Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Flashback: Desperately Seeking Susan

I'm just gonna go ahead and say I love the movie Desperately Seeking Susan. Have you all seen this movie? If not, what are you waiting for! It's so quirky and cute and Madonna and Rosanna Arquette are awesome!

Here is the description from Amazon: Bored New Jersey housewife Roberta fills her days by reading the personal ads and following an ongoing romance between "Jim" and "Susan", a mysterious drifter who leads the kind of free-spirited life about which Roberta can only dream. And dream she does, until the day she actually shows up at the couple's prearranged rendezvous in New York City...and after a bump on the head, a bout of amnesia turns Roberta into Susan and opens the door to intrigue, laughter and love!

I love screwball comedies.

The other day I was talking awesome 80's fashion with my pal Alyssa, and mentioned I went to my Homecoming dance when I was seventeen dressed Madonna-like a la Desperately Seeking Susan and she said, "BLOG IT!"

Then, funnily enough, yesterday my pal Tina blogged her love for this movie, and how it influenced her 15-year-old self when it came to fashion. (Seriously, Tina, I love and adore you even more, if that's possible!)

Now, I wasn't about to rock the parachute pants and though my mom still had her leather pants from the 80's, which looked exactly like the pants Rosanna is sporting on the movie cover, I wasn't about to rock those either. So my mom helped me come up with a skirt alternative.

Costume shopping with my mom is so fun, you guys. We went to Victoria's Secret for a black lace body suit, black bra, and lacy thigh-highs. Hit up the Goodwill store for costume jewelry. Bought lace socks which I painted gold.

And the pièce de résistance: My pyramid jacket! (which my mom made)

Okay, so I don't quite look like Madonna... And I'm not sure how many people at my school had seen this movie (it came out 14 years before) because no one knew what the heck was going on with my outfit.

And the ticket collector took one look at me and said, "It's Cyndi Lauper!"
But whatever. That outfit was so totally me and I loved it.

You know what else I love? This song:

(which is in the movie)

So, Alyssa and Tina - what do you think? Did I do 80's Madonna-inspired fashion justice?

Have a flashback of your own to share? Join in the fun at Tia's blog!

Happy Friday, folks!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Outta the Mouths of Babes: The Discipline Plan/ Concept of Time Edition

ANNELIE [Looking at discipline chart]: Hey, it says I'm on 'no art' but I didn't move my clip today!

ME: That was left over from yesterday.

ANNELIE: No, it wasn't yesterday. It was today tomorrow.

(she has no concept of time in any form - and I love how that leads to many Alice In Wonderland-esque conversations)

Hey mamas out there who remember when I blogged about my latest discipline plan in my constant battle to find something to keep my kids from pitching epic fits in public libraries and cutting bedsheets and eyelashes and giving the other a black eye and being all around Queens of Destruction:

Guess what! The plan has been in effect for a grand total of four months and currently we STILL have a handle on the discipline situation! With the exception of Annelie's self-cut hair-do which she rang in the new year with, we've been destruction-free for months. YIPPEE!

You can read all about our discipline plan {HERE}

I've got to say, I sort of missed having fantastically appalling stories to share about my adventures with two high-energy little monsters (- er, I mean angels!). But then, the other day, I overheard this:

GRACIE: Hey Annelie, remember when we used to play sword fights with Mommy's knitting needles and when she'd say, "What are you doing," we'd say, "Nothing!"

...and the horror came flooding back and I am SO glad I haven't had a story to share in ages. Also, my friend Starr reminded me that the best is yet to come, as I'm sure to hear this someday:

GRACIE: Hey Annelie, remember when we stole Mom's car and went to TJ for that weekend and the car broke down, and when we got back she said, "Where's my car?" we said, "I dunno, I think it got stolen"...............

(Thanks for that, Starr! But I hope not!)

Happy Thursday, folks!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Marisa the Princess Wastes Time

ATTENTION: Fellow time wasters who also love princesses - you are gonna LOVE this.

My writing partner Shauna mentioned this princess-making site {click here!} yesterday, and I shouldn't have clicked the link but I am weak-willed and couldn't help myself and was instantly sucked in.

You guys! I turned myself into a princess!

I thought I looked just lovely, but Gracie took one look at my picture and said, "That's not even pretty. You're wearing black." So after a discussion on black being classic (in which Gracie didn't agree that black was classic) I turned myself into a different princess...

