We celebrated Saturnalia on Sunday, ourselves, because the weekend was the most convenient time to open presents and prepare our Roman feast. This year it was leg of lamb, lentils, cucumber salad, barley, and our old favourite olive relish. Mmmmm. Olive relish. I could just scoop that stuff into my mouth with a shovel, and I don’t even like olives particularly. That’s the wonder of Saturnalia.
I’m sure you’ve got celebrations of your own up and coming, or already celebrated. Best wishes for a joyful season to you all! I, for one, am seriously ready for the days to start getting longer again, but even the anticipation has cheered me up immensely. We’re almost around that corner, and winter in Vancouver is only ever a prelude to spring, really.
Seraphina got a lovely mention on an NPR best-of list today. My heartfelt thanks to Maggie Stiefvater for that.
Last but not least, a favourite bit of never-fail seasonal cheer, whippet style:
Last week a friend told me an interesting idea about art, and I think I need to write it down. She’d told me before and it fell right out of my head. Clearly, there’s too much in my head if stuff this interesting is falling out, but the blog is just going to have to be my auxiliary brain for the moment.
The idea, most simply put, is that art is medicine.
It doesn’t sound so earth-shattering put that way, though. And what does that even mean? Art therapy? That’s not a new idea.
Art therapy tends to focus on doing art, though, which can indeed be a very healing activity. My friend’s angle was slightly different: when we make art we are not just healing ourselves, we are facilitating other people’s healing. It can take so many different forms: a blanket around someone’s shoulders; a forceful blow to the diaphragm that will dislodge airway obstructions; a strengthening elixir.
(Note: this is not the only thing art can do, and not all art does it. But it’s an interesting reason to make art, I think, and an interesting by-product sometimes when you think you’re doing something else)
Whatever we’re suffering, someone else is suffering too, has suffered before, will suffer again. We think we’re isolated and alone and unrelatable, but we’re not. We’re non-unique in the best possible way (to paraphrase John Green in An Abundance of Katherines)(My favourite John Green book for precisely this reason: Colin and I have suffered many of the same doubts and revelations).
Anyway. Just laying that out there to remind me, because this is something I’ve forgotten before. If it jogs an idea loose in you as well, hooray, and welcome.
We already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada, but I wanted to be sure to wish our southern neighbours a merry day of feasting as well. We need some kind of late November holiday up here, I think, because the stretch from October to Saturnalia is unrelentingly grey and grim. Of course, I say that every year, and the answer always seems to be, “Yes! Now organize something, Rachel!” And of course I don’t, due to being massively busy (and lazy, simultaneously).
However, in the spirit of the day, I would like to say how very thankful I am for you, my readers. I know that’s cheesy, but y’know what? I love cheese. What to do? There’s no getting around it.
I am thankful for all the people who’ve taken the time to read the odd products of my wee tiny brain, for all the people who enjoyed it and took the time to tell me so, for all the super interesting people I’ve met on this journey, for all the wonderful individuals in publishing and bookselling who helped Seraphina be the very best it could be.
Okay, whew! Gorgonzola!
I now return my nose to the grindstone. Someone was just asking me about the sequel: I am still writing it. My books are built in layers; the first layer of this one was structurally sound, but pretty dark. This second has a lot more texture and some glimmering glimpses of light. I’m loving it and finally (I think) understanding the book. (yes, I know, I’m a weirdo, but I don’t always know what I’m writing about until after I’ve done an awful lot of writing. I mean, I think I know. I go in with an idea. But the subconscious wants what it wants, and it doesn’t always like to tell me what it wants. It likes to make me work for it. I try to be easy-going about this, because there seems to be little I can do to change it.)
It’s November, darlings! Anyone doing NaNo this year? If you want to buddy me, I’m “amyunbounded”.
I’m only sort of NaNo-ing, though. To be perfectly honest, I’m cheating most egregiously. I’m not really counting words, because I’m revising and I CAN’T. I’m logging hours spent, only I have to convert them into words (through an algorithm of my own devising) or the graph won’t graph it properly. If I work for the (arbitrary) number of hours I’ve set for myself, I credit myself as having made par on the word count. Today I worked longer than my goal. Woo Hoo.
I am, as always, in it for the camaraderie and whining. Also, a little public accountability is nice. Also, also: keeping track of how much I work helps me see that I really am working, even on days when it feels like I got nothing done. Which is distressingly often.
And look, I exceeded my goal AND there’s time left over to blog and go to the store! OK, so I got started ridiculously early because I have a cold and couldn’t sleep, but still! It feels good to be off to a roaring start!
Anyway. Camaraderie! Whining! Who’s writing this month?
To the kids at the event today who were wondering about the Estonian bagpipe metal, the band is called Metsatöll. Here’s one of my favourite of their songs, with plenty of bagpipe and a men’s chorus (special for this song), performed in a somewhat more formal venue than usual:
Yes, I really did mention them at my event today. The kids seemed interested, but then who wouldn’t be? Estonian bagpipes, after all. Supah awesome.
