Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

Awards of Versatility & the 15 Magnificent Bloggers

*TRUMPET FANFARE* 

Phew. I was nominated a short while ago for the Versatile Blogger Award by the talented Emmie Mears. Of course, the holidays made it next to impossible for me to adequately respond, but now that it is officially 2012 and – ACK – work is in an hour, it seems a fortuitous moment.

 Here are the rules as they stand, for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1. In a post on your, blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, Add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

 Okay. Fifteen amazing bloggers whom I admire, along with their Twitter handles. Here we go:

1) Surly Muse: He’s only half-surly, really, but has some great guest bloggers and can turn a phrase with the best of them. @surlymuse

2) A Yankee’s Southern Exposure: Gordon McCleary is a Yankee trapped in the South, but his posts are good-natured, humorous observations on the peculiarities of both sides of the country. @asouthernyankee

3) Alisa Libby: Historical fiction author of “The Blood Confession” and “The King’s Rose”. She muses on writing, history and more in her blog.

4) Lia Keyes: I have dubbed her the Queen of Steam. If you enjoy steampunk as a genre, she posts great original content and has some of the best links around. @liakeyes

5) Cara Michaels: On her blog, Cara is running #WIP500, which is a fabulous writing marathon that runs 366 days this year (you heard me). All you need is 500 words a day; she does it all for the love of the writing community – go Cara! @caramichaels

6) Out of the Past: a Classic Film Blog: this classic film blog is run by @quellelove and a true must-visit for any who love iconic films and their stars.

7) Indie Jane: Devoted to Jane Austen and matters Regency, this blog is run by @_jessmelendez and it’s fun, informative -and- engaging.

8) Finding Wonderland: the YA Writing Weblog: One of the first blogs I started reading regularly. Offers some amazing YA lit recommendations, as well as wry comics by the talented @aquafortis, co-author.

9) Lupus in Flight: Whether writing prose or her lovely poetry, Shaista’s writing always sings and is well worth a regular visit. @lupusinflight

10) Marian Call’s Official Blog: This Alaskan singer-songwriter was one of my fantastic discoveries of 2011. Her song “Good Morning Moon” is one of my favorites of the year and she’s a geek girl too! @mariancall

11) Bullish Ink: Every post I have read on this blog is chock-full of writerly wisdom and that’s saying a great deal. An invaluable resource for those who write. @bullishink

12) Write Me Happy: One of the friendliest writers that I have met through Twitter, this blog documents Angie’s journey through the perilous straits of writerdom. @write_me_happy

13) The Insatiable Booksluts: Other than the pure awesomeness of their name, this site has thought-provoking analysis and will make you laugh at the same time. Really, can you ask for more than that?
@insatiablebooksluts

14) Dead White Guys: Much in the same vein of IB, DWG excels at snark, yet includes a streak of charming erudition. @deadwhiteguys

15) Dasia Has a Blog: This is the blog of @awkwardoptimist, who does a rockin’ air guitar and is another of my favorite snarkers on Twitter. Not only is she a good fiction writer, but reading her blog always cheers me up.

So you should visit all these amazing blogs, subscribe and (of course) follow them on Twitter.

Okay, seven random pieces of information about me:

Errr…

1) I grew up in a theatre, in a most literal sense. I had the most magical childhood, in that I was underfoot backstage and in the costume shop and in the orchestra pit. It gave me a very musical theatre way of looking at the world, which leads us to point 2…

The view of my childhood

2) Wherein I confess that I burst into song randomly. People say musical theatre isn’t realistic, isn’t very real life. It’s -my- real life. Periodically in our household, we would burst into refrains from Jesus Christ Superstar, Pirates of Penzance or Showboat. No fake, Jake. Extra-funny from my 6 feet tall brothers.

Me as Edith in Pirates of Penzance. “Too late! – ha ha! – Too late! – ho ho!”

3) I am a voracious reader. That’s true of most bloggers and writers, but I take it to a point where it annoys people. I usually need to read when I eat. I read the back of airline tickets and cereal boxes and anything I can get my hands on, really. My brain gets panicky if I can’t read, though luckily it is okay to listen to public radio in the car.

