Friday, September 30, 2011

Time to Raise a Glass

Recent news of alums getting agents and publication contracts makes me think it's time to run a post on the exciting happenings of late. Rather than comment now, please send good news to Claire via email or Facebook for a post in two weeks. Jamie, Christine, Diane, Loretta, Tamera, and other Hamline students and alums . . . No better time to celebrate.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Public Side of the Writing Life

I have been off the blog recently with my energy focused on the public side of the writing life. It's a crazy sometimes, isn't it? We go from writing in our pajamas until noon to talking about a book that we wrote many moons ago, while wearing lipstick. I am happy to have launched my new book Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women's Suffrage with two events in Spokane recently. Saturday I head for California to present at suffrage centennial events and libraries, and Naomi Kinsman Downing's Inklings program in Menlo Park. Hurray. Support from our fellow writers is so valuable. I wish I could be in Minneapolis to attend one of Anne Ursu's upcoming book readings for her new novel Breadcrumbs. Or to have attended Mary Rockcastle's novel launch last Friday night at Hamline. Congrats to you both.

We are never too old to appreciate friendly faces in the crowd. That's what makes a Hamline residency reading so special. The entire crowd knows the journey the writer has been on and has cheered every step. At my Spokane reading, one of my writing group buddies said afterwards, "As I heard you read, I remember all your revisions and the choices you made." Those writing friends know my book like those that work backstage on a play. New readers experience only the story that exists now on the page.

Marsha Qualey was here last weekend to present at our Spokane SCBWI conference with a wonderful presentation on character. What I especially loved is for that hour in the day we didn't focus on marketing or publication, other public sides of the writing life, but rather on the writing that begins and ends with story and character.

The public side of writing is so important. We have to get out in the world to share our work and learn how to do it better. But how I also love the return to the quiet life of putting words down on paper, an energy that comes from inside.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In re Empathy

ECU's Mock Trial Team is wrestling with a first-degree murder case this season. The students assume attorney and witness roles for the prosecution and defense in a fictional, 357 page case, sans addenda, that's chock-full of twists, reasonable doubt, and evidence--LOTS of evidence.

As a coach, I am duty-bound to help a student-witness enter a character's life--so that she understands the person so deeply that she becomes that person. Her role surpasses cheap acting or bathos. This is a nation-wide competition, and the team will compete with the "best." But, more importantly, a student learns to understand another's choices or lack of choices. In short, she practices empathy.

I tell a student (ad nauseum) that the jury must "feel and believe your story." You must live, eat, and breathe every facet of that person's life. The "witness" isn't a witness. She's a human being. She's a second victim. She's hurting. Or, maybe she's pleased with herself (her role as accessory--obtaining the date-rape drug for the Defendant is "no biggie"). What would she do? What would she say? How can you make her sympathetic? Make her real.

So, last week, I had a moment. I sat in the office, staring down a WIP and realized that I don't follow my own advice. I try. But, I'd committed a reckless failure to "empathize" with the protag. (done without malice aforethought, but still...). Then I got over myself, opened a blank page, and remembered that writing is an act of crafting argument, after argument, after argument, persuading the reader by offering evidence, so that she'll draw the conclusions about the character and her journey. The evidence must be believable. Or else, a reader, advisor, (or jury) won't buy it.

How do you choose the evidence (during revision) that best showcases your character? How much evidence does your reader need? How do you step into your character's skin (without committing battery)? Share your Getting-to-Know-Your-Character exercises.

BTW, Happy Book Birthday to Anne Ursu's novel, Breadcrumbs! Go, Anne! :0)

This post is adjourned...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Eating peaches on T.S. Eliot's birthday

Today is T.S. Eliot's birthday. He was born in St. Louis in 1888.

A serious reader could feed off "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock," "The Wasteland," or "The Four Quartets" for a long time and still leave plenty of meaning on the bones for the next reading.

