Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Travel and inspiration

On Monday I returned from a 9 day road trip, most of which I spent with family in Tennessee. What a whirlwind! Actually, I enjoy long driving trips on my own, partly for the opportunity to listen to books on CD (this time it was Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray), but also to do a little plotting on my own stories as I zip along the interstate.

Two encounters during my visit inspired a flurry of interstate plottings on the return trip:

1) When I told my dad about the characters and setting for a new story, he remarked that my main character would have been born about the same time as his mother -- my dear 94-year-old grandmother, Ruby. That prompted me to ask Grandmother if she once again would share her photograph albums with me. (Looking at Grandmother's photos has been a favorite activity of mine since early childhood.)

Fortunately, Great-grandfather Tippit was an avid photographer, so there are many photos of my grandmother as a baby, child and teenager. Here is one of my favorites:

Grandmother Ruby stands at the right with her sisters Dorothy (middle) and Mildred (left). Aren't they charming? And check this out: a photo of Grandmother as a wee baby!

Lucky for me, my grandmother wrote (& self-published) her memoir several years ago, so I have easy access to details of her life growing up in the 30s. In fact, I am incredibly fortunate that both my grandmothers took the time to set down their memories in writing -- not only does it help me understand them and feel closer to them, but they've provided lots of material for me to mine for stories! (In a respectful way, of course.)

2) When I visited my mom in Indian Mound, TN, I stayed at the Lylewood Inn Bed & Breakfast. Partly this was because my old bedroom in Mom's attic is currently full of boxes and furniture, but mostly I wanted to check out this old house in order to flesh out yet another story idea.

The house you see here was built in 1892 on the foundations of an antebellum log house that burned to the ground in 1890. It perches on a hill above the Cumberland River, proud and lovely. You can almost see it preening, can't you? It's hard to believe I never knew this house existed until a few years ago. I grew up only 25 minutes away!

It was fun to listen to the owner as she shared stories of this house and the one that stood before it, mostly because all the while I was plotting an entirely different past and present for the house.

I hope one day you'll see each of these stories on a library or bookstore shelf. Cross your fingers!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Movie Monday: The Artist

For months everyone has raved and raved about The Artist. And I waited and waited for it to come to OKC theaters. Finally it arrived! Could it possibly live up to the hype?


Steve and I saw it Saturday evening, and the theater was packed. This is mostly a blessing (we'll never get Indie films if no goes to them), but I was afraid it might end up a curse. I was annoyed by all the rattling of popcorn bags and tearing of candy wrappers -- I'm accustomed to going to early shows with smaller and less munchy crowds -- but within five minutes of the movie starting, all that noise stopped. Everyone was entranced. The only sound from the audience after that was when an older lady cried "What did he say? What did he say?" after a crucial scene. (Those of you who have seen the movie probably know EXACTLY when that question was asked.)

If you're a film history buff, a fan of Singing in the Rain, or always wished A Star is Born hadn't been quite so dark, you'll love this film. If you hate B&W, get bored and wiggly during silent films, or if your heart is two sizes too small, don't bother. (Heh.)

Two review blurbs I loved:
[The Artist is] a project so idiosyncratic, so unlikely, so simultaneously innocent and sophisticated that it could only have been devised by the French. (Read the entire review.)

In the end, that is the tragedy "The Artist" is really exploring, the death and extinction of a medium that brought the world together, that everyone could experience in the same way, never from the outside, never as a stranger. With delicacy and originality, it laments what went away. But it also performs a resurrection, because in Dujardin's performance we discover something extraordinary and lovely, the first truly great silent film performance in about 80 years. (This San Francisco Chronicle review made me cry a little.)

I have fallen deeply in love with this film, with Jean Dujardin and the rest of the cast, with sweet Uggie, and with the people who made this dream into a reality. Can't wait to see it again!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Favorite: SCBWI

It's taken me days to recover, but I'm finally here to tell you I had a great time at NYSCBWI last weekend.

Got to hang out with agent Jenn and some of her super cool clients, including Ward Jenkins (seen above), Kristen Kittscher and Mara Rockliff -- kindred spirits, to be sure!

Other highlights:

-- enjoying tea with my editor at the Morgan Library and Museum (love that place!).

-- hanging out with the illustrious Maddee James of

-- meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. (Thanks for being my Saturday buddy, Maurissa Guibord!)

-- learning revision techniques from Cheryl Klein. (Just go ahead and buy her book, you guys.)--(Oh, and check out Maurissa's post on this.)

-- coming to the realization that I should think of my career more in terms of the long haul. It's easy to fixate on what I want NOW, but what about my entire writing career? What would that look like? Am pondering this.

Have a grand weekend, everyone!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]