page. In Power of the Pen you get a prompt like: Alien Invasion or Walking Too Fast and you just have to go with it. For forty-minutes you write. I call that freeing and delightful.

3. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. Not every story is going to sell, but some of them shine through. Power of the Pen offers a ready audience and free critiques. Every comment you get from a judge is something many authors would pay good money to get their hands on. Sure, some of it is pollydoodle and should be ignored, but writing takes a tough skin and Power of the Pen helps you see that some people will love what you write and some won't. The important thing is that you keeping writing. For you. And nobody else.

I wish I had a machine to make me middle school aged just long enough to compete in this competition. On balance, grown up life is way better than middle school life (there's hope my friends!) but this one thing is a perk of being under fourteen. I say take it and run! When you do, send me your stories!