(This one passed Gracie's princess test)

As I was supposed to be working on my book whilst all this princess-making was going on, I figured turning my book characters into Disneyesque princesses sorta counted...

So I turned my character Lia (from my Sleeping Beauty story) into a princess.

And then Hallie, who is my main character from my gods and monsters story. (Although she wanted nothing to do with all the princessy garb and settled for killer boots and a mini skirt)

After that, I turned my computer over to the kids, to make as many princesses as their hearts desired, and finally stopped my time-wasting.

But that might have been because it was time to stop putting off cooking dinner...

Happy princess making, all you princess lovers!


Monday, April 25, 2011

How I Write: On Inspiration and Perseverance

Vintage Pink Olympia DeLuxe @ Brooklyn Retro

The other day, I had a comment with a question from Jamie, and I thought I'd it share it here:

I have dappled in fiction writing a little bit over the last few years but I have a hard time developing an original idea, sticking with it, and turning it into a legitimate work in progress.

I was wondering if you could share how you find inspiration for the main ideas for your books and how you continue to enhance those ideas over the course of multiple years.

That's a great question, Jamie, and I'm going to answer it in two parts - how I find my ideas and develop them and how I turn those ideas into a legitimate WIP (work in progress).

First, I have to say, the more writing friends I meet, the more I learn that everyone writes differently! Some plan their books in detail, some fly by the seat of their pants while they write (I plan much more than I pants). So if you're interested in writing, and haven't already started, keep in mind that what works for me, might not work for you AT ALL! I'm just sharing.

1.) How I find my ideas and develop them.

I'm going to go ahead and admit that finding ideas and inspiration has never been a problem for me. When I'm bored or need a break from thinking about a project I'm stuck on, I pass the time by challenging myself to come up with ideas based on things I'm interested in learning more about. That's in addition to the ideas that fly at me when I least expect them to.

If you're really stuck on the finding of ideas, try this game which I used to play for fun in high school:

Pick a non-fiction book with lots of random information (I like using encyclopedias or dictionaries for this). Grab a pen and paper and open the book to pages at random and write down at least one thing that mildly (or totally) interests you, and a couple notes on it - just a couple! Do this about 12-15 more times until you have a bunch of random stuff on a page that all interest you.

Do any of them inspire you to learn more about them? Do they remind you of other things you love that you might want to learn more about? If so, write down those notes, too. Can you make connections between any of these items? Even randomly weird connections that might turn into plot, setting, or interesting characters? If so, take what is useful to you from this exercise and stick it in a notebook in case you want to develop it further.

Every time I have a potential story idea, I write it down. I'm a notebook junkie so I have spare notebooks everywhere (at back-to-school season, you can usually grab coiled notebooks from places like Office Max for as little as $.12 a book!) and for each idea that I want to develop further - not necessarily to write a book, but to at least see if I want to write it - I give it it's own notebook.

If I'm already working on a project, I only spend an hour here and there over the course of a few months, or even years, writing down small ideas and inspirations along the way - usually in the form of songs or poems that mesh with the characters or tone of the story, so I can recall them when I am ready to work. Also, if characters pop into my head, or dialogue or subplot ideas, I have a place to put them before I forget.

Shiny new ideas are shiny! But if you are already working on a project, don't set it aside! Finish it first and then take on those shiny new ideas.

The most important thing about finding ideas and writing about them is that you write for YOU. My next project, which I'll begin in November for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) combines my interest in the French Revolution and the ethics of cloning, with this as my theme song (picked as inspiration for tone and pace):

Do I think anyone else will give two hoots about a book like this?

Well, I hope so, but if not, that's okay - I'm so excited to write it that the idea of waiting until November to begin is brutal. Don't be afraid to tell the story you are insanely excited to tell regardless of whether you think it will be marketable. If I worried overmuch about the marketability of of my stories, I'd be too timid to write them!

2.) How I turn my ideas into a legitimate WIP

If you haven't guessed that outlining is important to me, I'll just go ahead and tell you: OUTLINING IS IMPORTANT TO ME.

That doesn't mean I fence myself in with an outline. Oh no, I certainly don't. If I did, the end of my fairy tale WIP would be drastically different because of a character relationship I changed halfway though the first draft (and frankly, that original end would have sucked).

