Sacred Joy

On the second-to-last night of 2011, I unexpectedly got the best gift of the year – two free tickets to see Stars on Ice, my favorite show in the world, in Lake Placid, my favorite village in the world. My mother-in-law, already planning on visiting for the holiday, came out a day early so she could baby-sit the littles; the friend who gave us the free tickets had two others she gave to my mother and sister, so Carl and I met Mom and Lis in the village, had dinner together (served by the Slavic version of Basil Fawlty, though he was more harried than rude, but still – Carl was the first to come up with the comparison and it was so apt), and then went to the SHOW.
It was to flip over.
(I know, groan, but come on, you don’t expect me to get a picture of Ryan Bradley mid-back-flip and not come up with an excuse to use it and make a lame pun with.)

Our seats were in the bleachers, but when they did the retakes for tv after the show we were able to sneak down and take the seats of four people who had left. I pulled my camera out of my bag and just started clicking. Kurt Browning was gracious enough to do the majority of his retakes right in front of where we were sitting. My sister and I might have fan-girl squee-ed just a little.

It was a two+ hour drive back to Albany after the show – the weather was hovering between rain and ice through most of the Adirondacks, which meant we had to drive slowly. So what do two people do to keep each other awake on a late-night long drive back home? Well, my sister and I might have done more squee-ing over the likes of Kurt, Ryan, Todd Eldredge, etc, but since it was Carl and I, of course we started talking philosophy.
Philosophy of figure skating? Why, of course! 

Way back in college, I wrote a paper on the debate as to whether figure skating was sport or art. My stupid, stupid English professor gave me a C, not because it was poorly written, but because he didn’t think it was a real issue (note: at the beginning of the semester he told us anything was acceptable as a topic, and cited one of his favorite papers from the previous year, on “Why Blondes Have More Fun). I looked at him and said, “I am a figure skater: trust me, it is an issue.”

He refused to believe me; that is the one and only C I have ever received on any assignment in an English class. And yes, it was close to ten years ago, but IT STILL RANKLES.

Anyway. Carl was asking me about my thoughts on it, and being wiser now, I wasn’t so quick to jump to the defense of figure skating as sport. I told him that I couldn’t really be objective on the matter, because figure skating was so much more to me than anything I could describe.

You see, when I am on the ice, just as when I am writing, I feel I am coming closer to the me I am meant to be (I know this all sounds a little “woo-woo.” Sorry about that), back to the core of who I am, the Louise God intended me to be with all the baggage stripped away. Only skating and writing do that for me – nothing else. It is too close to my heart; I cannot speak objectively about it. Even when I am not skating myself, watching pure, good skating gives me an echo of that. It satisfies me in a way nothing else does, the same way that reading a brilliantly-written book satisfies me even when I am not writing myself.

And I am not a great skater, but when I am on the ice I feel like I am great. I am always pretty sure I look like this:

Joannie Rochette and Sasha Cohen)

Or this:
I want to be Katia Gordeeva when I grow up

And I really look like this:
True story – I got done with this spiral and told my friend who was holding the camera “That was great! My leg was really up there, my head was high, it was an awesome spiral!” She said, “uh-huh,” and handed me the camera. I was shocked to see I had only achieved a straight line – but I suppose I should be thankful at least my head was up and my leg was straight. I don’t always even accomplish that.

Or this:
SELL that final pose, girl!

But that doesn’t matter. Not really. I do my best skating when I am all alone in a rink, with no one around to make me self-conscious. It’s not a solitary act for most, but like writing, it is for me.
And that – because it is almost sacred to me – is why it brings me such joy to watch it done well. Oh sure, the eye candy is nice, too, but skating is unique and special and wondrous simply because, for me, it is an act of worship.
As is writing.
It’s kind of a nice way to end the year, isn’t it, making those connections and getting an unexpected chance to experience that again?
It makes me want to write more, too, and to remember more of what my writing is – not just a hobby or career, but an essential part of me, one of those elements that makes me me, and something that brings me closer to my best, my purest version of myself.
And that is the last bit of philosophizing you will hear from me until next year. 
Happy New Year’s, friends!

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The Year of The Author

I have a hard time keeping track of what books I read in a year. I start out well enough, in January and February, but by March, I’ve completely forgotten about writing down what books I’ve read. Probably because so many of them are re-reads, and it seems silly sometimes to write down that I’ve read Anne of Green Gables for the 500th time.

