Oooh, this is my first post in three months that's been written in the United States! Alas, I've been home a whole six days. No more Nottingham. No more attending a top 1% uni in England. :( To be fair, I did royally wear myself out climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland, trying on old clothes in Bath's fashion museum (also the city where I crouched on a horribly stiff bean bag in a room with ten-ish of my fellow hostel guests and watched Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and therefore began my journey of learning the plot/watching all the Star Wars movies), exploring Dublin's cathedrals (just the outside because it was too expensive to go in!) and sitting in a bitty cafe called a Bit Out of Life (it's right down the street from Saint Patrick's Cathedral and it's warm, the food is cheap and amazing, and when my friends and I got up to leave a waitress blinked and said, "You're still here? You should be outside, exploring all those places on your map!"). I visited the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert, the National Portrait Gallery AND the National Gallery all in the span of maybe ten hours, and that's what brings me to the topic of this post.
Up an inch or two and to your right, you'll see the cover of Simona Bartolena's Monet, a Masters of Art book I found for just under ten pounds in the gift shop of the National Gallery in London. There were also ones on JMW Turner and van Gogh, but as I wrote a book that features Oscar-Claude Monet, I spazzed and bought the one on him and stuffed it deep into my backpack to take home to America and read at my leisure, a sort of fact check because all the info I used for Monet I got from...no one hurt me here...online. Especially Wikipedia.
Wikipedia was my amigo, my close comrade, my bosom friend while writing the first draft of Monet Evanesce (currently in it's...maybe third round of editing?) perhaps six months ago. It's the bane of public school teachers who nearly shook us by our shirt collars and vowed that Wiki lied and it was not a reliable source. A college student now, I took my past mentor's tongue lashing with a heavy grain of salt and a high level of aversion to lugging more reference books from the library than I already was. Who exactly were the Impressionists? What years did they operate? What works of art have been stolen during the 1900s, and from where? What is museum security like? How much absinthe can you drink before it's lethal? Let's check Wikipedia! These were all things I've wiki'd for my novel. No kid.
So I used the mighty W as my teacher, and now had this handy, and might I say, scholarly reference book in my hand. This morning I cracked it open while my sisters and I were making quiche, and started laughing as the crust browned in the oven and we sat at the kitchen table. Everything I'd written, all the facts....were correct. All of them! I'd been bracing myself for some serious plot holes, some horrendous rewrites, but Wikipedia proved very well informed. I'm not saying Wikipedia probably has some pages that are horribly, laughably incorrect, but mine weren't. I also learned a lot from Bartolena's book, fleshing out the bare skeleton of a man I'd read a couple web articles about. I also feel like a detective when I do book research, which is really dorky but it's so fun.
For example, I learned Monet painted TWELVE copies of Le Gare Saint-Lazare (Saint-Lazare train station in Paris, France), the painting one of my main characters forges. It's extremely crucial to the plot, and it just so happens to make everything easier since there are so many copies. In the late 1800s, it would've been much easier to pass off a painting when there were very similar yet unique versions. The one Wikipedia provided me with is below and to the left; at the National Gallery last Tuesday I saw the one on the right. Obviously different, yet done by the same person. Oh, and Bartolena's book offers close-ups and little bios on the pieces.
Wow, this was a long post. Apologies for that. I just really wanted to spread the word that Wikipedia's rap isn't as shady as public school portrays it, and I don't feel nearly as bummy as I did before for just looking something up real quick online! Whether writing or just for curiosity, have you ever found something utterly ridiculous on Wikipedia? I heard a rumor once that a school class wrote a paper on Stalin and, having used Wikipedia, turned in papers on how he was in a secret relationship with Adolf Hitler. That was probably a lie, though! Writers--do you spurn or embrace Wikipedia? Take it's facts with a grain of salt?
Fun story; I'm in London right now.
Since the 12th, I've been taking trains and planes (no automobiles) from my once-temporary-home of Nottingham up to Edinburgh, over to Dublin, then on to Bristol, Oxford, and Bath. I'm no doubt very exhausted and travel dazzled, and in three days (three! Okay, technically four since I touch down in Buffalo, NY at midnight) I will find myself back in a house I haven't seen since September,
probably hug my dog, and hopefully flop down next to my family's Christmas tree.
Topic: During the sometimes hectic holidays do you find it hard to find writing time? If not, how do you handle it with the expectations of others to visit and share time together? Or do you appreciate taking a vacation from fiction to enjoy time with family and friends?
I'm going to let you in on mea culpa obscura: I haven't written anything in, like, two months. Okay, that's not wholly true--I've written research papers and essays and blog posts and journal entries in my sketchbook. I edited Monet Evanesce, that novel about art forgers that I've been working on for a few months, but it was hard enough to find time for that and I finished maybe in October?
For the last couple of holidays, I've actually written stories for my mom. The Christmas Lights was one of those, as was Nicholas, which is coming out next year. Last year I wrote Shubiao's Girls and that was a full-on novel, if a smaller one than all my others. So really, holiday time is fantastic for me. I have killer short deadlines, and whenever I write something for pure enjoyment or for someone else, good things always transpire.
I'm home from college and suddenly have all this time on my hands, so I usually get up early and hole back up in my bedroom, because as soon as everyone else gets up there are too many interesting plans/conversations/games/movies going on and I feel bad sequestering myself. Also, my little sister usually kicks open my door and talks to me until I shut my laptop. :P
It is nice to have a break, too: lately all my travel had been giving me mad feedback on previous writings; what I've gotten wrong and what I totally aced even though I was just using my imagination. Even though I'm from the US, 90% of my stories take place in Europe. For some reason, I really seem to favor France and Switzerland, but Egypt, Poland, NYC, Massachusetts, Russia, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and a few others get touched on. I usually write to relax (even if I'm writing about art heists or ghosts or evil reincarnated goddesses or horrible deadlines), and when I'm home there's really no need to put time aside to calm myself. The holidays give me time to think and to plan, and recharge my batteries so I can get loads of writing done at a later date.
Agree with my methods? Find madness in them? Compare them to these other authors below (or just have a holly jolly Christmas [or do BOTH!])
A year ago, I gave a book talk at my high school. You know how you're only supposed to return to the gaping hormone hole we named "public school 9th/10th/11th/12th grade" after like twenty years when you're finally hot, rich, successful, and hopefully in a relationship? Yeah; I was invited back with no time to prepare for those things and showed up nineteen years old, single, but hopefully slightly cuter than I was in my high school days. Oh, and I'd published a novella so that was something.
I didn't have a website back then because I was clueless on how networking operated, but I did have a Tumblr, and as soon as I got home that day I made a million posts about it which I'm sure nobody ever saw. However, the other day I was in my archive and rediscovered them. It was really amusing to read my reactions to it all, and so I transplanted them here for you fine people to see.
But first! To set the scene:
Me: one year younger than I am now, self-conscious and home from college. I'd also just chopped all my hair off at Thanksgiving.
Place: New York State, snowy and quiet. The countryside.
Time: the middle of December, only a few days before Christmas I think, like the 21st or something.
I had to put on a miner's hat and lumber off deep into my Tumblr archive to find these, and I was actually looking for a different post when I found them, but re-reading these made me smile.
ALSO: I DO REALIZE I'M WEARING THE EXACT SAME DRESS AS THE ONE IN MY PROFILE PIC TO THE RIGHT. For some reason, I basically only take good photos of myself if I'm wearing that dress. The dress is fierce. They were not taken at the same time, though. Promise.
Do you have any funny stories about giving book talks? Flubbed presentations? Don't lie to me, I know public speaking is basically terrifying for everyone (at least a little bit).