Writing is a Team Sport

March 26, 2018

This is redundant. That’s what I remember thinking when my high school guidance counselor assigned a personality quiz to my sophomore class so he could help shape our career paths. I didn’t mind answering a few questions about, for instance, whether I’d prefer bungee-jumping to knitting. But I already knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life: write. That’s all I’d ever wanted in a career, and I didn’t need a personality quiz to steer me in the right direction. Of course, the results did hit the nail on the head (those Facebook quizzes don’t ferret out your spending or voting habits for nothing, you know), confirming that I was (and am) an introvert who relishes holing up in a room with a book, either reading or writing one. And true, few pursuits are more solitary than writing a book. It’s just me, my imagination and a blank computer screen when I embark on a novel. I even have a hard time listening to music when I’m writing. The quieter ...

Isn’t it Romantic?

March 8, 2018

When my publisher, Flux, asked me to weigh in on my five favorite literary romances, my first thought was: Only five?!? Yikes, that was a tough one. Okay, my list might be totally different on any other given day (romance is fickle, and so am I), but here's the list I came up with. Enjoy! Or pick it apart. (My readers are fickle too.) Gone with the Wind: I’m originally from Atlanta, and I named my most recent protagonist Scarlett, so how could this novel not make the cut? But you needn’t hail from the Deep South to bask in the smoldering heat generated by one of the most passionate romances literature has ever produced. True, Sherman’s the one who set the city on fire, but Rhett and Scarlett’s veritable spontaneous combustion added plenty of sparks to the flame. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: The tension in this oh-so-charming young-adult novel by Becky Albertalli is deliciously palpable as the protagonist follows a trail of bread ...

Trusting that the Magic Will Happen

January 14, 2018

My to-do list for the afternoon: 1. Shop for tonight’s dinner with the fam 2. Clean bathrooms 3. Achieve cold fusion Okay, number three isn’t really on my list, but it might as well be. The actual number three is “start a new novel,” and that seems just as daunting right now as nuclear science. Staring at a blank screen never gets any easier. The screen suddenly morphs into a taunt, a tease, a dare, a threat. It screams mean things at me, like: * "Good luck, loser! Bwa-ha-ha!” * “So you’re gonna come up with eighty-thousand words, huh? You can’t even think of the first one, poser!” * “Go ahead. Click on a cute-cat video. You know you want to.” My blank screen is just as daunting after double-digit novels as it was for the first. But I’ll dig in anyway. The onset of a novel is as intimidating as ever, but I have enough experience now to know that the first word pretty reliably leads to the second, that chapter one generally leads to ch...

Go Dawgs! Sic ’em! Woof, woof, woof

January 7, 2018

My former college roomie shared this morning a Washington Post article citing the University of Georgia’s “golden years” — the early ’80s, which featured, among other things, a national football championship, several athletes who defied physics on the gridiron and basketball court, a music scene to rival virtually any in the world (What’s the frequency, Kenneth?), the dopest cookie store on earth (RIP, Cookies & Company) and . . . me. Yep, I was there, too, so in anticipation of yet another national championship (GO DAWGS!), here are a few memories from the vaunted vantage point of my eighth-floor Brumby dorm: * My self-cleaning popcorn popper. Okay, it wasn’t really self-cleaning, but everyone (other than my poor roomie, Pam) was willing to accept my alternative fact that it was. Actual fact: It’s possible for a popcorn popper to be used every day for a year, never once see a dishrag and still not have its oil resid...

Puzzling and Puzzling ‘Til My Puzzler is Sore

December 31, 2017

You’re welcome. As the gift-giving season (and the year) draws to a close, that’s my message to my family. Once again, I’ve done them the solid of being ridiculously easy to shop for. I’m not into expensive stuff like jewelry, name-brand clothing or high-end accessories. On the other hand, I can’t get enough of puzzles. I love crosswords, jigsaws, brain teasers . . . you name it. I’ve been deliriously awash in this manna from heaven the past few days (thanks, fam!), and it occurs to me that puzzles are the gifts that just keep on giving. I’ve been a puzzle enthusiast all my life, and the older I get, the more aware I am of the accrued benefits. Puzzles, for instance, have an almost hypnotic effect on me, lulling me into a contemplative calm that somehow focuses my mind while enabling it to peel off in a thousand different directions. I’ve conceived countless novel plots while trying to tease out the double entendre of a crossword clue or seeking the jigsaw p...

