On the Broom

I’ve never been one to jump on bandwagons. Following the crowd is just not in my nature. In fact, if something is extremely popular, more than likely I will run screaming from it.  For example, I have never seen the movie Titanic, haven’t even read one whole page of the Twilight saga, and in spite of living in the smack middle of the south, I loathe country music.

I’m not saying these things are bad. They aren’t. They’re just not my cup o’ tea.

It’s not a conscious choice to avoid the things the rest of the world loves. It just somehow happens that way.  Perhaps my early years as a Sci-Fi geek somehow conditioned me to think against the grain.  I was often the lone girl in midst of Star Wars debates.  And while my friends were watching Dallas (original version) on Friday nights, I was tuning into PBS to watch Doctor Who (original version.)

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that while you’re tuning into the Olympics to watch the figure skating or snowboarding, I’m staying up to watch the late night broadcasts of my favorite Winter Olympic sport –  Curling.

My love for Curling began during the last Winter Olympics. I was home for almost the duration of the games due to a bad case of pneumonia. I was heavily medicated and miserable. Most of the time I couldn’t tell if it was day or night outside my window. I slept a lot, but after a few days, I was tired of sleeping. Desperate for something else to do in the middle of the night, I turned on the TV to ESPN 2 or 3 (Or Ocho!) and watched my first Olympic Curling match.

At first I was confused and certain my spiking fever had led to hallucinations of some kind. (Especially when the men’s team from Norway were playing. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should go google “Curling Pants”) But I soon came to realize that there was, in fact, an actual Olympic sport that contains sweeping. With brooms! It was madness! But it was also completely mesmerizing.

For the uninitiated, Curling is like shuffle board on ice. One team member slides the stone, also known as rock, (made of actual granite from Scotland or Wales, where the sport originated) down the curling sheet (long patch of ice) and tries to land the stone in the center target.  While the stone is moving down the ice, two other team members use brooms to sweep the surface of the ice in order to change the direction or momentum the stone.

It’s a complex game of strategy that involves offense (getting your stone in the house for points) and defense (guards placed in front of the target to keep the opposing team’s stones from getting in). There is constant collaboration between the team revolving around the amount of force and direction in each throw of the stone.

The game comes with its own unique phrases that don’t make a lot of sense.  Call it literary license.  “On the broom” does not mean you ride on the broom. “Losing the handle” refers the rock, not the broom. The matches are divided not by quarters or periods, but ends.

Oh, and there’s a lot of yelling! The women seem to especially like to yell at the stones as they travel down the sheet.  Kind of like I do when I’m bowling.

The sport of Curling has everything – history, drama, skill, strategy, and whimsy.  It’s out there on the fringe of sports with its own cult following. Less than popular. More than appealing to me.

So Shaun White, you’re awesome Dude. Evgeni Plushenko? You deserve every medal you’ve ever won.  But for my money, Curling is the sport to watch.  One day, I’d like to try Curling. If my body can bend that far down without breaking, that is.  

I think I’ll call my broom Firebolt. 

Snow Miser

They say “if you don’t like the weather in Arkansas, wait for tomorrow.”  It’s true. Our weather is pretty much all over the place.  It’s not uncommon for us to sport shorts and flip-flops one day, then pull the hoodies over our heads the next. Right now it is 21 degrees. Next Monday, they’re predicting 69 degrees.  It’s kind of exciting when you think about it –  not knowing what to expect when you wake up each day.

I am not a summer person. I hate the sweltering heat that leaves your steering wheel too hot to grip and forces you inside just so you can breathe.  Seriously, when you can see the heat, it’s too hot.  I have friends who love the sun and would literally live on the beach. Forget having a roof over their heads, a beach umbrella would do.  Sometimes I envy their ability to soak up massive amounts of Vitamin D and look radiant and sun-kissed.  Most of the time though, I think they’re crazy.

Me? Give me mounds of snow to crunch in and pure, crisp air to breathe. The more layers I have to add, the better.  Cold air makes me feel alive and refreshed. To me, Icicles are prettier than sweat-ringed arm pits.  Snow trumps sand.

