Welcome Guest Blogger Sleepless Cook N. Clean for The Real Hunger Games: Eating Up YA

The Real Hunger Games

Trying to Find a Balance between Reading, Writing, and Feeding a Four Year Old.

by Sleepless Cook N. Clean

I am in District 1, the kitchen. I am alone. Often, because I spend so much time by myself, I feel as if I am in control. In reality, President Mud (insert your child’s name here) is in charge. He lets me know he is the leader at every opportunity.

I turn to the stove. I am heating chicken marsala. The perfectly cooked, tender mushrooms sink into the succulent gravy. The velvety brown sauce will cover the pasta nicely. No, ‘pasta’ is a lie. ‘Pasta’ is word given to us in District 1 to make us believe that what we are doing is creating cuisine and—that is not the case; I am simply making macaroni. It is hard to escape the scourge of elbow noodles in District 1 and I wouldn’t try, President Mud has a keen eye.

I divide the large pieces of chicken with my hunting knife. This is as close as I will come to the woods today and in my mind, I thank Grocer Sue, the gourmet chef who prepared the marsala so I wouldn’t have to. No, I can barely call what I am doing work. I sneak a peek at the Suzanne Collins book on the counter. Another thing to be grateful for; this is the closest I will come to stealing today.

But it is a mistake, bringing the book into District 1! I find myself wishing I could bring the book to the table; ignore President Mud, something I have done far too often since he turned four, and I hit a wall with The Games.

Ah, The Games. When did they start to tire me so?

Four years as crowned Victor Mother and then, exhaustion set in. That, and a love affair with YA are what account for my criminal behavior: writing.

Yes, I write. Why? Because my mind is starved and that is the real crime; the real hunger.

Writing is my talent. Writing, certainly not design; my stylist would be disappointed if he saw me standing at the stove in my jeans and hoodie. The one thing that might garner his approval is my hair. I have stayed true to myself in this area. I have not cut my wavy brown locks, which are at this moment tamed in a braid that trails down my back. Tied to the schedule of the President’s demanding lifestyle, it is the easiest thing.

The toast is ready; fresh-baked bread dotted with sesame seeds. I close the book, but before I can even finish preparing the plates of savory steaming stew and cutting the slices of cool juicy watermelon which I will artfully arrange upon the silver platter laden with the green grapes that carry the taste of summer beneath their delicate skins, my characters are here!

Suzanne’s vanish like ghosts. It will be bedtime before I see them again.

A handsome dark-haired man enters District 1. He is dressed for the Capitol, but I sense this is an act. Still, I call him my husband and place a kiss upon his lips. Upstairs in District 3 where the Industry is Imagination, his blonde alter ego creates dramatic oil paintings and writes poetry as he puts the finishing touches on the pile of presents that he has prepared in my honor.

Why do I need two suitors you ask? Why two?

Because this is YA, I hiss, that’s why.

In this country called My House—a place somewhere in the dystopian future where Vampires are the norm and werewolves are taken for granted—there are always two. That is because Love is a four-letter word and although it reigns, Love Triangles Reign supreme!

Two, because everything around the country I call My House is part of a pair.

Even me.

I am a Mommy, and I am a Writer. A mismatch yes, but there it is.

Worse, I am a writer who has recently rediscovered the joys—and consequences—of staying up until one a.m. reading! Reading, and watching previous episodes of Mad Men, The Vampire Diaries, and Glee! If the Capitol discovers my offense, they will not just send a team of local Peachkeepers to slap my wrists, they will execute me! I sigh and roll my eyes.

All at once my suitor from District 3 appears, all jutting cheekbones and sculpted muscles, low chuckles and smirks. He glowers at me with smoldering eyes, lifting his dark brows suggestively, his lips quirking in a crooked smile. Forget about the fact that we can never consummate our relationship—why? Because . . . well, just because—I only need to look at him to know, we are a pair.