No, Google, I Don’t Want a Nose Ring

December 10, 2017

Dear Overlords of the Internet, I do not want any “daisy-chain bracelets.” I do not want any “popular teen boys’ sunglasses.” I do not want any “cars with no consoles.” I do not want any “pancit palabok.” Overlords, in all your wisdom, I beg you to please, finally, at long last deduce that my internet searches are linked to my novel-writing, not my fervent sudden desire to purchase weird stuff. True, my internet surfing is unusual. While writing “Tragedy Girl,” for instance, key search words like “drown” and “decompose” were in heavy rotation on my desktop. (Note to fam: Do me a solid and clear my computer searches in the event of any mysterious deaths or disappearances.) Likewise, while writing “Then I Met My Sister,” which involved a teen girl in the 1990s, I was immersing myself in all manner of throwback pop culture. But here’s the thing: Just because I googled “ripped tights” doesn’t mean I’m in desperate need of ...

Me, Me, Me

November 30, 2017

As the gift-giving season approaches, I find myself reminiscing fondly about my mom’s two iron-clad rules regarding thank-you notes:

  • They must be written within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • They couldn’t begin with the word “I.”
Trust me, I wasn’t a fan at the time. Within 24 hours?!? Couldn’t I at least have time to grow tired of the latest addition to my Liddle Kiddles collection before expressing my appreciation? (Her point exactly, I guess.) And the “I” rule, the one she absorbed in parochial school and applied to every type of note? Blecht! It struck me as impossibly archaic, stuffy, arbitrary, contrived and unnecessary. (I think “stupid” is the adjective that floated through my mind at the time.) I remember my contortions in trying to avoid it. To this day, I get lots of mileage out of “Words can’t express my appreciation…” and “What a thrill it was to receive…” If you’re wondering if “T...

Hell? No. You Won’t Go.

October 9, 2017

“I don’t want to go to hell.” These are the heartbreaking words an elderly friend shared shortly before being wheeled into surgery last week for a very high-risk procedure. The friend is a good Catholic, but I inferred a visceral urgency in his words. He could easily check off all the boxes he learned in childhood regarding a speedy passage due north: yes, he was a regular churchgoer before his confinement to a nursing home; yes, he prays regularly, both for himself and for others; yes, he was baptized in his youth. He even carries a picture of the pope in his wallet. But I sensed in my friend a more plaintive reckoning of his time on earth, and a desperate hope that he’d done enough for his fellow man to warrant a place in heaven. His words seemed to carry the unspoken message that if he hadn’t earned his stripes by now, it was probably too late. I assured him he was a wonderful man who, having cheated death numerous times throughout a decidedly colorful run, wou...

Check Out My Trailer!

September 24, 2017

Whoa, what a blast I had working on the "All the Wrong Chords" trailer! It was a multi-pronged process. My songwriting partner, John Hurley, and I wrote the song for the trailer (also included in the "All the Wrong Chords" album by The Beastings, available on iTunes, Spotify or wherever digital music is offered), so I became immersed in the world of music production. The heavy lifting took place in Nashville, but when I wasn't there in person, I was with the band in spirit every step of the way. And the band! Scarlett (AKA Justina Shandler) has perhaps the coolest, smoothest voice in the industry. And the energy and exuberance of the lead vocals in "Sailing On" could fill an arena without a mic. (Thanks, Declan, AKA Chris Schreck!) As for John Hurley's writing, production and instrumentation, well, his talent simply blew me away. I'm his biggest fan. And Craig! Craig Carothers, an Emmy-nominated songwriter in Nashville, is also an amazing video producer and graphic designer...

He Said, She Said

September 18, 2017

My worlds have collided recently in a way I didn’t anticipate. In one world, I’m a concerned citizen, regular voter, voracious news consumer and active community volunteer. In this world, I’ve grown increasingly distressed by how polarized our country has become. So I’ve made a commitment to myself: I force myself to read and listen to a wide range of ideas, and I challenge myself to temporarily be the devil’s advocate of any opinion I hear. Whether I agree with it or not, I try to embrace, at least for a moment, the dissenting point of view and mentally make a case for it. In short, I try to walk around in somebody else’s skin long enough to honor that person’s humanity, even if I disagree with his perspective. This, of course, is a standard debate-team technique. If you’re representing a “pro” point of view on, say, global warming, you have to argue convincingly for its existence, even if you personally disagree. Or vice-versa. You can’t resort to ad homin...

© 2018 Christine Hurley Deriso