I outline because I need to know the beginning, the middle (including several scenes I am excited to write), and the end. I need to have something I am excited to work toward or else I struggle to find the motivation to get me there!

If you are a pantser, outlining might hold you up. If you aren't sure what you are, grab a few books on writing craft and experiment! I only know my process because I've taken the time to figure it out.

Only after I have outlined and researched until I've reached the point where waiting even one more hour before sitting down to begin my story is too excruciating to handle, I open up my word doc and write.

And that brings me to the number one most important piece of advice when it comes to writing:


There are days when I love my book and my words flow and the sky is blue and the birds sing, and sitting in my chair and working is fun and easy and my book loves me and there are rainbows and sparkles! You guys, I love sparkles!!

There are days when I hate my book and my words won't come and the sky is dark and hateful and the only bird around is a mocking bird and it's ME he's mocking, that little bastard! There are no rainbows and definitely no sparkles. Writing is hard, yo.

But I stick my bum in that chair anyway and I write. And I also delete. And smash my head against the keyboard like that guy from Sesame Street who bangs his head against his piano. I stare at the wall. I cry because I'm frustrated and I always cry when I'm frustrated. I also eat lots of carbohydrates and then hate myself for being a stress-eater. But still I write.

So many people say they want to write a book more than anything but they don't have the time...

Guess what? Me neither! Therefore, I sacrifice in order to have that time. Because being a writer is important to me, I know that in order to be successful, I have to write when I want to, but most importantly, when I don't want to. I have to write when there are better things to do. When it's an awesome TV night. When my muse is being a jerk. When I should be folding the laundry. When my hubs and daughters are at the movie theater watching Gnomeo and Juliet, which I really want to see, but which if I don't see, I'll have two hours to write without interruptions!

Only by writing will you see those shiny ideas to completion!

This post is long, but hopefully helpful?

Happy Monday, folks! Hope you have an excellent week!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Flashback: The Easter Adventure

In fifth grade, my class was assigned a creative spring project and one of the options for the project was to write and illustrate a book, and read it aloud to the first graders at my school.

Write a book!


And read it to my very first audience!

By age eleven, I was pretty darned positive I would grow up to be an author, so naturally I was pumped by this option. Exuberantly, I pulled out my binder paper and markers and got right to work. I ripped off a storyline from one of my favorite cartoon Easter movies, using my collection of stuffed animals as characters instead of the characters from the cartoon.

(Because if you rip off a storyline that has already been proven to be great, yours is automatically great, too. Didn't you know?)

(Also, I didn't understand the concept of plagiarism until middle school)

My story is long, but here is a sample:

The story is about a group of curious animal kids who are excited by the idea of the Easter Bunny coming and decide to go on an adventure to find the Easter Bunny's workshop.

They fall down a rabbit hole...

Find the workshop (although for some reason they do not recognize the workshop as a workshop. You'd think the painted eggs, candy, toys, and the fact that the head office door has a sign reading: MR. EB would give the Easter Bunny's workshop away, but nope).

They wreak havoc.

And at the very end, they have a story they can pass on for generations of enjoyment.

An EPIC adventure tale, I tell ya.

Gracie had me read this story to her the other day, and she thinks eleven-year-old Marisa was brilliant. It's so very nice having fans. However, in usual Marisa fashion, I then proceeded to give her a lecture on plagiarism and after a couple minutes, her eyes glazed over and her head exploded and she shouted out, "BOING!"

(In our house, BOING! is the girl's mercy word, which they came up with in order to handle situations in which Mommy talks too much about boring, over-their-head subjects)

Sometimes I forget she's only five.

Have a flashback of your own to share? Head on over to Tia's blog and join in the fun!

Happy Easter to all you Easter celebrators out there! And to everyone else - have a great weekend!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

SLEEP Theme Song: Rabbit Heart

I've blogged before how much I love (and need) to write to music, and my current work-in-progress, a modern Sleeping Beauty retelling (which I call SLEEP) is no different.

After blogging my love for The Lady of Shalott yesterday, I thought it appropriate to share the #1 song I listen to whenever I need to get into my main character's head:

Rabbit Heart by Florence + the Machine

(click the picture to be magically transported to the video on YouTube)

I've been writing my book for a year and a half now and in that time I've listened to this song over 400 times (according to my iTunes). And the rest of Florence + the Machine's LUNGS album I've listened to close to that much. Oh man, Florence is just so great and this album never stops being amazing.