Ah yes, back to the topic of pairs. I have two pairs of friends. My writing friends, and my ‘real’ friends, who need to visit the link below immediately. Read this article (yes, I am aware that it is not recent, but that does not lessen its value!) and rest assured, although I had a child and dropped off the face of the earth, I am still alive and well. The real reason you have not seen me lately is because I am walking down the dark road of YA literature.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/books/review/Paul-t.html

For those who venture to the Link District, tell them Sleepless Cook N. Clean sent you, and remember—the hair on the back of my neck stands up. The President is here!

Let the Games begin!

My husband and my lover vanish in a flash of light—

Out beyond District 1 the Arena awaits.

I have trained with Legos of course, and the toy house with its miniature furniture. Blocks, balls, the trucks and cars—I know them well; I could play with them in my sleep, and most days, I feel as if I am doing just that.

But wait, something new.

I gasp. It’s. Not. New. At all! It’s . . . Mousetrap!

The word echoes through my brain and my past hurtles towards me as I see the shiny metal marble shoot down the plastic steps; I feel faint, and have to look away. The President is done with survivor style games, he’s on to psychological warfare; I flash back to my parents’ basement . . .

Suddenly, I hear a piercing sound coming from District 1!

I vault over two strategically planted ridearounds as I rush to the source of the sound—

The timer! My index finger flies forward like an arrow shot from a bow and I hit cancel.

Sweat beads on my brow and I gasp for breath. My hoodie is torn and blood gushes from a gash on my ankle yet somehow, I manage a dazzling smile as The President enters.

But—they’ve done something to his face in the Capitol! Yes, it has been altered! He, he looks like a small child! He looks . . . like my son.

“Mom,” he says.

“Who is Mom?” I ask quickly.

“Mommy,” he says. He has recognized me! I will have to serve him now.

In the role of the Avox, I say nothing; I don’t have to. My son begins to speak, and does not stop . . ..

Later, the President is in bed. My House is quiet, my two suitors sleep. Ah! Freedom!

Freedom. I suck in a breath; will I ever return to the world of Jonathan Franzen?

The Corrections . . . so much family dysfunction . . . the writing is so . . . real . . . so much scarier than any vampire, or werewolf, or fallen angel. Or—zombie? I can’t go there.

No, no Freedom for me. I’ll take the bonds of a first kiss anytime. YA lit. Sigh.

Another NaNoWriMo Comes to a Close

My third NaNoWriMo was a tough one. To reach my word count I used EVERY word I wrote!

(Dear Publishing Industry, have no fear. You won’t see my novel for at least another year. Feel better?)

I used the NaNoWriMo site more than ever. I read every pep talk sent to me and watched every video. I even reached out to my writing buddies in my hour of need.

Huh? What was that all about?

Oh, nothing. I just, ah, needed a few answers. I had a couple of questions, like, was I allowed to count the words that made up my timeline? How about my list of characters? My chapter titles? That kind of thing. Ahem.

Okay I admit it, I was reaching. Not because I didn’t have an idea, I had a good one, and after a month of wild writing, I still love it. Mostly, my problem was time. Even as I write this my five-year-old is calling and last night? He called me in to his room half a dozen times. It seemed like, the deeper I got into my story, the more someone or something needed my attention. But that’s just how it goes sometimes.

(BTW my Wrimo friends said yes, if you were wondering, or if you’re still writing your butt off and are wondering, count every single word.)

Hey, I don’t feel bad. For the last two NaNoWriMos my 50,000 words were pure story. This year I had to do things a little  differently. We all know how important it is to Think Different. RIP Steve Jobs, all my NaNo manuscripts, in fact all my manuscripts, and many of my songs, were written on a Mac. Thank you Apple.

And another thank you to Martha Alderson. Martha’s blog Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers is a great resource for writers and this year Martha’s posts about energy markers helped me create my story arc.

To all of you Wrimos still writing, you have TONS of time, no worries. If you need inspiration in the form of music, take a break and check out this site, there are lots of good songs from artists who are probably new to you.

I love writing with music on, and this year more than one of my NaNoWriMo writing soundtrack songs came from Sirenstories.

If you’ve finished your November novel (let’s agree for now that finished means having a beginning, middle, and end) congratulations! If you’re still writing, good luck, you’ll be printing out that nifty certificate any minute ;)

Some Inspiration for All of You Sirens

Sirens, how do you fill the well?

