Tag Archives: movies

Cast Away the Norm and Survive Outside the Writing Box

Last night I watched Cast Away with my three boys. This classic movie incited tears and general wailing by Youngest at Wilson’s epic final scene and renewed Middle’s fear of flying. It also sparked an interesting conversation. Who, among us on the couch, would survive a four-year stint on a deserted island?

Hands down, Eldest won.

Surviving with next to nothing means a whole lot of ingenuity. We decided that his dyslexia–which translates into the fact that his whole world is outside the box in how he perceives things–sets him up nicely to excel with a handful of random objects.

In Cast Away, ice skates became knives and dental appliances. A little bit of blood and a ball became a best friend.

These are the kinds of innovations necessary to survive outside the normal conditions we call life. Some of us are more prepared to do so than others.

The same is true in writing. It is easy to get hooked into writing the norm. Some novels are very formulaic. Some very trendy. Some are very every day.

A handful of novels, however, thumb their noses at the norm and jump out of the airplane before it ever crashes. They want to survive in the wilds with a unique character and a few random objects.

There is a fine line, however, between surviving and committing suicide. Publishers may be afraid of taking on outside-the-box books, and readers may not quite be ready for a castaway novel to grace their beloved book shelves.

One of my very astute, successful and prolific writer friends recently said that she loves the freedom to write what she wants. But, she’s noticed a definite connection between her book sales and her willingness to toe the line. The further her books veer from the standard expectations, the less sales they get.

Until–or unless–a novel breaks away from tradition and creates a whole new norm. Hunger Games, anyone?

So, how can we tell the difference between just edgy enough and too edgy? How can we ensure that the twist we give our novels will help it swim rather than sink? What tips do you have for walking the line, toeing it or stepping over it into unchartered lands?

Curious minds want to know.

Celebrity Hype and I: The Hunger Games

I love Suzanne Collins.  Her writing is honest and strong.  She writes lyrically, yet efficiently.  She isn’t afraid to tackle tough topics, and she does so admirably.  To say that she is my favorite author is an understatement.

Yet, I’d like to note that I loved Ms. Collins long before The Hunger Games hit book shelves.  You see, she’s multitalented.  She’s authored a picture book and a Middle Grade series–which was devoured in our household.  She’s also quiet and poised.  Not to mention, I’ve heard from a writer friend who went to school with Ms. Collins that she’s sweet and kind and smart and funny.

She is one of the very few celebrities I give credence to.  You see, in the midst of the social media trap that writers find themselves in–blogging, tweeting, FBing, etc, etc, etc–Ms. Collins found a place in the heart of readers nationwide because of her storytelling abilities.  Not because she pandered to the masses.  Not because she wore slinky outfits in her author photo and not because she behaved badly on national television.

I’m just going to throw this out there: I don’t like celebrities–as a general rule.  If I had to be honest, I’d say my disdain for many of them is as close to prejudice as I get.  Funny that I want to be an author.  That I want my books on book shelves and nightstands and libraries across the globe.  Quite hypocritical actually.

But let me elaborate.  What I don’t like is the God/Goddess pedestals we put celebrities on whether they deserve it or not.  I don’t like that famous actors can act naughty and rude and pretentious and spoiled and still be looked upon as role models.  I don’t like that rock stars can rock rehab centers often enough to have their names permanently etched on a waiting list for the next “oopsy” and our kids LOVE them and want to be like them.

I think “celebrity” sends many, many wrong messages to our children about what success is and what being great really means.  I think reality shows that glamorize teen pregnancies and bitchy housewives set the tone for low and misguided expectations for America’s youth.  Heck, for its adults, as well.

I hate that compassionate nurses and great teachers get paid celebrity pocket change, while some celebrities with extra-large wallets who are greatly admired by youngsters don’t have a compassionate or generous bone in their bodies.  It just seems so…wrong.

On the other hand, I love that some celebrities are quiet, poised, sweet, kind, passionate, compassionate, smart and funny.  I love that some celebrities make my children really think about the society in which they live.  I love that these celebrities aren’t afraid to make a positive impact.  I just wish there were more of them.

But then again, maybe there are, and I just don’t know about them.  After all, squeaky wheels get the oil and the kind of celebrities I admire aren’t squeaking.  They are busy working.

The Hunger Games movie opens tomorrow morning.  At 12:01, I will be sitting in a theater with a gaggle of teens waiting breathlessly to see the film adaptation of my all-time favorite book–one that takes a clear stance on the “reality” of today’s entertainment and the impact it has on our society.

Kudos, Suzanne Collins.  I wouldn’t interrupt my sleep for anyone but you and your Hunger Games.

How about you, dear readers, what are your thoughts on celebrity-ism in today’s world?  How do you think reality shows have skewed our realities?  Who is your favorite celeb and why?  What type of celebrity role model do you cringe at?

Curious minds are really, really curious!