But today I want to celebrate his birthday with a bit of wonderful description of a cat,
Macavity: The Mystery Cat in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

We are already following this cat, just from these few lines, because he's a thinker, alert even when he looks asleep. Yet he's thin, neglected, a loner.

We can learn a lot about describing characters from the practical cats. In fact, just reading this poem makes me want to read the whole book and then try to describe a neighborhood cat or a remembered dog.

Of course we could learn from Eliot's more serious poems, too. But that's a huge topic, for another birthday--or a year's worth of birthdays. Still, I can't leave without saying thanks to T.S. Eliot for these lines from "Little Gidding" the fourth of The Four Quartets--

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Let's eat a peach for T.S. Eliot and not cease from our exploring and, as Gertrude Stein must have said (because I wrote it down in January, 2010, at our residency): "Write bravely."

ur exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nurse, More Anesthesia, Please

This really belongs under Cheryl's post about memory but it's a little long. Here's the skinny --

I don't want to remember what I've written. At all. I like to come to yesterday's pages as if I've never seen them before. Forgetting is easy for me. I can remember the name of every horse that swept past the favorite and cost me money, but I look up the phone number of somebody I call all the time. I've always been this way. I don't need more lecithin.

The other day I was e-chatting with a guy who wanted me to write a blog piece for him. He quoted passages from "Stoner & Spaz" and asked me how I made them so memorable. I said if I knew that I'd be rich and famous.

But I do know how I do it. A little bit, anyway. I'm a ruthless cutter, as most of you know. So when I barely remember yesterday's work it's easy to see what needs to stay and what should go. I'm a little like the surgeon who operates willingly on strangers but wouldn't want to cut on somebody he loved.

Anyway, remembering everything reminds me of clinging. Koala bears cling and they're cute, but they're crappy writers. Don't be a koala. Be a surgeon. The pay is better.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Remembering Stories

Has anyone read Moonwalking With Einstein, by Joshua Foer? The author explores the world of competitive memorizing, including contests to see who can be the first to memorize the order of a deck of cards. Mental athletes prepare for these feats by associating each card with a person, action, and object. Foer explains:

“The king of hearts, for me, was Michael Jackson moonwalking with a white glove. The king of clubs was John Goodman eating a hamburger, and the king of diamonds was Bill Clinton smoking a cigar. If I were to memorize the king of hearts, king of clubs, and king of diamonds in order, I would create an image of Michael Jackson eating a cigar.”

Thus remembering the order of 52 cards becomes streamlined into remembering the order of 17 images. What strikes me about this is how interwoven the process of story is with the process of memory. Essentially, the memory champions translate small sets of cards into mini-stories that are so absurd that they stick in the brain. The power of the image comes partially from the randomness of the juxtaposition, and partially from whatever symbolic power is embedded in the people, actions and objects that were originally chosen. The more potent those items are to start, the more haunting the image.

It’s interesting to then extrapolate to our work…and think of each story as a series of powerful images, built by words, that we hope will stick in readers’ brains. Or perhaps the images call forth the readers’ own memories as they relate a story to their lives. Or consider the role of memory in creating our stories.

Just a few thoughts to noodle on--when you aren’t busy memorizing decks of cards.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Revision Time And the Livin' Ain't Easy

Distractions, distractions, distractions... The fall weather, and its air, tinged with burning firewood, the leaves, on the cusp of that fire-color, and coffee shops summonsing you inside for a pumpkin-spiced latte, will tempt the most disciplined among us. Despite what Annie Dillard says, this is still a fave time of year to write. Thick cardigans, long, striped socks, and crock pot dinners fuel this writer. Period.

Ever notice that when we reach part of a story that feels impossible, that will require a total re-haul, that just ain't working, everything else is more appealing? What if we incorporate those distractions into the process? Hey, if we're on Facebook for an hour, we may as well do so, guilt-free. Right?

You're nodding right now, huh?