4) I have extremely high standards of expectations for myself, maybe because I’m an oldest child. Whenever I feel bad about what I have accomplished thus far, I remind myself that I have had two original full-length plays and two literary adaptations produced. And a short story published in an anthology. And starred in a goth opera, Veil & Subdue. And created a t-shirt brand, Super Secret Spy Girl. And made this blog, which you are reading. I am happy to meet you and hope you will comment and come visit us often.

5) I have big feet and a turned-up nose with freckles.

6) I studied Art History & English in college, two degrees guaranteed to require the learning of the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?” Yet I have always managed to avoid working fast food, no matter how poor I get.

Vermeer’s Muse Clio will -not- serve fries with that

7) I consider 7 a lucky number, though I’m not terribly superstitious. And I actually like red-penning my own work when I edit. There’s something about marking up all those pages that gives me a sense of accomplishment.

There you are, gentle reader. Please visit all those bloggers; they are all deeply deserving and add to the loveliness of the blogosphere – read them today!

Gratitude: a Retrospective, 2011

This year is waning fast, so I wanted to reflect a moment and try and find some final thoughts before the book is closed on 2011.

Like most years, 2011 was a year of bitter and sweet. It had its tragi-comical moments, but ultimately I find it a year that was full of creativity. What more can I ask than that?

* In 2011, I developed this blog. My father suggested several times that I write a blog, but my first attempt was lame and half-hearted, because I didn’t know how to write the blog I wanted to read. This time around, I visualized it better. I wanted a place on the internet with beautiful music and art, one with interviews of people I was curious about, a tiny spot of serenity where true hearts could feel at home.

Arthur Rackham, Feeling Very Undancey

I wanted a blog of unabashed romanticism, one that celebrated the beauty in the world, one that put words to the yearning that all lost souls feel in this increasingly mechanized and digitized world. I hoped these people would find my little watering hole. And they did. Because of my blog, I got to interview such kindred spirits as writer Sarah J. Stevenson, writer/artist Paul Ramey, poetess Shaista Tayabali, writer/marketing guru Frances Figart, humorist Gordon McCleary, writer Alissa Libby, sculptor Cynthia Cusick and musician Ananda. If you have not read the 3QV’s of these amazing people, please go do so. They make the world a more beautiful place.

You can also see our Facebook page or enjoy our whimsical bits and bobs on Tumblr.


* I started writing for Blogcritics.org, which has gotten me published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer regularly (such as my Elegy for Amy Winehouse), as well as giving me opportunities to interact with such luminaries as Neil Gaiman.

* I gained and lost pets. My sweet Pippa ran away, scared off by feral raccoons. I thought I found her again, but instead it was Sephi, her doppelganger (Read more: Little Cat Feet). I found Sephi a good home. My dear old boy Ramses is staying with my friend Paul for the moment, because I know he is having a happier life there.

As well, we lost Salvador this year, my dearest kindred spirit in canine form. (Read more: Remembering Salvador). There can be no replacing of animals like these. All you can do is bid them adieu and marvel at the fact that the universe sent them to you at all. Paul Ramey wrote and illustrated Zen Salvador, a beautiful tribute to Salvador that all animal lovers would enjoy, and the proceeds benefit the Jacksonville Humane Society.

* I discovered Twitter. I am embarrassed to admit my social media snobbery and it’s all Sarah J. Stevenson’s fault (@aquafortis)! On Twitter, I discovered a whole interlinked community of artists and writers that I would never encounter on Facebook because they would not be in my circle of acquaintances. I couldn’t possibly list all of my favorite Tweeters, so instead I did a Wordle of you all. Click to make larger.
Wordle: Favorite Tweeters 2011

* In a related note, I also attempted National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo) this year. After years of forgetting about it till Thanksgiving (oops!), I finally committed to doing it…as though life in November weren’t exciting enough with a retail management job. I did not win it, but I did write 20,000 words on a new manuscript that super excites me. That itself is a major win. I don’t believe I’ve written 20,000 words of fiction in my life, let alone in four weeks.