However, I did realize, recently, that I tend to have a year of an author. For the last few years, there’s been one author that I’ve discovered, either new to me or newly-loved, and I’ve spent the year reading everything I can get my hands on by that author.

First it was Dorothy L Sayers, and spending the year borrowing one Lord Peter book after another from the library. I even read all the Monty Egg stories I could find. Sayers’ writing still enthralls me – I find something new about it to cherish each time I re-read. And Lord Peter himself … I have mentioned before how bitterly I resented Harriet Vane because he fell in love with her, yes? All right then. Nothing more about that really need be said. He is as human and real and swoon-worthy a hero as was ever written.

Then it was Tamora Pierce – first Kel, then Aly, then Beka. Though Pierce’s tendency (as I see it) to sometimes subvert the story in favor of her point irritated me (and still does, though the more I write the more I understand that temptation, and also how easy that is to do without realizing it), I did so appreciate her strong heroines – especially Kel and Beka, who were both quieter and more sensible than many female fantasy protagonists and were not blessed with special gifts that made them stand out; it was their character and determination. I truly do love that.

This past year, it was Diana Wynne Jones. I’d read one or two of her books before last year, but 2011 was the year I fully fell in love. Also, it happened to be the year she died, which left me feeling outraged – I’d finally found out how much I loved her writing, and then she was gone, before I even had a chance to say or think “thank you.” The woman who created Sophie and Howl, Chrestomanci, Cat, and so many others, and wait, what, they just barely sprang to life for me and their creator was gone? Bad timing, Louise and world!

I think I already know what author will dominate 2012 for me – another one who died shortly after I’d finally read one of her books*, though that was a few years ago.

2012 seems a fitting year to immerse myself in this author’s writings, seeing as how it is the 50th anniversary of her most famous work. That work? A Wrinkle in Time, and the author is Madeleine L’Engle.

I’ve mentioned on here recently just how moving I found A Ring of Endless Light. 2011 (well, and 2010) was a year of a lot of personal darkness for me, and the message of hope and encouragement to persevere that rang through Vicky’s experiences was just exactly what I needed, when I needed it. I sobbed my way through the last few pages – and I am not a big crier (I mean, sure I get choked up Every Single Time I read OR watch Sam’s “I can’t carry the Ring, but I can carry you,” bit to Frodo in Return of the King, but who doesn’t? I’m not made of stone, after all).

While we were visiting my MIL for Christmas, I started reading A Circle of Quiet, one of L’Engle’s memoir-ish works. By the time I was a few pages in, I know this was going to be one of those books that picked me up, shook me out, and set me back down again dazed, refreshed, and seeing the world with new eyes – or old eyes that simple had too many scales on them now shaken off.

And I was right. My thinking hasn’t necessarily radically changed on anything, but the book both affirmed and challenged me right where I needed it, helped me shake loose some ideas that have been weighting me down, and filled up the spaces with fresh ones. It also made me laugh, which is grand.

So now I am certain that 2012? Is going to be the year I read everything I can find by L’Engle.

(*So, the story about why it took me so long to read anything by L’Engle – when I was very young, I picked up a book from the library called The Door in the Wall, which I thought was going to be exciting, and WAS NOT. I hated it. After that, I always got that book confused with A Wind in the Door, and so transferred my loathing of that darn non-exciting children’s book to anything by L’Engle. Kind of like how I never read anything by Jones for so long because I always saw cats on the covers of her books, and unless Lloyd Alexander is writing it, I have no interest in feline fantasy. It took me until I was an adult to finally brave picking up Wrinkle, at which point I realized it had nothing whatsoever to do with EVIL BORING DOOR BOOK, but it was so very different from what I had been anticipating that I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Same when I finally read Wind, and it really did take me until Vicky and Ring before I could start to better appreciate L’Engle’s beautiful, strange writing. The End.)

Christmas is Almost Here

I wasn’t going to post again before Christmas, but I saw this tonight, and it brought back happy Christmas memories for me, and it made me laugh. How could I not share it with all of you?

Besides, you know, Kurt Browning. When I want my kids to know what amazing skating is really like, I have them watch Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, and Kurt Browning. They don’t get any better than this.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

The Hobbit Trailer

The Hobbit – next December. I’ve been trying to contain my excitement, given my disappointment over how the LotR trilogy went, but between the casting (Richard Armitage as Thorin could not be more perfect – Martin Freeman IS Bilbo – Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug just makes me want to shriek with delight, etc etc) and now this trailer …

Well, excitement abounds. No containing it anymore.