What if your character had a Facebook page? I don't suggest that you create one for real. Unless, you want to... Warning: Nothing would help your non-writerly friends commit you faster than if your MC, a toad named Mr. Warts, who wears a bow tie and is single and interested in men and women, friend requested them. Seriously.

Think about the FB template. Who would be your character's top friends? Who would the character list as family? Who would she leave out? How about those photo albums? How would she organize and name them? Favorite books? Songs? Whose friend requests would she accept? Even better, whom would she deny?

Try it. Facebook's callin'. Time to pour a cup o' pumpkin spice and log-in, guilt-free.
What's on your MC's FB page?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Connecting With Colleagues: SCBWI

In Chicago, my office was in the basement—ensconced in classic ‘70s knotty pine paneling, glass block windows and an uneven cement floor just perfect for roller skating on and busting your head open. Here in Connecticut, my office is a writer’s dream, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and quaint half-shuttered windows. Oddly, I’m still located right by the washer/dryer. And it’s still just me, sitting here, alone, typing away and not doing laundry.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Hamline is connecting to a strong writers community. Another great place to find colleagues is the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Most folks know about the many conferences and events organized by SCBWI each year. In addition, regional chapters provide a variety of opportunities for personal and professional growth:

- Check out the Illinois chapter’s autumn issue of The Prairie Wind. Besides being chock full of information, publications like these provide opportunities for publishing and editing experience. Hamline alumna Jodell Sadler is writing a regular PW column that analyzes craft elements in books. I’ve been assistant editor for the last four years—a boon to both my skills and résumé.

- Hamline alumni Amy Laughlin, Kristin Aker Howell and Naomi Kinsman Downing are collectively the regional advisors for the San Francisco South chapter. Contributing in any capacity to planning and executing programs often offers a deeper perspective on our industry.

- Many chapters have listservs of some variety, where members can cheer each other on and swap advice on everything from the writing process to skyping school visits. Publishers know about these networks too, and sometimes circulate job opportunities or “wish lists” for manuscripts.

The best part of all is having colleagues, and the camaraderie of working together--no matter how far apart our desks are in their various basements and book-filled nooks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"What Do Women Want"

Don't worry. I'm not going to try and answer that question. In fact, it's just the title of a Kim Addonizio poem that I love and that I recently happened onto. Here it is w/out it's title --

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Doesn't that just kill? Kim is a tough cookie, anyway, and lots of her poetry is scalding. I like to turn people onto poems and to poets like Kim because I don't think living poets get read enough. Thanks to the net, lots of terrific poems are on-line and free. You can read more by Kim or Dorrianne Laux or Denise Duhamel or Tony Hoagland just by hitting a few buttons.

By the way, thinking back to last week's censorship discussions, poetry is rarely censored. Here's an old joke that everybody in the poetry business knows: Q. "What happens to poets who write obscene poems that advocate overthrowing the government?" A. "They get published in an independent literary magazine."

Ba-dum. Rim shot. And often painfully true.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Express trains and locals

When I was in Maine in August, Rich and my brother and I drove north to Aroostook County to see my mother. We stopped for coffee before heading into the north woods--and ended up buying books. I was excited to find, at half-price, Stephen Sondheim’s memoir Finishing the Hat. For this month I’ve been bopping along with Sondheim as he tells the stories of his own writing. And this week I’ve also been thinking about Claire’s recent post on writing about 9/11, and by extension, any tragic or complicated moment.

We know that when writers are dealing with hard, heavy stuff they often break it up with humor—the classic example is the Porter’s long speech in Macbeth, right after Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have murdered the king. Humor is part of the pacing of tragedy.

Where I am in the songwriter’s career is not at a tragic moment but farcical. Sondheim is recounting the difficulties of writing music for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: “I grumbled that Forum would be better off as a play than a musical…Burt [Shevelove, co-writer of the book] replied that if it were just a play, it would be relentlessly and unrelievedly funny and the audience, unable to recover between gasps of laughter, would soon become restless for a breathing space.”

