Wednesday, February 17, 2010


When we're growing up, our parents tell us not to brag too much about our achievements. So when Twitter friend and follower, Portia Sisco awarded me The Silver Lining and Honest Scrap Awards, I felt a little guilty that I couldn't wait to show off my shiny new badges. Thanks for the double-whammy, girl! All kidding aside, I am grateful that she's found a kernel of inspiration in my fledgling blog. 

Before I get to my responses, I'd like to recommend two entries Portia recently posted on her blog. In case you haven't met her, she blogs about "the paranormal and anything else that goes bump in the night." But When Will You Send It? and Make Them Hurt touch on two aspects of writing that we can all relate to, the external pressure to submit a manuscript before the writer "knows" it's ready, and having the fortitude to inflict some "pain" on our characters. By pain, she doesn't mean torture, but believable pain in the form of obstacles and challenges that fit the plot. Check them out.


Thank you, Portia, for considering me a part of the silver lining in this journey. You, and several of the supportive friends I've met on Twitter, have inspired me at moments when self-doubt has temporarily paralyzed my finger tips. Finding you, the wonderful people at Writer's Digest, and my writing teacher has truly been a blessing, in what most times seems a solitary endeavor.

HONEST SCRAP -- Say it isn't so.

With the Honest Scrap, I'm supposed to share ten things about me that you might not know. So, here goes:
  1. English is my second language. I started kindergarten not understanding one word the teacher spoke. Seared into my memory is the first time I had to "ask" to use the bathroom, which I liken to an episode of Charlie Brown. "Mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa." Yup. That pretty much sums up my first couple of years of school.
  2. After my son's birth, I worked in the beauty industry between corporate gigs -- I'm licensed to cut, color, re-texturize (a fancy word for perming and straightening, same chemical, different process), manicure, do nail enhancements, apply lash extensions, remove hair, perform facials, and my favorite to this day -- do make-up. Although it's very hard work, I enjoyed all of it, except for the cutting part.
  3. Ezzy is a nickname I picked-up while on the playground in the fourth grade. I was born "Esmeralda." Honestly, I would've been happier with either Monica or Natalie. Esmeralda? That's the name of a witch or gypsy.
  4. I grew up in Southern California and moved to Boston twelve years ago to attend law school.
  5. My favorite shows growing up were Night Gallery, Creature Feature, The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Star Trek. I love suspense, not gore.
  6. I'm scared to death of spiders. I'm not kidding, either. Petrified.
  7. I've never cared for Barbie. Cared even less for The Bratz Dolls. Ack.
  8. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was the first "older" novel I read as a little girl (maybe nine or ten). I developed a crush on Mr. Darcy and a taste for an intelligent story with romance intertwined, at a very young age.
  9. I'm shy under most circumstances (ISTJ).
  10. My fingers shook the first time I submitted a writing assignment for critique. I've come a long way in two years.  
The Awards go to ...

Instructions on The Silver Lining are to award it to bloggers who inspire you in some way. The Honest Scrap Award is pretty simple. List ten things about yourself that some of your blogger friends might not already know about you. I've chosen six people whose tweets I look forward to every week, as their energy is infectious. Have fun!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Yes, I know. Guess you could say I'm a little behind in my -- um -- reading.

HARRY POTTER and THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN follows a more vocal and mature Harry, Hermione and Ron through their third year of wizardry training at Hogwarts.

Plot Synopsis (Skip to "The Writing" if you've read book.)

Harry discovers that Sirius Black, a madman believed to be responsible for Harry's parents' death, has escaped from The Prison of Azkaban and is en route to the castle to kill him. Making matters worse, Harry learns that Black attended Hogwarts with his parents, was their best-friend, and Harry's godfather.

Dispatched from Azkaban to keep Black out of Hogwarts are frightening, soul-sucking, flying dementors that look like grim reapers with wings. Whenever Harry is around these horrid creatures, he hears his mother's cries for mercy just before Voldemort takes her life. The dementors represent Harry's worst fear and become a power to be reckoned with when he's forced to face them at the end of the book.

Although I sympathize with Harry and his plight, the character whose struggles resonate with me the most are Hermione's. Her sincere effort to always "do the right thing" gets her into trouble throughout the book, and her dogged determination to be the "best" student she can be comes at a cost. Her relationship with both Harry and Ron becomes further strained when she reveals that Harry received an anonymous gift, as she's convinced its been cursed and sent by Sirius Black. Although Harry's safety is at the top of her mind, her actions further complicate her situation. Additionally, her cat, Crookshank's repeated attacks on Ron's pet rat, Scabbers, don't help matters.

Hagrid, Hogwart's groundskeeper, gets his heart's desire and finally becomes a professor. And what better class for him to teach than The Care of Magical Creatures? His confidence is shattered when on the first day of class, Draco Malfoy provokes Buckbeak, a winged hybrid eagle-horse creature, that Hagrid incorporates into his lesson. Harry, Hermione, and Ron must then race against the clock to save Buckbeak after he's sentenced to death by the Ministry of Magic for having attacked Malfoy.

The Writing

As a student of writing, I can't help but wonder about Rowling's creative process. What's her secret sauce? Does she write at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m.? Does she surround herself with flow charts, characterization sheets, and note cards? Where does she get her ideas? Does she produce a meticulous outline the length of a manuscript, prior to starting to write, with various what-if scenarios hashed out?

Otherwise, how might one explain this author's ability to plot so many overlapping story lines that leave not one loose-end untied, revealing clues throughout the story and delighting the reader with a satisfying pay-off at the end? Is it enough to say that she's just a gifted writer with years of experience?

Aside from being a "master plotter," Rowling engages the reader with the subtle lyrical tone of her work, writing in clear and concise sentences. She also breaks a few rules. For example, I was surprised by her repeated use of exclamation points, sometimes WITH entirely capitalized sentences. Rowling also frequently uses adverbs both in and outside of dialogue tags. So what?

Although the majority of the story is told from Harry's perspective, Rowling slips in-and-out of Ron's and Hermione's points-of-view in a manner that is neither jarring, obtrusive, nor annoying. She changes perspectives in a way that flows naturally with the storytelling, only when necessary, and for very brief periods of time.

In case you're thinking I loved everything about this book, I didn't. Two things drove me nuts. First, had I known there were going to be "so many" creatures, I would've kept a sticky note with the book and listed them, as by the time I got three-quarters of the way through, and a creature's name came up, I didn't remember which creature was which. Second, although Quidditch is a clever sporting event for wizardry types, I couldn't get into the matches and skimmed these portions of the book, which really isn't surprising, given that I don't even watch Muggle sports.

Some of you die-hard Potter fans and devout YA readers might be asking, what's taken me so long to get with the program? Don't shoot me for admitting to this, but I've been reticent to reading a series intended for nine to twelve-year-olds. Having said that, I'm delighted at how much Harry and his friends matured over the course of the first three books and anxiously await discovering what the future holds for them.