Monthly Archives: December 2009

Emilie 2009 Best List

This best list has been haunting me and scaring me for a while. There was sooo much going on in 2009 and I’m so eager for 2010 that it actually went against the grain to reflect about everything and somehow select my hits list.

Books were relatively easy. I read fewer this year (112) and the ones I did read were pretty astounding. The ones that I liked the best actually jumped out at me pretty quickly. Here’s a list of my 15 favorites in roughly the order I read them in 2009:

1. Lock and Key Sarah Dessen
2. Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout
3. The Hunger Games/Catching Fire Suzanne Collins (can’t WAIT for the last book to release this August)
4. Cures for Heartbreak Margo Rabb
5. The Song Is You Arthur Phillips
6. Beat the Reaper Josh Bazell
7. Poor Man’s Provence Rheta Grimsley Johnson
8. Darling Jim Christian Moerk
9. What I Saw and How I Lied Judy Blundell
10. Dust and Shadow Lindsay Faye
11. The Beekeeper’s Son Stephanie Nash (manuscript, not available yet)
12. More of This World or Maybe Another Barb Johnson
13. The Girl She Used to Be David Cristofano
14. Something Missing Matthew Dicks
15. The Weight of Silence Heather Gudenkauf

I don’t normally go for short stories, yet I had two collections on my list this year. I don’t usually read a lot of mysteries, yet there are a few on my list – which does go to show that a lot of the books I read this year were recommendations and/or books I read in order to write them up. My notables would be Louis Maistros’s The Sound of Building Coffins, Toni McGee Causey’s When A Man Loves a Weapon and Clarence Nero’s Too Much of a Good Thing Ain’t Bad.

Again, I didn’t see as many movies in the theater this year, but I did manage to see quite a few. Not even as many as last year, however, some do stand out in my mind:

1. The Fall (oh, Lee Pace)
2. The Lucky Ones
3. Hurricane on the Bayou
4. Coraline
5. Fanboys
6. Phoebe in Wonderland
7. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (best rom-com tie with…)
8. Star Trek
9. The Proposal (best rom-com, tied with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past)
10. Sunshine Cleaning
11. The Brothers Bloom
12. New Moon (okay, I just have to say it, I enjoyed it enough to see it twice)
13. Avatar
14. (500) Days of Summer
15. Couldn’t decide between Fame and Slumdog Millionaire because I liked both and had problems with both. Oh, I know! Dil Bol Hadippa!

Notables: Both Inkheart and City of Ember made me like the books they were based on better, which is a little backwards, I know.

TV was strange for me this year. I watched hardly any show when I was “supposed to,” and instead had catch up days (usually Sundays). And then, I also caught up on several t.v. shows all in big gulps via Netflix, including all 5 seasons of Lost in one single month.
1. How I Met Your Mother
2. Bones
3. Castle
4. So You Think You Can Dance (two seasons this year!)
5. Fringe
6. Dollhouse (so sad this has been cancelled)
7. Accidentally on Purpose
8. Survivor
9. Vampire Diaries (I read the books growing up and was soo worried, but this is actually a good show)
10. In Plain Sight

My super notables: Lost, The Tudors, and 30 Rock.

I went a little crazy with music this year. Even more so than last year. So much so that this is an impossible list. I limited myself to music I’d either added to my collection this year or had a new, special significance for me this year. Still, I could edit it a million times and never get it entirely right. But here’s some rightness:

1. How Do You Do Mouth and MacNeil
2. Let the Drummer Kick Citizen Cope
3. Ex-Girlfriend Syndrome Charlotte Sometimes
4. The Beast Angus & Julia Stone
5. Heartless Kanye West
6. Cold Cold Water Mirah
7. No Envy No Fear Joshua Radin
8. No You Girls Never Know Franz Ferdinand
9. Lemon Grove Avenue Mason Jennings
10. Coin Operated Boy The Dresden Dolls
11. Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down Scott Weiland
12. Why D’ya Do It Marianne Faithfull (mostly cause I *really* heard the lyrics for the first time in my life)
13. Today Zero 7
14. Jungle Drum Emiliana Torrini
15. The Scientist Natasha Bedingfeld
16. I Told You So Carrie Underwood (and the version with Randy Travis)
17. If I Didn’t Care For You Amy Adams and Lee Pace (Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day)
18. Jezebel Two Hours Traffic
19. Ain’t No Sunshine Kris Allen (Heartless and Falling Slowly)
20. Set Fire to the Third Bar Snow Patrol ft. Martha Wainwright
21. Blood Mother Fucking Asshole Martha Wainwright
22. Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down Isobel Campbell
23. Fuck Was I Jenny Owen Youngs
24. Everybody Knows Elizabeth & the Catapult
25. Marked Man Mieka Pauley
26. Bed Is for Sleeping Bonnie Prince Billy
27. Feeling Good My Brightest Diamond and Adam Lambert (two versions)
28. Falling in Love Again Christina Aguilera and Marlene Dietrich (two versions)
29. Bad Things Jace Everett
30. Bitter Heart Zee Avi
31. Cold Cold Ground Tom Waits
32. Black and Gold Sam Sparro and Katy Perry (two versions)
33. Gnossiennes No. 1 Erick Satie
34. Maybe Next Year Meiko
35. How My Heart Behaves Feist

