Sunday, May 30, 2010

So in between reading Keats's letters to Fanny and mouthing the words to "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" or "To Autumn," another missing piece has tumbled out. It's not quite the grand secret of pretty prose that I'm looking for--though, now that I've been re-reading the book, it's not terribly written--could use a little more variety sentence-wise and word choice-wise. I haven't made much progress on the synopsis--my right wrist and by extension, my entire right arm aches.

Here's the missing link: It's called negative capability. Keats was a prolific letter writer. Seriously, if he was alive now, he'd be blogging it up and Facebooking, emailing, and IMing like the rest of us distracted, procrastinating writers. He wrote a letter in 1817 to his brothers, where he discussed and defined negative capability: "When a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." It's the ability to accept mysteries without looking for a resolution--and knowing that a resolution won't be found.

I had what Oprah would call an "aha!" moment the other night. I know how Eva and Jade switch bodies and how they switch back out. I now know the paranormal concept behind the why of what happened and Eva reads a lot about reincarnation, nirvana, meditation, undergoes hynotherapy, has her tarot read, realizes that she had a few instances where she may have seen things that normally wouldn't occur, thinks long and hard about her friendship with Brix and her mother's murky death and the faith she's grown up with...

I'd written on top of the first outline that this story is about how jumping over the edge into something scary and unknown is necessary sometimes. Then I pondered negative capability last night (while watching Avatar, of all things) and realized that's what Eva really has to ponder as she goes on this trippy journey I've sent her on. She's not a person who likes mysteries, yet she's surrounded by them.

I don't know that negative capability is the overall idea of the book, but it's a theme I couldn't put a name to and now I can. It just makes sense to me. It might a "hippy dippy writer thing" but, yeah, there are lots of things we can't understand in this world--but can we accept them, knowing they'll never be conclusively solved?

I think some people might get their wish for random bits of philosophy to float around in this book.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Missing Link

I've been reading a YA novel today, from internship, and it helped me solve a small but vital part of the book.

Astral projection, ladies and....ladies.

Quoi? You ask.

It's basically a form of an outer body experience. (As Eva says, she is having the MOTHER of all outer body experiences). According to wikipedia: The idea of astral travel is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife[2] in which the consciousness' or soul's journey or "ascent" is described in such terms as "an...out-of body experience, wherein the spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or dreambody or astral body) into ‘higher’ realms."[3] It is therefore associated with near death experiences and is also frequently reported as spontaneously experienced in association with sleep and dreams, illness,[4] surgical operations, drug experiences, sleep paralysis and forms of meditation.[5]

That, along with some quick Googling and finding the Department of Perceptual Studies at the University of

Virginia, is giving me the paranormal explanations. But I wasn't sure if there was an existing paranormal

concept that could explain Eva's predicament.

Voila, astral projection.

Of course, it's all sort of linked in (in Eva's case) with her long connection to Brixton...and possibly her dead mother...

But this means that I wrote in new dialogue and a scene mentioning astral projection, so I suppose work on the

Hopefully Better Third Draft has begun.

I'm looking forward to receiving my Keats and my Georgette Heyer from Heyer basically began

the Regency genre of the romance novel and I found a copy of her An Infamous Army

(which is about Waterloo) for $2.

And Keats? Yeah, I'm not exactly Poetry Chick, but I recently watched Bright Star (amazing!), which is about

John Keats, his fiancee Fanny Brawne, based on his many many letters. I'm a sucker for historical-romantic-

tragedy with a side of literary and melancholy. If my Brit Lit prof had told me that whole story, then maybe I

would've shown more interest in the Romantic poets. Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Characters Who Float

I knew it had to happen at some point. The other day, I open my internship email and look at the stuff under my pretty blue label to be read. Lo and behold, there's a YA novel and it's about a girl who goes into a coma and her spirit is floating around, watching her family and particularly connecting with her sister.