Singers, songwriters, authors, painters, I’m sure all of you artists have ways to inspire yourselves when inspiration doesn’t strike like lightning, but if you need something new, you might enjoy Body of Writing.

At the 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, author Patricia Lee Gauch talked about “letting go into story”. When she quoted Yeats’ poem The Circus Animals’ Desertion and spoke of the “rag-and-bone shop of the heart” and how we must go there for inspiration, her message went straight to my heart. I knew it was time for me to create a workshop that connected two of my great loves, yoga and writing.

Developing a workshop combining yoga and writing had been a dream of mine for years. Starting last winter, I began to carefully design a class series that would combine yoga postures, yogic breathing techniques, creative writing exercises, meditation, visualization, and readings, in ways that would inspire participants to get their pens moving and encourage them to open to the wisdom of their bodies.

I also drew from my own personal experiences over the years in art, music, drama, and yoga workshops, incorporating Deep Diving techniques I learned from artists as diverse as Olympia Dukakis, Rosanne Cash, and Julia Cameron, as well as instructors from The Metropolitan Opera Guild and aesthetic education classes at Julliard.

Finally, in May of 2011, I offered the first version of Body of Writing. The classes I created were one and a half hours long and met once a week at River Road Books in Fair Haven, N.J. Over seven weeks I witnessed the thrilling process of people discovering the stories their bodies carried. Some were obvious, like the tale of a twisted ankle in Paris, the stiffness lingering years later, evoking memories whenever it rained, and stories begging to be told. Others were hidden, stories secret even to those who held them. Working together like seekers of buried treasure, we began to dig.

I was introduced to yoga at age twelve, and according to my father, I sang before I could talk. For many years I taught people of all ages and abilities music, placing the emphasis on songwriting when I could. My last position included teaching students who were suicidal and homicidal. Music and lyrics were a wonderful way to connect with those kids, but to help their teachers I used yoga.

One of the most important concepts of Kripalu yoga, the style that I’ve studied more than any other, is the idea of letting go. In other words, allowing things to be just as they are, including who you are, with the idea that everything is really okay already. Cultivating this kind of acceptance one learns to have compassion for oneself, and thus for one’s story.

Kripalu yoga is the style I teach, but I draw from many other traditions as well. Most styles of yoga have certain aspects in common, such as the idea that yoga is a practice for the body, mind, and spirit. Body of Writing simply adds another dimension: story.

Body of Writing can help you find the stories you hold within and teach you how to allow yourself to release them onto the page without criticism or judgment.

Of course later, you’ll have to edit. Now that’s a wicked posture to hold.

Body of Writing will be offered Saturday Sept. 24th & Sunday Sept. 25th noon—5:30 pm as an intensive two-day workshop at Brahma Yoga Spa in Sea Bright, N.J.

For more info: http://www.mimicross.com

To learn more about Kripalu yoga and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, visit http://www.kripalu.org

Check out the ‘About’ page on this blog to learn why I’m qualified to create and teach Body of Writing.

More Music for Film and, Film.

Book trailers are a relatively new art form and the best ones take advantage of both video and audio.

In this trailer for Edie Meidav‘s new novel, Lola California, not only does the video tell a story, but the music does as well. I find both beautiful and haunting.

I also found Edie Meidav‘s articulate description of her book eerie and intriguing. After seeing this trailer, I have to read this book. Do you feel the same way? Is there a book you’ve been compelled to read because of the trailer?

Kevin Salem composed the music for the book trailer, and he wrote additional songs for Lola California as well. Kevin says, “What you find here is the result of three years of procrastination and a couple weeks of cramming which, really, is how music is supposed to be. The music is part soundtrack for the reader, part songs inspired by the text (though I would be loathe to be too ‘on the nose’ about it as Edie’s words speak so eloquently for themselves) and part music inspired by the cultural identity of the novel. That is, we hope that they work together not literally, but like distant cousins who bear a resemblance you can’t quite put your finger on.”

If you click on Kevin Salem‘s picture you’ll be able to hear more gorgeous music for Lola California and read about Kevin’s relationship with Edie Meidav and her novel.