Albums – the year of the mix. I bought only a handful of c.d.s this year and when I did, they were almost always from the artist themselves. Here are a few I loved:

1. Early cut of the Dare soundtrack. – Just FYI, you won’t find this anywhere. My friend Dave is the music supervisor and let me keep an early cut he was working on when he visited me. Only about 4 songs remained when he finished the final version. But, it turns out that this early cut is an almost perfect soundtrack for the New Orleans-Baton Rouge trip I make regularly.
2. Fuel/Friends’ Twenty from Year Three Mix November 29, 2008 – Excellent music. Great for the Nola-Atl roadtrip, when I’m finishing up the desolate Mobile-Montgomery run and need a wake up.
3. The Devil Makes Three‘s Do Wrong Right – Got hooked in a friend’s car and went to two great DMT shows this year.
4. Elizabeth & the Catapult‘s Taller Children
5. Two-way tie: Wazozo’s Newton Circus and Hurray for the Riff Raff’s It Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You (both local). Hurray for the Riff Raff has a Daytrotter Session you should check out.

This year’s favorite performers (trying not to repeat artists from last year, who are unquestionably perennial in my book):

1. Angus & Julia Stone
2. Andrew Bird
3. Antony & the Johnsons
4. Bat for Lashes
5. Bonnie Prince Billy
6. The Devil Makes Three
7. Elizabeth & the Catapult
8. Emmy the Great
9. Florence and the Machine
10. Hem
11. Hurray for the Riff Raff
12. Madeline Peyroux
13. Margot & the Nuclear So-and-So’s
14. Neko Case
15. The Noisettes
16. Over the Rhine
17. Paper Moon
18. Sleeply Rebels
19. St. Vincent
20. Stars
21. Tilly and the Wall
22. Vitamin String Quartet

I should add that I had to rebuild everything on my computer around November of this year, when all was wiped from my hard drive (probably the fault of my copious amounts of music), so this year’s lists are even more special because they represent what I remember best, with very little confirmation. I’ll keep track better of the things I love in the coming year.

Hands down, the post that got the most attention here on the blog in 2009 was my write up of Banksy graffiti and street art in general. My daily hits have increased about 75% and remained steady since I wrote that post. Thanks for all the reads, everyone all over the world. My resolution is to find a good balance in 2010 in the number and quality of posts (2008 had more each month, 2009 probably had more interesting and focused posts). I hope you’ll resolve to comment more so we can have a conversation here on the blog!

Happy 2010!

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One last brag before the year ends…

Good news all around.

For those of you who tune in for Nick’s updates, he texted me a few days before Christmas to let me know he’d finished the second draft of his novel. No official update newsletter on that yet, but check back. Here’s a picture that further indicates we are not the same person (though that’s been made abundantly clear before, crazy people), from my annual Christmas party.

Aimee (aka, my sister) and I are talking about writing together again. It’s super early days yet, but that’s exciting. I got to see her and her son on my Christmas journeys to Georgia and back. We continue to work on our NaNo novels.

Jamey has a short story called Nighttime that *just* went up at Torch. Check it out! It’s not work from her novel, but taunting, tasty proof that the lady can write anything she pleases, even something as difficult (for me) as a short story.

And my review of Barb’s book, More of This World or Maybe Another has posted early on the 225 website. I’m lucky to have an excellent editor in Jeff – it’s been wonderful writing for 225 this year. And I was doubly lucky to have enormously easy material to write about in Barb’s book. I’d been talking about it non-stop since I’d read it, so I already had plenty of say. Just had to figure out how to say it. Hope you enjoy the review and Barb’s book when you read it (cause you will and you will enjoy it).

Check back tomorrow for my Best of 2009 lists.

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Aimee’s NaNoWriMo Recap

My sister Aimee has featured in some of my stories and posts and she even guest blogged on here before. She and I wrote together as kids and we both have careers related to writing (as I wrote in my own guest blog, “NaNoWriMo Saved My Life“). I’m only just now beginning to understand how formative that early writing and storytelling together has been in who I am as a person and a writer. So, it’s been amazing doing NaNoWriMo with her the last two years. Here is her recap.

Super-Noveling 2009

I did it! I did it! *singsong voice* Okay, celebration over. For now.

This year’s NaNo experience was much greater than last year’s and not just because I won — though that definitely helps. It was greater because I learned a lot more. About a lot of different things. About the person I am and the person I want to be. About the writer I am and the writer I want to be. About writing in general — and what works and doesn’t work for me. About my characters and my love for them. Yes, this year I truly fell in love with my characters and that, in the end, is what pushed me to the finish. Because, to be honest, the bulk of my writing was done at the very end of November. In the last three days. I always did like the number three.