So I had a total "Holy shit" moment. It's all right, though, because it didn't have body switching. Or, as Brixton says, "Your spirit got...transferred." I mean, hell, I re-watched "Just Like Heaven" before starting this story just to see how they did it and to be sure I didn't do it the same way.

I'm writing the synopsis--it's coming along quite nicely, thanks for asking--and I'll post it when I'm done with it. Then it's on to read-through and looking for contests!

Here's something I was wondering about though. You know those characters in books who are there, maybe say a few lines, but don't really serve a purpose? Maybe they're devices for conveying something (like how great the character is or how awful the character is or they're there for setting), but they don't really do anything.

So I seem to have a lot of them floating around. Ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends of my protagonists, college roommates, family members, etc. They're mentioned, some of them even speak, but they don't serve a greater integral purpose to the story except to illuminate the main characters.

In that way, I suppose, it's like life. People come in and out of your life and hopefully, you learn something from them--I'm a big believer in everything happens for a reason (it's amazing how philosophical one can get during a recession)--but fiction doesn't work like that. The beauty and frustration of writing is that you control everything and mostly everything has a purpose and is organized, etc.

Of course, since you supposedly control everything (a fallacy if I've ever heard one--you try having demanding voices in your head who want to go their way and see how much you actually control), it's your fault if something isn't quite right.

So how you feel about floaty characters? Do they get on your nerves?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Entered my ass into a writing contest...

On a whim, after joking about how I seemed to be reading a lot about Brooklyn, I mentioned something like, "Oh, I should write about Queens. I'll call it 'Pink House in the Middle of the Street.'"


I started it. Then I searched for memoir/ personal essay contests. And I found one, run by Writer's Digest. The due date happened to be today, so I entered it. Ha. Is it my best essay ever? No. But it's better than whatever personal essays I was writing in college, that's for sure. Here's the deal:

For 79 years, the Annual Writer’s Digest Competition has rewarded writers just like you for their finest work. We continue the tradition by giving away more than $30,000 in cash and prizes!
Win a trip to New York City !

GRAND PRIZE: $3,000 cash and a trip to New York City to meet with editors or agents. Writer's Digest will fly you and a guest to The Big Apple, where you'll spend three days and two nights in the publishing capital of the world. While you're there, a Writer's Digest editor will escort you to meet and share your work with four editors or agents!

Entry Deadline: May 14, 2010.

Grand Prize: $3,000 cash and a trip to New York City to meet with editors and agents.

You'll spend three days and two nights in NYC and a Writer's Digest editor will escort you to meet with four editors or agents of your choice! (Includes airfare within the U.S., meals, transportation and related expenses.)

First Place: The First Place Winner in each category receives $1,000 cash and $100 worth of Writer's Digest Books.

11th through 100th Place: All other winners receive distinctive certificates honoring their accomplishment.

Top Award Winners will be notified by mail before October 22, 2010. The top 10 winners in each category will be listed in the November/December 2010 issue of Writer's Digest. All 1,001 winners will be listed in the 79th Annual Writer's Digest Competition Collection and at after the December issue is published. Prizes/awards certificates will be mailed by November 15, 2010.

*There are 10 different categories. I thought, for a brief second, about sending in a portion of the novel in the literary fiction category, but I couldn't think of a way to break it up, have it make sense, and keep it under their word count limits. Also, since said top prize is a trip to New York...methinks I'll not come in 1st. But what is life without a little risk?

Here's the essay itself. 5 pages. 1, 533 words, well under the word count limit in its category (the limit was 2,000):

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Blog Name...and Other Things

Note: Changed the name of the blog today. Again. What can I say? I get bored easily.

Yesterday, I went to the Brooklyn Children's Museum with my cousin, his wife, their son and our niece. The niece is almost 2, the nephew almost 1, and with my aunt (the kids' grandmother) in Japan for the moment, enjoying a richly deserved vacation, the parents have each taken a week off to watch both kids. Thus, museum trip yesterday.

