Wednesday, March 9, 2016

week #9 - So long and thanks for the memories!

Well, time ticked by and I am sad to say this is my last week here at the Marion Davies Beach House. I will miss everything about this place and the people I met during my tenure here.

I took a little time over the weekend to reflect on how my writing changed during my stay and I wanted to share my thoughts with you below. If you came to my event on Tuesday night, I talked about some of these same issues (I also read a short portion of my novel that I wrote here.)

best writing backdrop ever!!!
Over the course of the last 8 weeks, people who visited my office hours often asked what exactly am I doing here at the beach house and how did I get here? I had answered a call for a writer-in-residence from the Annenberg blog. Each residency focuses on a different genre of creativity. Before me was a choreographer and after me will be an acting troupe. My call was specifically for a fiction writer.

The application process involved sending in a few letters of recommendation, a writer’s statement, proposed events for these types of evenings, a writing sample as well as a description of the project I’m currently working on.

glorious sun in eyes in front of Marion Davies Beach House
So for the past ten weeks I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of having a place away from home to call my office. In addition to the hours spent writing without the distractions of my home office, (think lots of dog barking and neighborhood construction) I hold office hours once a week for three hours on Mondays from 11-2. I’ve been so pleased with the turnout of these office hours. The work I’ve been presented with has run the gamut from short stories, to novel ideas, to picture books to a graphic novel to a Greek cookbook. All enthusiastic writers with great stories to tell. I will hold my final office hours on Monday, March 14th from 11-2 in my office on the second floor of the Marion Davies building.

The novel that I was able to complete during my time here is currently titled, “Time May Change Me” The gist of the novel is about a woman with a transgendered daughter who is forced to move back in with her parents after years of estrangement. It sounds pretty heavy, but I think, I hope it has a lot of comedic elements to it.

There are many ways in which my writing was greatly impacted by my time here at the Annenberg:

Planning: Let me start by talking about the planning rituals I usually go through. Because, in my writing life before the Annenberg, I worked on such limited writing time. My average on a good day was 2 hours. Keep in mind I didn’t start writing until I had kids, so I just learned to write within these parameters. Because of this, I really would spend a lot of time planning and outlining so that I could best economize my writing time. When it came time to write, I’d just follow my outline and “produce".  However, something happened with all of the extra time I had here. I felt liberated from my usual planning and for the first time, I wrote without a premeditated structure. This was incredibly liberating for me and I felt as though a lot more discoveries happened both for me as a writer and for my characters. I allowed them to meander without pressure and they’d inevitably take me someplace unexpected or interesting – places I don’t think they would have ended up had I been locked down to preplanned plotlines. This leads me to structure.

Structure: So as I mentioned, Time May Change me is about a woman who returns home with her daughter to estranged parents. At first, the structure was split in two: before and after the daughter's transition. My original vision was to have each section alternate between these before and afters. But as I began writing, it became apparent that so much of the momentum and energy of the story was in the after. So there was a lot of cutting (not deleting because I ended up saving some of the before sections to use as flashbacks) and I decided to keep the story in the “after” sections. I did leave a “before” in there to start the novel as a prologue.

The Writing Process:
For me, the writing process has been very accordion-like this sort of stretching and then compressing goes on. I’ve spend a long time in my MFA program and in writer’s workshops discussing how we all write. I definitely am a strong proponent of moving forward and getting words on the page, even if those words are not ultimately the ones that will end up on the page.

So, there you have it! I think the biggest piece of advice I’d offer fellow writers is to get out of your comfort zone, change up your writing routine and try something new! If you usually write in the morning, try writing at night. If you usually write in first person present, check out the third person past tense. And keep applying to those residencies! You never know what metamorphosis your writing might go through at a beachside office!

Come by my last office hours Monday, March 14th from 11:00-2:00

artist-in-residence, that's me!!!
And feel free to keep up with my writing life at

A very special thanks to everyone at the Annenberg and the Marion Davies Beach House for having me!

And here's where I'll be over the next two months! Come say hi!

Saturday, March 12, 2016 - SCBWI Writer's Day, Los Angeles 8:00 - 4:30 

I'll be hanging out at Writer's Day at the Skirball Museum: Skirball Cultural Center
2701 North Sepulveda Blvd. - Los Angeles, CA 90049

 Saturday, April 2, 2016 - AWP CONFERENCE, Los Angeles  12:55-2:45

I will be signing my novel, Strays, at the Literary Classics booth at the AWP conference in Los Angeles. 
Sunday, April 10th: 11:00 - 12:50 - Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

I will be signing my young adult novel, Strays, at the SCBWI booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.