Oh, I started out with the best of intentions. My best friend and sister (two for the price of one) agreed to be a general supporter and butt-kicker along with my long-distance writing buddy in the U.K. Writing exercises were completed in October to stretch my writing muscles. I had a plot (basically), a handful of characters, a detailed outline even. 1,667 words a day. Very doable. And when the calendar rolled to Nov. 1, I shot ahead despite my son getting sick with a stomach bug that same day. In fact, by day 3 I had a tally of 6,246 words. I was soaring!

Week Two, I lagged at the start. But I kept writing. My word count fell behind. Okay, just pick up the pace and all will be well. But the latter part of Week Two — oh, do I have to talk about it? — erased itself from my writing calendar. Life got tough. Really tough. My novel got set aside while my life was blasted by a hurricane.

On Nov. 15, I should have had 25,000 words. I didn’t even have 10,000 (a few more days found me there, to 10,000 that is). I survived to Week Three though. I took stock of what was left. And found my novel. I needed my novel. It needed me. And I needed that. So — Determination Mode. Something had to turn out good. My novel must survive — it must thrive. It was the good thing I was holding onto. A dream I could salvage.

By the end of Week Three, my word count was only up to 15,000. With the help of my butt-kicking encourager (who still hasn’t killed me for bugging her a thousand times while she tried to complete her own 50,000 words), my fantastic U.K. buddy (who could just be a professional motivator), and my husband (who says he didn’t mind always talking about my novel), I stayed determined. No quitters here. I could still pull it off, right?

As Week Four started, I got the stomach bug. And while I wallowed in pain and misery (and consequently wrote a lot of the same), my son got the stomach bug too. Supermom rally. Somewhere in there, my word count hit 20,000. Followed by Thanksgiving and another day of no writing. Four days left and my word count hadn’t even made it to the halfway point (aka 25,000). My resolve began to sink. What if I can’t do it? I asked myself. No answer. That was not an option. I didn’t have an answer for that scenario. It just wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen, wasn’t meant to happen (kind of like some scenes in my novel). And that meant I was going to finish.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote at every possible opportunity. My notebook traveled with me everywhere I went. I may have ignored my family on occasion. I may have spent the Sunday morning church service writing instead of paying attention to the sermon while my son played in kid’s church.

Monday dawned. Nov. 30. The last day. I had already accomplished a fantastic feat. My word count had hit 40,000. But I had to write 10,000 more words in 8 hours after putting up huge word counts the last couple days already. I couldn’t stop to think or regroup. I had to charge ahead. With my door closed and locked, I began writing again. Slowly, painfully, and so very slowly. I was never going to make it if I couldn’t speed up and I felt like crying. I was so close! And there just wasn’t enough time.

What gave me that final push? What sent me running and screaming passed the 50,000 mark? This is what I realized: If I fail, this world dies. My world. People will die. People that deserve to live, to think, to feel, to be. So I wrote to save the world.

Who’s a superhero now? I sure feel like one.

P.S. Thank you to all my writing buddies for the awesome encouragement and challenges. Dec. 1 wouldn’t look the same without you!  And to my family — thanks for not giving up on me. I’m back!

I was going to do my own NaNoWriMo recap, but I feel like Aimee spoke so beautifully to her experience and mine mirrored hers in a way, so I’d like to just add mine to hers. While I didn’t come from behind as drastically as Aimee did (she did 30,000 words in about 3 days, folks!), I also lost a lot of ground in the 3rd week and had to do the last 15,000 words in the last 5 days (that’s about half the words Aimee needed and about half the days – are you getting how astounding her achievement is yet?). I was lucky enough to make a new NaNoWriMo buddy while still in Baton Rouge who taught me the magic of the Word Wars. And I hadn’t used Write or Die as much as I could’ve till I was desperate at the end. But I had enlisted great friends to hold me accountable – Jamey, Brooke, Becky, Stephanie and Barb. And Aimee was my supporter and butt-kicker as much as I was hers.

I was lucky enough to finish early in the morning on the 29th (mostly cause of those Word Wars with J. in Baton Rouge and some with Aimee that morning). After that, my last job was cheerleader, in my mind. Aimee was 30,000 words behind, so I switched to soothing and cheerful: “No matter what, keep writing. You’ll still write more words than you would’ve otherwise!” I honestly didn’t think she’d be able to finish 50,000 words – mostly because she has a young son and a busy workload. I don’t know how I forgot how stubborn Aimee can be. And how determined. She said to me, “I’m going to finish.” This was 3 days from the end and when she said that, I immediately changed my tune. Humor the crazy, delirious person. But I also started to realize she could do it. Aimee can do anything when she’s determined to.

The fact that she crossed the finish line with a few hours to spare and 2,000 extra words is an enormously affirming lesson to me. Don’t ever underestimate Aimee again – or anyone who needs to finish something as badly as she needed to finish NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo has again saved my life and I am so proud of everyone who wrote any amount of words this year and learned something from this crazy process. I am especially proud of Aimee, my gloriously stubborn and incredibly talented sister.

Today, Aimee wrote me this email, which is probably the best postscript anyone could possibly put on this year’s NaNoWriMo experience: “Funny thing is, I still felt like writing today. Just call me crazy.”

Meet you on the bookshelf, Aimee. XO

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Filed under bragging on, family, NaNoWriMo, writing updates