Sondheim goes on to say, “The tighter the plotting the better the farce, but the better the farce the more the songs interrupt the flow and pace. Farces are express trains; musicals are locals. Savoring moments can be effective while a farce is gathering steam, but deadly once the train gets going. That’s why the songs in Forum are bunched together in the first half of the first act, where there is more exposition than action, and then become scarcer and scarcer until the last twenty minutes before the Finale there are no songs at all.”

I’m still thinking about how this applies to writing novels or non-fiction, but I’m glad for the increased awareness of the momentum of a piece of writing. And I’m glad for the metaphors. Maybe it’s true for all of us--sometimes our writing is an express train, sometimes it’s a local. And the question then is what material is best suited for the local train, what for the express?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Writing About 9/11

I didn't expect to be writing a post today. It's a beautiful morning and the outdoor beckons. But all week I have been reading and listening to commentaries on the anniversary of 9/11 and this morning I couldn't help but ponder - how do we write about 9/11 for young readers? Most of whom were not alive when the tragic event happened. How does it affect our writing choices ten years later?

I remember that morning all too well, as vivid as JFK's assassination or the Challenger disaster. For my kids, 9/11 is a defining moment for them as teens. Early out in the West, that morning we were just getting our day started when our daughter's boyfriend called to tell us to turn on the TV. Our son had just started his senior year in high school. Now as an adult, he can read novels like Spokane author Jess Walters' National Book award finalist The Zero with his own experience of the event.

But our readers know only what they hear and read about. Some children's writers have effectively used the towers as a metaphor for the pre-9/11 New York City as in the picture book The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. The Little Chapel that Stood by A. B. Curtiss is a 40 page picture book that features the respite St. Paul's church near Ground Zero offered workers and families.

I believe the most effective picture book that combines both pre and post 9/11 NYC is Maira Kalman's 2002 book "Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey." The story traces the boat's decades of service and especially how it rescued trapped people on September 11th and pumped water for four days in the ravaged city.

Many nonfiction titles have been written about the events. In 2002 twenty children's/YA authors contributed to 911: The Book of Help (Authors Respond to the Tragedy.) But was nine years ago.

I remember reading a YA novel about a girl whose mother died in the towers and she had to leave NYC for a new life with her father. I can't remember or locate the title. Anyone? Can you suggest any well written YA or MG novels that feature 9/11?
I just found a blog listing new 9/11 books, forty titles for adults and only two for children/YA readers: Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan and America is Under Attack: September 11, 2001, The Day the Towers Fell by Don Brown. Why is this so?

How does 9/11 and its aftermath affect us writers ten years later? For me, I believe it's an undercurrent in my life, a feeling that America no longer stands alone. We are one world and by god we'd better figure that out - sooner than later.

Weigh in, folks. I'm just thinking aloud this morning. Has 9/11 affected your writing? Should it?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Stick a Fork in It

I'm done--such deceptive words. Is the end ever THE END? We all know a story goes on after the final word. If I like a book, my pace slows, and I savor every word, reading at the speed of an inebriated snail [an escargot]. This draft of a new WIP doesn't yet have an ending. The closets needed organizing [three times]. The university Mock Trial Team needed a kick-off party. Shell needed six walks yesterday and her toy bin reorganized three times.

As a painter, I step away from a painting when a chill comes over me. Seriously, the muscles in my upper body quiver. I sense the painting's done. I walk away, pleased, ready to begin a new one--which reminds me of a lyric from Semisonic's song Closing Time: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end..." Maybe none of those paintings are finished. Maybe their endings are only the beginning of a future painting.

Do y'all think we ever finish our stories? Similar themes, situations, places reemerge because we aren't ever ending anything? Are we all end-o-phobic?

The ending of this new WIP is driving me batty. The end is near--it's called a deadline. Maybe the end's buried somwhere in Chapter 18. Anyway, at least the apartment's organized.

So, how do you know when you're finished? When's your story over? What makes an ending, an ending?

The End.