Also, it amuses me that my other work-in-progress has a bit of an Alice in Wonderland theme to it (only instead of mad hatters and angry queens my character finds herself in a world of gods, monsters and virgin sacrifice. YAY!)

Happy listening, folks!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

National Poetry Month: The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott - John William Waterhouse

Hey! It's National Poetry Month! And guess what? I love poetry.

Of course you wouldn't guess this based on the poems from my 7th grade poetry folder which I occasionally share (like this little gem). And if I were to share the dreadful poems I currently write, you DEFINITELY would not guess that I love poetry. I butcher the art form in embarrassing ways.

My mom read Romantic and Victorian poetry aloud to me when I was young, and for a long time in middle school, I read poetry more than anything - especially heartbreaking love poems and In Memoriams. Sadness and suffering appealed to me very, very much when I was an angsty thirteen-year-old with horrendous hair and no fashion sense to speak of. Now that I'm a mom, I make sure to read tons of poetry to my girls, and wouldn't you know it, Gracie's favorites are the ones that have twisted and sad endings. Like mama, like daughter.

My favorite poem, if you haven't figured it out yet, is The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson. It's too long for me to post here, so I'll just go ahead and leave you with this:

At the age of seven, I was pretty darned positive that Gilbert Blythe was going to one day rescue me from drowning in a super romantic way. Admit it, folks - you had the very same dream.

I like my artwork as I like my poetry - filled with romance, sadness or suffering (bonus when it's all three!) - so it's probably no surprise that my favorite painting is The Lady of Shalott by Waterhouse.

When Will and I had been dating for about a month, he said, "I have a surprise for you," and proceeded to drag me around London (yes, really drag. I was wearing super cute boots that day, but they KILLED my feet). When we reached the Tate Britain, I thought, "Art gallery? I have a date at an ART GALLERY?"


But it gets better. You see, I had told Will at one point in the four weeks we'd been dating that The Lady of Shalott was my favorite painting. Will knew it was in London. I did not. When he pulled me in front of the ginormous painting I think I stared at it for close to a hundred years. In case you don't know this, The Lady of Shalott is even more incredible in person. I probably cried. And if I cried, Will laughed, because he thinks my cry is the funniest thing he's ever seen. (It's too dramatic to even look real, he says)

The way to this girl's heart is depressing artwork and poetry, that's for sure. And Will won my heart yet again when he called a cab for the trip home from the Tate (seriously, those boots were killer).

Happy National Poetry Month, folks!

And now a question for you - What's your favorite poem?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Illustrated Girl in the Garden

The spring flowers are a-blooming and Annelie and I have been taking time to smell the roses.

Is there anything cuter than tattooed knees?

My sources say no, but I might be a little biased.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Kids Draw the Darndest Things

Setting: Crack of dawn (ie 9:30 am) on a Sunday. I'm sleeping, Gracie is bouncing on the bed next to me.

GRACIE: I drew you a picture, Mom!

ME: Ughshgfklaehhwa (I'm not a morning person)

GRACIE: Look at it! I drew you as a mermaid on a surfboard! Aren't you cute? I drew you KISSING.

ME: Umghhaweroug [looks at picture of MERMAID MAKE-OUT ORGY, eyes widening]

Um. Wait. Who am I kissing?

GRACIE: That's Daddy.

ME: And exactly WHO is kissing Daddy?

GRACIE [laughs]: ...

ME [panics]: !!!

GRACIE: That's also Daddy. I drew that one first, but he was too far away to kiss you so I crossed him out.


And on the back, just in case I wasn't sure if she loved me or not:

She does x12!

Nothing like waking up to mermaid orgy art and a huge array of I Love Yous.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Love Notes and Writing Critiques

When author Maggie Stiefvater posted a writing critique partner loooove connection on her blog the other day, I thought, "Too bad I'm not done with my revision. This would have been a good opportunity to meet other writers and receive unbiased feedback on my story."

And then I thought, "Stop being a big fat baby, Marisa. Your first 50 pages of this draft are ready to go and that's all you're supposed to share anyway. You're really just scared that the only people who like your book are your friends - who only tell you they think your story is good because they like you too much to watch you fling yourself off a cliff." *note: I will not fling myself off a cliff.

And then I thought, "Yeah, that's true. And life is all about taking chances. Besides how else will this story get better? Let's do this thing." So I held my breath and posted an ad. My mind has been whirling ever since.