It's a great museum, honestly. It's big and there's lots for kids to do. The niece loved the slide (and the tunnel below it). They had an exhibit on Japanese culture, including koi no bori (banners of colorful flying cod, for Children's Day) and Japanese dolls behind a case (to which I took my niece and said, "Look, like Baba's house!") and even a Japanese dinner table set up with chopsticks and tea pots and miso soup bowls. (Once again, prompting me to hold up the kids and say, "Like Baba's house!")

I don't know Brooklyn well at all--in fact, I can count the number of times I've been there as under 10 (twice to the aquarium, three times to take CLEP, once to brunch in DUMBO). I don't really understand the yuppie preoccupation with it. I'm a Queens girl. Brooklyn just seems mad far to me.

I read a manuscript recently about Brooklyn--specifically, the Crown Heights riots, which I don't remember at all, since I was about 6 when it happened. Funny thing is, I just Google Mapped the museum and I was basically in Crown Heights yesterday. The museum is on Brooklyn Avenue, in between Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy.

Plus, this week, I've read two manuscripts that deal with Guatemala in some way and I have blissfully not thought of my own book nor read it and resisted the urge to fiddle with it again.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Practicing some query writing.

I saw your listing in Writers' Digest and noted your interest in edgy, contemporary women's fiction with a fantasy twist. I have completed a 85,000 word manuscript titled Last Request. I hope you will consider me for your list.

For Eva Fontaine, living as another person has suddenly become reality. It only takes one ill-fated meeting with her estranged father and one ill-considered step into a Boston street for Eva to be launched out of her comatose body. She awakens in a young woman's body, one she has never seen before, unsure of how she got there. In trying to decipher whether she is dead, in an in-between world, or a reincarnation gone wrong, Eva recalls her life from the age of fourteen until twenty-six, analyzing her life for signs that this spiritual displacement may have happened before, analyzing the effects of her mother's death and her father's estrangement--and most of all, recalling how she and her best friend Brixton Davis had a child, fell in love, and can't seem to get their relationship together.

In a hospital room, Jade Preston is trapped inside of a comatose body. She cannot see, move or speak, but hears every word. The body she is inside of is badly injured and the visitors she listens to speak of the woman Jade hates the most--one she has never met--the closest friend of Jade's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Brixton Davis.

Last Request is my third completed novel, but the first I am submitting for representation. It received good feedback in the BLAHBLAH Writing Contest. I have a blog, detailing my writing process, and have a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College.

Please let me know if you'd like to see a partial or a complete manuscript.


Michelle Athy

P.S.: Some quickie articles on queries:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marginally OK Second Draft: C'est fini!

12:07 am, May 7, 2010...

And I just wrote the last sentence to the second draft of the soul swapping/ paraweirdo book that I've tentatively given the working title My Last Request to.

It came out at 84, 831 words, double-space, 327 pages. I'd like it to be up at 330 pages, honestly, but that'll have to come in the 3rd draft--whenever I get to that. Think I'll do a read-through tomorrow in between reading other people's manuscripts, then, perhaps, have a few other people read it.

But, for now, c'est fini. This is the third second draft I've done from February 2009 til now.

The next draft of this? Tweaking. Trying to learn the art of pretty prose, etc. The pejorative nickname?

The Hopefully Better Third Draft.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bringing something over from Word Wenches. It's a post about racial diversity in romances:

Sunday, May 2, 2010


*Insert your preferred Gerard Butler in loincloth photos here*

Yes, page 300. A love scene, if you will.

-Chapter 34. Present Day. Boston. Eva has gone a little off the deep end and she and Brix have an argument.
-First word: #78, 229 of 83, 353 words
-Last Word: #78, 534 of 83, 353 words

First sentence: The bra clasp snaps open and the constriction around my shoulders disappears.
Last sentence: The darkness behind my eyes tips to the side, the shakes up and down and then I no longer feel Brix inside of me, on top of me.

Dun, dun, dun...

Next update will be when I finish. Almost there! Word tells me I have 321 pages.