Forks, WA: Tourist Haven for Twilight Lovers

Two weeks ago my husband had business out on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state and I joined him for an extended pleasure trip of stunning Pacific Ocean scenery and wildlife. One morning we stopped in the little town of Forks for coffee. Forks used to be a thriving lumber town. Now it is a thriving literary haven for Twilight fans. I am not going to pretend to be a big fan of the series, but I do admire the excitement it has brought to readers, to the point of visiting the fictional locations of Bella and Edward's haunts.

I chatted up the clerk at the grocery store and learned that Stephanie Meyer has visited Forks twice, once after the first book came out and later after one of the movie premieres. It's fairly well known that Meyer chose the rainiest/foggiest town in America for her setting, researching the location on the Internet. We don't always need to visit the locations of our stories. But we do need to evoke a deep sense of place in our stories. Does Meyer evoke the essence of Forks in her Twilight books? Apparently so. To the point, that the Chamber of Commerce even designated on a map a home that Bella likely would have lived in and the Italian restaurant in Port Angeles where Bella and Edward likely had their first date.

As Cheryl posted recently, setting is always a big factor in our writing - where our stories take place and where we live while writing them. Few authors have devoted fans who visit their story locations. But we can all work on writing vivid settings that draw readers in. What's a popular literary haunt in your part of the country?

Through sunshine and hurricanes, fall leaves and winter snow, write on.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Censorship? Or Parenting?

That’s the classic debate that comes up when Ron mentions parents who read the books they don’t want their children to read. I’m that kind of parent. I don’t consider it censorship, since I’m not campaigning for decisions in my home to become mandated policy in other homes. But plenty of folks have told me they are surprised that an author would be a “censor” for her own children.

So is it censorship or parenting when I don’t allow my son to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid until he’s in 5th grade? I first said no when we saw it at the school bookfair last fall. Said no again after each report of the many other 7-year-olds in his class who were reading it. Said no for a final time when sending teary boy back to the school library with a book that he’d checked out even though I’d already said no. I didn’t say “never.” But to a 7-year-old “in a few years” might as well be “never.”

We did read a few chapters together. When I asked why Ethan thought them funny, he pointed to the most surface level of slapstick. Everything else sailed over his head. Guess I could let him read the series now…then it’d be old hat by the time he’s mature enough to understand why some call the main character a “bad role model.” Would be a shame, though, for him to miss out on the true heart and humor of the books. A double shame really, because what other books wouldn’t we have time for that he’s in the sweet spot for now?

I “censored” Beverly Cleary in the same way. We held off on reading the Ramona books because my son doted on his baby sister and there was no need to plant the seed that little sisters can be annoying. Now that he’s 8 and she’s 4, they’ve reached that place in their own good time—and the Ramona books are perfect! I expect that’s what will happen with the Wimpy Kid series in a few years. And by then, there will be a whole new set of books for which I’m saying “no” or “not right now.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Love Me or Leave Me

As a sidebar to the blog tour I took for NOW PLAYING, people contact my publicity gals to see if I want want to write something else. Like 500 words on censorship. Sure, why not. This isn't that piece, of course. This is a blog. But I do have an extra thought or two, and here they are. Do I feel censored when a librarian puts STONER & SPAZ on a special shelf dedicated to challenged books? Not really. I like to be in a little bit of trouble, anyway. And the company is good on those shelves. Mark Twain is usually there, and he's a hoot.
Once or twice in the past, I sat on panels about censorship. Naturally the sponsors assumed I was against censorship, and I guess I was. But I liked the parents who'd read books they didn't want in their homes and were both passionate and articulate about it. Afterwards I told some of them that I admired their position and they were stunned that I wasn't busy dragging their children to the brink of the fiery pit and had time to be cordial.
And then there's the phenomenon called Hardening the Collective. That occurs when Side A of the censorship issue shouts at Side B and B shouts back. Neither can change its mind. Neither wants to. Firm beliefs ossify. Then rigor mortis sets in. I don't want to be part of that. I'm busy being snarky and shouting at slow race horses.
And anyway -- is it really my job to defend what I write? Some people won't like some of it; others will love it. I'll settle for that.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Giuseppe Verdi in the the rain

Yesterday afternoon was one of those rainy times when it felt just right to settle in with the latest issue of the Horn Book Magazine.