More exciting, I have developed a writing habit and now actually do write on a semi-regular basis. NaNoWriMo was not without its fallout (almost no blog posts). Given that the main reason that I started the blog was to force me to write on a regular basis, it seems like success!

* I revived Super Secret Spy Girl. She now has a Facebook page. You can go there and like/comment to receive your Super Secret Spy Name. Burn after reading.

To close, I am grateful for all my new friends and experiences. You each contributed to my year. Thank you so much.

Shall we continue on this road together?

Q & A with Neil Gaiman, or Why Neil Gaiman is a Gentleman

Neil Gaiman is a gentleman. I had always suspected as much, but after my recent Q&A conference call with him, it was confirmed.

Let me back up a bit. I have long been an admirer of Neil’s work. My first introduction was his magnificent opus, The Sandman graphic novel series. I was entranced how he combined humor, pathos and allusions from pop culture to Greek Mythology to reinvigorate the graphical novel format. I was so inspired that my musician friend Paul and I used it as the starting point for a gothic opera, Veil & Subdue.

After that, I couldn’t get enough. Neverwhere was a particular favorite, then Coraline, then American Gods and Anansi Boys and so on. In brief, he was on my short list of writers who transcended simple fantasy into the fantastical. Thus, when the opportunity to do a Q&A on behalf of Blogcritics showed up, I nearly broke my laptop’s touchpad in my haste to claim it.

It was my first official Q&A and I was so nervous. I had fewer than 20 hours to prepare a question for someone whom I considered not only extremely talented, but supportive to other writers and readers (more on that later).

Naturally, I slept not a wink. Questions floated through my head; I plucked haplessly at them like dandelion seeds: some were too obvious, some too pandering and a few too cutesy.

The hour of the conference call arrived. I dialed in early and listened to the hold music. The instructions came on: Press *1 if you have a question. “Oh, do I,” thought I. Done, I pressed the keypad.

And then Neil Gaiman came on the line. He was as witty and self-effacing as I had imagined, with a wonderful speaking voice – sonorous, yet gentle. His answers were humorous and diplomatic. One reporter asked him if he felt there was something missing in the current glut of vampires, werewolves and zombies books. His response went straight to the point, which is diminishing literary returns with the loss of passion:

“There’s always this problem in any form of literature. [Books] happen because the time is right for them and they get written by people who believe in them…whether it’s wizards or vampires – whatever. Other people look around and go, ‘Oh, this is a way to make money or a way to cash in.’ They mean less and less; it’s like old-style photocopies. You photocopy a copy of a copy and pretty soon you end up with a grey sheet of paper with lines on them.”

Neil Gaiman is a tireless advocate for writers. Here is his latest advice to those suffering through National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo). He also supports readers of all ages, as the founder of All Hallows Read and countless other literary projects. He spoke eloquently on the importance of books to kids, regardless of whether the books themselves are perceived as quality: “The truth is that when kids encounter books, they bring themselves to them. The place you find the magic can be anywhere…because you’re bringing yourself as a reader to it.”

I enjoyed his answers and sat quietly, waiting my turn until the moderator said, “Ok, there are no more questions, so thank you Mr. Gaiman.”

Fortunately, our phones were muted, because I wailed, NOoooOOoooOO!” and pressed buttons, to no avail. I had botched it; the system had beaten me. I was not going to get a question answered by Neil Gaiman.

In despair, I popped onto Twitter and sent this:

“I was on the conference call and system didn’t pick up that I had a ?: As far as performing dialogue, do you ever act out your own while writing or was this a completely new experience?”

It was a half-hearted hope. I had been following his Twitter account since I joined, six months ago, but he has 1.6 million followers. Imagine my shock when this popped up:

…and then he answered my question.

Such a small courtesy, yet so unexpected. He was likely weary of the questions and the strained Q&A format – the long silences and the stutters as each participant was piped in and out.

I responded with: 

“Did you enjoy being Simpsonized? Do you feel more yellow-ish now?”

And he said:


And so that, dear reader, is how I got a personal answer to my question. So I hope you had a chance to watch The Simpsons on Sunday, because it features the voice of Neil Gaiman, New York Times best-selling writer and a true gentleman. Also now in yellow.