SQUEE!

What Books …

… are on your Christmas wish list?

I’ve been very naughty this year and buying most books that I want myself, as I want them, but there are a few I’ve managed to hold off on, just in case. These are the sorts of books that, if they don’t appear under the tree, will end up in my hands (or on my computer, for e-book versions) in early January.

First! Death Come to Pemberley, by PD James. Confession: I’ve never actually read any of James’ books, but come on, a published Jane Austen fanfic by a well-known mystery writer? How could I not want this book? The only thing that would make it better would be if it were a Persuasion mystery – can’t you just see Anne and Frederick as Tommy and Tuppence (except I think Anne would by Tommy, and Frederick Tuppence), or Nick and Nora? Someone needs to write that story.

Next: all the books in the Austin Family Chronicles by Madeleine L’Engle. As I mentioned recently, A Ring of Endless Light is a book that has been a tremendous help to me whenever I get discouraged. I’ve actually never read any of the rest of the series, but I would like to own them, so that I might read them as slowly as I want, in order to properly savor them.

The e-book version of Shadow Magic, by Patricia C Wrede. I am an enormous Wrede fan, and when I saw that the Lyra, some of her earliest ones (and ones I’ve not read yet), were available as e-books … well, let’s just say I was really, really glad that I’d downloaded that Kindle app a week earlier.

Also by Wrede, I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for the paperback release of Across the Great Barrier – I have Thirteenth Child in paperback, and I like my books in a series to match, but hey, if someone wanted to pre-order this for me, I wouldn’t complain (hint hint, Santa).

And then there’s the book that I remember so fondly from my childhood, and would like to have to keep and to read to my girls: Once upon a Time in the Meadow. This story of six cousins and the bunny they rescue from the trap is sweet and heartwarming, and like I said, brings me back to my childhood as soon as I see the distinctive illustrations.

So there you have it! Not a tremendously extensive list, since, as I said, I tend to buy most of my book-fancies for myself, but enough to probably include Christmas and my birthday in a few months! (My 30th birthday – I am sososososososo not ready to think about that yet.)

What books do you have on your Christmas wish list?

In My Little Corner of the World

What? Yes, of course I am working!


My new favorite spot to write is here: in the grey recliner in the corner of the living room, half-hidden by the Christmas tree but with a good view out the enormous picture window.

Although since downloading the Kindle app for Macs the other day, I’ve been doing less writing and more reading on my laptop. Not sure this was the best idea after all! I’m also having a terrible time not just buying any e-book that catches my fancy. Something about this instant gratification thing that is tremendously addictive, and dangerous. I have to keep reminding myself that this is real money I am spending, even if they aren’t “real” (ie, paper) books.

Sigh.

But back to the writing. I really have been working, even if much of that work does look like I am just sitting and staring into space. After filling out a basic outline for the Celtic YA fantasy (and was I ever surprised to find myself working on that one again – I figured it was going to take much longer before I was ready to even look at that again, given my Frustrations with it on the last round), I’ve been doing much pondering about how things should go, and careful consideration of my writing style for this one (the source of much of my frustration before – no matter how much I wanted to keep a wryly humorous tone, it would insist on taking itself too seriously, and getting Grim and Depressing). I even have part of the first chapter written – and this is actually more progress than one might think, since (for me) as the first chapter goes, so goes the rest of the book. Plus I can reuse a decent amount of material from the last draft, so once I get past these new beginning bits, a lot of what is going on will be cutting-and-pasting with new (hopefully amusing) filler in between the old stuff.

I had planned to work more on my MG fantasy since finishing the first draft of the 1920s ms, but the muse stirred for this one, so I am bowing to her whims. As long as I am working on one of my plethora of unfinished projects, I’m not particularly fussy as to which one.

Especially since recently I found my research notes and partial outline for the story I had planned on writing this year, the one that got shuffled aside in favor of the 1920s story and the Celtic rewrite. Starsong, the one set in a Renaissance world with a heroine inspired by the Maya culture.

And I really, really want to start working on that one again, but with a second draft needed for the 1920s ms, a picture book to indie publish by this summer (that’s the goal, anyway), a Celtic rewrite needing to be finished, and an MG fantasy impatiently reminding me that it’s been the one sitting around waiting to be finished the longest …

I am Not! Starting! Anything! New! Some people (those with sanity) would tell me this is too much as it is. And they would probably be right.

But it’s fun.