In the last week, I've read some great manuscripts by other writers - stories that I'm excited to watch these writers grow into something so amazing they get agents and book deals and I'll stand in a long, long line to get my copy signed.

I've also received critiques that have renewed my faith in the beast that has consumed my life for the last year and a half. (Not to mention a critique in which the reader did not like one. single. thing about my book. Ouch.) And though the critiques have been at times overwhelming, I'm relieved to have feedback I connect with and direction for making my story even better.

I know my kids have been picking up on my stress this week. Gracie has been slipping me more love notes with big fat kisses on them than usual.

How much do I love my kids? There aren't enough words in the world to answer that question.

Enjoy your weekend, folks! I'm going to be drinking lots of coffee, listening to lots of music, going on lots of walks with the girls to feed my muse, all the while thinking long and hard on how to tame my beast of a book.

It's going to be a great weekend!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

School Portraits

When Gracie handed me her first school portrait envelope, my palms started to sweat. I kid you not. I'm pretty sure the trauma from a decade and a half of awkward school photos is everlasting. I can't even take my family to get posed portraits at the mall because the idea of forcing a smile while a camera person says, "Okay, everyone, say STINKY FEET!" or whatever, makes me want to binge eat at the food court.

But I was relieved when I opened the package. Her kindergarten photo is pretty adorable. One portrait down - no more until first grade! Woo hoo!

Or so I thought... A couple days ago, Gracie came home with ANOTHER ENVELOPE. Unbeknownst to me, her school takes three awkwardly posed portraits a year. THREE! And this little spring portrait is definitely awkward. I haven't purchased yet. I still have two more days to decide whether I want to torture my kiddo for life by framing school photos around the house or not. And if I do buy, here's the million dollar question....


Option A: Awkward pose just before getting mugged in creepy alleyway

Option B: Awkward pose in front of entrance to Mary Lennox's secret garden

Option C: Awkward pose along haunted railroad whilst waiting for zombie apocalypse

Option D: Awkward pose in front of generic faded grey background, reminiscent of my own 80's/90's era traumatically awkward portraits

Option E: Awkward pose in front of ... I have no idea. What in the world is Gracie awkwardly posed in front of?

I'll never forget the first day of 6th grade when, after my teacher took attendance, a boy who hadn't gone to my elementary school and therefore didn't know me or my awkward portraits said, "Wait, you're MARISA MYERS?"

To which I said, "Um. Yeah?"

And the next day he brought in a booklet that had THIS PICTURE:

Preschool Marisa.

At age 11, I took one look at his booklet and was completely mortified. Then I got my 6th grade portrait back and was mortified all over again.

I have triangle hair! I look like Zira from The Planet of the Apes!

But I guess it could have been worse. It could have been as bad as my second grade portrait:

Or the next year - seventh grade:

Luckily by sophomore year of high school, I had the school portrait thing figured out: Wear a dark shirt, give a bored smile while the photographer calls you Wonder Woman (why do they do that?), and when the yearbook comes out with pictures in black and white, NO ONE WILL NOTICE YOU.

Yup, I had it all figured out.

And then came senior portraits. Now I'm not going to say my senior portrait sucked because it didn't. But COME ON - why the weird velvet cape thingie? I didn't have a choice - I HAD to turn my body in angles that my body didn't turn, tilt my head, smile my rehearsed gazing-into-the-distance smile, desperately hope my velvet cape thingie won't fall off and humiliate me.

Ugh. Awkward.

And when this portrait is framed next to awkwardly posed sport photos... well. It doesn't matter how decent your hair and smile are when you're sitting uncomfortably.

At least the photographer didn't make me rest my hand under my chin. I'm so glad my school portrait days are over.

Lucky for me, none of my photos were bad enough to make it into this HILARIOUS list of 30 Awesomely Bad School Portraits.

(you have to click that link. I'm serious, folks. You. Have. To. Click. That. Link.)

And as for Gracie and her spring portrait - I'm really tempted to buy Option C. I mean, what five year old doesn't want a picture of herself standing in front of a haunted railroad track? I might purchase the largest size possible and theme my living room around it. Maybe stick a brain in an apothecary jar on top of the piano.

Happy Wednesday, folks. I dare you to blog about your worst school portrait. Yeah, that's right. You have been DARED.


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