The Book Job Episode Synopsis
Lisa loses faith in the legitimacy of the “tween lit” industry and decides to pen her own novel. Homer, once informed of the lucrative opportunities, assembles a team to write the next big tween best-seller. Neil Gaiman as Himself joins the group to lend a seasoned writer’s eye, but the Springfield crew ends up with more than they expect in The Book Job, a parody of The Italian Job.

Neil Gaiman is a New York Times best-selling author and the recipient of numerous literary awards. His novels include Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys and Good Omens with Terry Pratchett, as well as a children’s book author. Although originally from England, he currently lives in America.

He is not, in fact, yellow.

You can visit Gaiman at his official site.

Article first published as Q & A with Neil Gaiman, or Why Neil Gaiman is a Gentleman on Blogcritics.

3 Question View – Gordon McCleary

This post is the fifth of a new series, highlighting talented people whose work I admire.

I call it ‘3 Question View’ because it’s limited to three questions (Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three) and it’s a rather truncated inter-view, designed to elicit three compelling answers from each artistic mind.

 
Gordon McCleary

3 Question View – Gordon McCleary
Writer, Humorist & Blogger,  

A Yankee’s Southern Exposure

Anna:
The writings on your blog, “
A Yankee’s Southern Exposure“, focuses on the humorous side of the culture clash between North and South (Dunkin Donuts vs. Krispy Kreme, NY Jets vs. NASCAR, Philly Cheesesteak vs. Fried Green Tomatoes). What brought you to the South? What do you love best about your adopted homeland? What do you miss most about the North?

Gordon:
First off, thank you for this unique opportunity to participate in your interview series. I ended up down south while working for a state contractor. Once the contract ended, I had the opportunity to move with the company or stay in Florida and find another job; I stayed. I stayed because I love the pace and the people. The pace is more deliberate and not as tense as it is up North. The people down here (most of them) have good souls and go the extra mile in extending a courteous gesture.

On the other hand, I do miss the fast-paced environment up North and the daily grind the big city offers. I am conflicted and it does come out at times in my writings.

Anna:
Your style of blog post writing is breezy and charming, interspersed with exaggeratedly funny photos, such as this:

 

Your style of witty one-liners is also quite popular on Twitter (57K followers at publication). How do you divide up your time and inspiration between your social media? What are your favorite ways to engage with your followers and readers?

Gordon:

I write it as I think it and see it; I am a very visual person. At times, I will look at many photos of the subject matter and write around the visual experience. Things that strike me as funny and quick, I will post on Twitter. If the tweet has some relevance, sometimes I’ll add a link to my latest blog post.

As far as how long I spend on social media, it depends on my mood. I have days where I am gone, M.I.A…and then I have consecutive days where I will post on the blog/ Facebook/ Twitter. I never go too long without updating something. I like to tweet a funny, off-the-wall comment about my latest blog post and then tweet that with a link; this seems to bring in a lot of traffic. I don’t like a lot of ads when I am reading online, so I made it a point to not put any advertising on my blog. I am in it for the pleasure of sharing and writing.

Anna:
Your experiences down South have led to some bizarrely comic escapades (the disappearing roosters, adventures with food – pigs feet and collard greens). What is the oddest thing that’s happened to you thus far? What would be the title of your dream blog post?

Gordon:

I would say attending the annual “worm grunting festival” in Sopchoppy, Florida is right up there with one of the strangest experiences I have had. I also attended the worm grunting ball at the end of the festivities. They are serious about their worms!

Title of dream blog post? Bless his heart, A hot mess in a cool place” 

Best Tweets from @ASouthernYankee:
* My wife: you wanna watch Glee? Me: you know, I’d love to but I was gonna drink battery acid and play with my poison ivy plant tonight.

* Anybody know exactly what time tomorrow the end is coming? I need to tell my wife that this “honey do” list may not be happening.

* Tweeting from my bunker……my wife is pleading with me to come out….I know a zombie when I hear one !!!

Visit Gordon’s blog, A Yankee’s Southern Exposure
http://yankeeexposure.blogspot.com

Follow Gordon on Twitter: @asouthernyankee