Of course I wanted to take a look at “Project Child’s Play,” by Hamline’s own Betsy Thomas, in which Heidi moderates as Peter Rabbit, Madeline, and Pinocchio judge new “looks” created for some of our favorite children’s book characters by some of our favorite book characters—Cinderella, Eeyore, Puss in Boots. Read it and laugh. It “Could not [be] more fabulous!”

And there’s a nice review of Ron’s Now Playing:Stoner & Spaz II.

And, since it was still raining, I went to Leonard Marcus’s interview with Maurice Sendak about his new book Bumble- Ardy. Sendak is as crusty as ever—and as stimulating.

What really stood out for me in this interview was the varied combination of influence and circumstance that resulted in Bumble-Ardy. Though the book is about a party, it did not come from an excess of happiness in Sendak’s life. Instead, he said, “It was a very difficult time. I was working on it when my partner and friend was dying of cancer…Eugene died, and then I had bypass surgery. I was doing the book to stay sane….”

Also important to Bumble-Ardy was a book Sendak was reading on the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi was partly important to him because the composer produced two of his best operas after he turned eighty. This fact spurred Sendak to try for “something extraordinary” at this time in his life. There was more-- Sendak suggests the palette for this new book is “Verdi-esque.” He goes on, “Verdi was such an enormous help to me as I worked on the book.”

So we have: a miserable, grieving time in the writer’s life and Giuseppe Verdi. Then add in Sendak’s memories of Coney Island, his own childhood (of course), his continuing “deep feeling for children who are in dire trouble,” and maybe even the personality of Ursula Nordstrom.

This interview is a reminder that, though we aren’t, and shouldn’t be, aware of it while we are writing, our books are like our dreams, made up of the crazy variety that’s stored in the mental attic. Nothing is wasted.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Introducing East-Coast-Cheryl

So I’ve been offline while we made the big move. Within two weeks we’re unpacked, pictures and drapes are hung, and the moving boxes are handed off to others a la Craig’s List. Poof! Like magic, I’m transformed from Chicago/Midwest-Cheryl into Connecticut/East-Coast-Cheryl.

Gives new perspective to the Hamline residency that focuses on setting. I grew up in Ohio and have been in Chicago for 22 years. When my husband applied for his new job, I wondered, “Can I live on the East Coast? What parts of me will stay the same? What will be different?” The only way to find out was to come.

So far, East-Coast-Cheryl is addicted to the iphone app that shows my car as a purple dot on a roadmap. Roads here don’t subscribe to the grid system and street signs are inexplicably underfunded. Lots of people rely on geo-whatever-brand-mapping systems these days, but the important thing here is how my character feels about this detail of setting in my story. Chicago-Cheryl didn’t even have an iphone (there’s a telling character detail for you). Chicago-Cheryl knew where things and even when I didn’t, street signs and a glorious grid system were there to guide me. East-Coast-Cheryl feels indignant about major intersections with traffic lights and multiple spokes but zero street signs. I recognize, however, that nobody here thinks twice about it, which then makes East-Coast-Cheryl feel somewhat powerless in this new setting. Writer-Wherever-She-is-Living-Cheryl thinks there’s fodder here for a story in which getting lost is a repeating motif and spurs key plot points.

Don’t worry, I’m actually settling in fine. But I did previously promise an existential-identity-crisis post and don’t want to disappoint. And hey, East-Coast-Cheryl gets to eat soup and wear sweaters in the evenings as early as late August. Dig that.

So how does setting influence the character in a story you’re writing?

Or how did setting define something in your own life today that might be fuel for your stories?