My heartfelt thanks to the organizers of Vancouver Writers Fest, who put me together with some really wonderful writers for these events. I got to talk to Susin Nielsen, Susan Juby, and Kenneth Oppel, who were all thoroughly delightful. I met a few more YA authors last night as well, Richard Scrimger, Arthur Slade, and Janet Wilson, and got to see my pal (from last week) Shane Peacock as well. Lots of good writing happening in Canada, friends! I merely mention the fact!
Ah, but I’m ready for things to slow down now. I have had so much fun and met so many people that I can tell it’s time for quiet, work, and (of all things) rain. Vancouver’s providing a lot of the latter right now, right on schedule. It’s perfect working weather, maybe because I don’t feel any real drive to go out in it.
Neither does the dog, who gave me a sarcastic look when I tried to take her out at noon, walked stiff-legged for blocks, and then decided to show her enthusiasm for turning back toward home by pulling my arm off. Ah, yes, back to normal!
Here it is! (I couldn’t get it to embed, sorry.)
I just want to say: thank you so much to Nancy Pearl, Paul, Deanna, the lovely folks at University Book Store, and everybody else who helped make this happen (Trinity, Robert, Konrad, Paige, Flann! You helped!). I had so much fun, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to keep chatting. Maybe we’ll chat again sometime!
And I’m suddenly noticing all the things I’ve left undone. I have errands to run before my son starts school again (to say nothing of postponed fun to cram in! We haven’t done the PNE yet, and we’ve barely swum at all), so posting will be light for the next week or so.
Of course, there are bloggy things I haven’t gotten to yet, but they’re going to have to wait a bit longer. I have some fan art to post! (Confidential to M: I haven’t forgotten!) I was going to just stick it in a blog entry, but then my husband (who is more astute about such things than I am) said, “Um, that picture has spoilers.” Oops. So I’m going to put it in its own space, with spoiler warnings — when I get to it. Which I will. But not this week.
So much stuff! And things! More to do than I have corresponding brain cells with which to do it, to say nothing of hands. I could probably use some extra feet too, while we’re wishing, although that makes me an octopus in short order.
Enjoy the last of the nice weather, my dears (or the last of the awful weather, depending how you feel about that terrifying orb up in the sky). You may picture me running around like a chicken with its head cut off, unless that’s too gross, in which case you’re on your own for the metaphor. I haven’t got time to come up with a better one.
The spam sure does accumulate when you’re not at home, doesn’t it? I knew I should have had someone picking up my mail and watering the plants.
(Pause a moment while I try to work out which part of the blog corresponds to plants. Some metaphors just don’t work.)
We visited my in-laws in the midwest. They threw a lovely party where extended family and old friends (including several of my husband’s high-school teachers) brought books for me to sign. I just heard that Seraphina is back on the NYT bestsellers list after a week off. My big extended family surely contributed to that! I signed about thirty books.
We also got to go to a Cardinals game. It was a nice, relaxing trip, a good chance to catch my breath after a busy July and fortify myself before an even busier September.
I have a few nearly-empty weeks to work on my sequel revisions. Excuse me if the posting here is light. I am going to need all the time-management tricks at my disposal, all the discipline I can scrape together to get this thing done in a timely manner. The good news is, I’m enjoying it much more this time through. It’s funny how you can work and work and not quite understand what you’re doing. I thought I was writing one book, but it turns out I’m writing a slightly different one, a book that was lying latent under the surface of the first but never quite revealing itself. It was only visible with a bit of time and distance — and the help of a sharp-sighted editor and a friend who asks irritatingly pointed questions.
Heh. Now it’s a whaling expedition. My editor cries, “Thar she blows!” and I hurl the question-harpoons after it.
The answer is always there. My brain is smarter than I am, and it knows what it’s doing. Sometimes it’s hard to have faith in that.
I have a guest post up at Suvudu.com — The Top 10 Songs I Listened to While Writing Seraphina. It details my odd tendency to put songs on endless repeat and suck all the goodness out of them, like some sort of musical vampire.
I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I still love all those songs, even after the repetitions. You’d think they’d get old. Maybe they DO get old, and that’s what I like, treading those well-worn paths again and again. The familiarity. I have no idea. There is music I used to love that I’ve outgrown – most Beatles songs, for example, I get impatient with now – so that can happen. Other things I love even better with age. Is there rhyme or reason to any of it?
It bears thinking about. Can you use a specific piece of music to light up a specific part of your brain, and how is your written output different while under that influence? Because I’m sure I stop consciously listening to the music after a while; I have to, or I couldn’t be thinking about the words I need to write. It can be hard to maintain a strong feeling while thinking. Is music a way to keep that gate open, somehow, so there’s access to the feeling while I’m doing the problem-solving work writing requires?
No idea. But seriously, neurologists of the world, maybe y’all should get on that! I’ll be interested in knowing the results.
Bah, I can’t seem to embed this video, possibly due to my being in Canada, but if anyone would like to see the live clip I did from SDCC a couple weeks ago, here it is. Considering how little sleep I got the night before, I managed to be reasonably articulate!
Thanks to my hosts at MTV, and to my publicist, Paul, for setting this up.