Right now, I’m in my element.  It’s cold.  Just a few days ago I was frolicking in the snow with my snappy winter fedora. (Yes, I frolic.) My friends are speaking to me through chattering teeth and bringing Snuggies to work.  But before too long I’ll be cranking up the AC and fanning myself like a poor Southern Belle overcome with the consumption; while my friends will be happy to sport glorious tans and designer sandals.

Isn’t it great that we both get our way at least some of the time?

I’ve been thinking about polarizing things lately. I read a book last weekend. (This book will remain nameless. This is a spoiler-free zone!) This was the last book in a particular series. And I have to say, it didn’t end in the way I predicted.  Credit to the author because that is actually a good thing.  If your readers can predict what will happen, why would they read the book?

While I felt like the writing was awesome, the story well-concluded, the protagonist triumphant, I was still left with an unsatisfied feeling.  Why?

Because heroine didn’t pick the right guy!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. It’s not all about the dude.  I get that.  But a major portion of the book was about the emotional/romantic journey the protagonist was taking.  And try as I may, I just can’t remain neutral in a triangle situation.  

I went to the internet to see if other readers had the same reaction to the conclusion of this series as I did.   What I found was very interesting.  The reviews on Good Reads and Amazon were about as polarizing as Heat Miser and Snow Miser.  I saw a lot of 5*, but there were 1* and 2* reviews as well.  The comments showed why –  the readers were squarely on Team A or Team B.  They either loved who she ended up with or, like me, they wanted her to choose the other guy. 

As a writer, this is something to consider. She successfully created two characters who were polar opposites, but who each garnered emotional connections to readers.  Each of these guys had attractive qualities, but they were both deeply flawed as well.  There was growth and change in both of them. As a result, readers actually cared who the protag picked.

I suspect this author knew this was going to happen and she ended the story in the way she wanted.  I admire her for that.  I can’t wait to read what she writes next. 

Until then, I’ll be sitting huddled here with the rest of Team A, wrapped in my wool scarf and waiting for the next snowfall. 

What’s Next?

Last week, I made the important first submission of my manuscript.  I sent it, with prayers and hopes, on its way and now I wait for the response.

The day after my submission I found myself sitting at my laptop saying, “Now what?”

Truth be told, I had no idea.

I have writery things I could be doing. Things like making a list of agents to submit to, polishing my query letter, proofing my manuscript for typos and mistakes for the umpteenth time.  But I couldn’t find motivation to do any of those things.   

Now I’ve read that sometimes the best thing a writer can do is to take a break. Walk away for a few days or weeks even, refresh, cultivate ideas, be inspired by little things.

Yeah, I figured out that I’m not so good at that kind of thing.

What did I do instead?  I wrote the first 500 words of the next manuscript.  Then I wrote the next 500 words. And then I wrote more. Now it’s three whole chapters.  

I feel refreshed, inspired, and ready to continue. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this story. 

You say, “But Michelle, you’re the writer, you decide what happens next!”

Yes, I’m the writer, but to me, the best part of being the writer is letting the story tell itself.  It’s the discovery of the characters in the midst of the words that is the reason I’m writing in the first place. It’s the magic that brings me to this slightly uncomfortable chair with strategically placed pillows, and sofa table that has become a writing desk. 

I can’t wait for the rest of this story to pop out of my head. I didn’t intend to write a series when I began the last manuscript. I know my genre. There are a lot of trilogies (with novellas in between), but I know the odds of a debut author actually selling a series are slim.  Yet somewhere in the middle of this process, I discovered there was a much bigger story to tell.  It was just the beginning and I want to know what is going to happen next.

I hope that one day other people will want to know too.

(By the way, if you recognized the title of this blog as a quote from “The West Wing” then you win! It’s one of my favorite shows of all time. Writers, if you want a Master Class on writing voice, watch it. Aaron Sorkin is a wizard with words!)