Monday, February 22, 2010

How Orson Scott Card Ruined My Workout

What I'm reading right now: Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card

Okay, that's not entirely true. I just finished Lost Boys.

For this post, I was planning to write about my fabulous writing group and their awesomeness and how I don't deserve to be among them until I really start earning my keep. Then, I finished Lost Boys--the awesomeness of the writers' group can wait. I'm sure it will make for a fine post, later.

I am a late comer to the OSC camp. It was probably 20 years after Ender's Game was published that I first read it (even then it was only after a prompting from my wife--funny how they just know, isn't it?) Well, Ender's Game is a gateway drug and I was quick to understand the brillance that is OSC. I was even fortunate enough to attend Uncle Orson's Literary Bootcamp and spend a week with him. Everytime I think I've got a handle on it, he hits me upside the head with more brillance. But how did he ruin my workout?

I spend an hour to an hour and half driving every work day. I spend most of that time listening to books (a bit less during football season, then I do indulge in some sports radio, but still.) Recently, I've been listening to Lost Boys. Before heading home, I went to the gym and hit the treadmill, while listening to Lost Boys. I was only about a third of the way into my workout when I figured it out. I had to step off the treadmill. The last chapters have such emotional resonance that I had to stop. It became clear rather quickly that the workout could not continue. If I were driving I would've pulled over. I'll have to switch to something else during my workouts, otherwise I'll be fat, then again, at least I'd be fat and happy.

I know a lot of people don't like this particular novel. Some kind of like it, while others didn't like it but eventually came around. I love just about any novel that moves me--that has a lasting impact on me. That makes me feel like I know these characters. I read The Da Vinci Code and I was entertained, but I can't hardly remember any specifics about it. I don't think the Lost Boys will fade from me for a very long time, if ever.

Some of the subject matter will not appeal to everyone, but it's a credit to Card to make a compelling story out of Mormons going to church, although there's certainly more to the book than that. As well, I've yet to read an author who can do deep penetration like he can. What he achieved with this book is what I try to do in my own writing, make an emotional impact, show sacrifice and love. He did it beautifully.

I thought this quote from his website sums it up perfectly:

"Orson Scott Card's forthright, moving prose, his remarkable gift for chronicling everyday tragedies and triumphs, and his uncanny ability to conjure up emotions-his characters' and his readers'-all blend together in a poignant, masterful novel." ~ Lost Boys

It is said that every author leaves a bit of himself in everything he writes. In this story Card leaves more than a bit. I remember him saying at Bootcamp that this is essentially an autobiography. At the end of the audio book he gave a brief interview and talked about how difficult it was to write because it is such an intimate telling of his life and how he will never do such a thing again. "I did it too well," he says. "I will never do it again because the cost is too great."

I'm grateful that he dared write it. Aside from the amazing writing itself, I found much that I could relate to.

This will probably sound corny, although it sounded pretty good in my head, but I'm reminded of that line from the movie, As Good As It Gets. Melvin and Carol are at dinner and in order to compliment her, he explains that he took his medication that day. Carol doesn't quite understand so he puts it another way, "You make me want to be a better man."

OSC, you make me want to be a better writer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life, the Universe, & My Everything

What I'm reading right now: Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

I had the opportunity of attending LTUE: Life, the Universe, & Everything this past weekend. It is the longest-running, largest student-organized science fiction and fantasy symposium in the US. Indeed, this weekend was the 28th meeting of LTUE. It is hosted by Brigham Young University and not only does its longevity speak to its uniqueness so does its cost to attend: it's free.

To quote from its Mission Statement:

"The purposes of this symposium are first, to provide a venue for scholarly examination of these genres; second, to accommodate and facilitate personal contact between aspiring and professional practitioners in the field; and third, to combine the depth of an academic symposium with the excitement of a science fiction convention. We are passionately devoted to the premise that the thought experiment of speculative fiction, in its breadth, variety, and color, is a rich personal and social laboratory for exploring the spiritual foundations of our temporal world."

I have attended this event for a few years now. I have some great memories of interesting panels and amazing keynote speakers, this year's Brandon Sanderson was no exception.

In fact, anytime you find yourself with the occasion of listening to Brandon Sanderson, it's an event you should endeavor to attend. A couple of years ago, Brandon was on a booktour for Elantris and, thanks to the efforts of a good friend, I had the fortune of lunching with Mr. Sanderson. Even then, a causul meeting over french onion soup, left an indelible impression.

As you may know, I'm a big fan of Orson Scott Card. It was OSC whose quote graces the cover of Elantris saying, "Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years."

This year's conference was as satisfying as ever. Brandon Mull was a big draw, hosting several Q&A sessions. James Dashner was as insightful and entertaining as ever, even adding his unique flavor to a live recording of Writing Excuses: Pacing with James Dashner. Not to mention a guest appearance by 80's hearthrob Richard Hatch, Apollo, of the original Battlestar Galactica series. Seen here with my good friend Sabine:

What was my overall take on the weekend? It was well worth my time, but here's the biggest thing I took away from a weekend rich with writing advice: stop talking about it and do it. Personally, I feel like I have many of the trappings of a writer: I have an alphasmart Dana for on-the-go writing. I've been a part of an amazing writer's group for several years now, I've attended a number of conferences, heck, I even painted a white board on the back of the door to my den, but what I have not done is write a full fledged novel (nanowrimo doesn't count.)

I don't take anything away from those who gave of their time and talent to LTUE; I am grateful for their selflessness and willingness to share, but the biggest impression left on me this year was just how much I haven't done. It's time to stop posing as a writer and make the decision to actually be a writer.

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