Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing while on a Chuck E. Cheese wine buzz...plus a book giveaway



**Giveaway is now closed**

You may remember Sarah Pekkanen (pronounced "peck-a-nin") from our interview with her last summer. Or you may have heard many accolades for her books all over the internet. Either way, Sarah is a sensational writer and we're glad to have her back here. This time, she is talking about writing under rather unique conditions. She also has one signed copy of her newly released novel, "Skipping a Beat" (reviewed here) to give away to a lucky reader in the US or Canada.

If you like what you've read here, follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Here’s what I used to imagine writing my novel would be like: I’d stroll into a charming little coffee shop, order a vanilla latte, and open my laptop. The words would gracefully unfurl from my fingertips while I nodded in delight at my own cleverness. I’d complete a chapter, take the last, frothy sip of my overpriced beverage, and head home, content and tired, but eager to return the next day and craft another gorgeous chapter.

Huh.

Here’s what my journey to writing a novel was like: I was dragged into Chuck E. Cheese’s by my kids, my laptop wedged under my armpit. I scanned my surroundings, searching for a centrally-located table with maximum surveillance opportunities. I ordered a glass of wine (oh, yes! My local Chuck E. Cheese’s serves wine!) and piled a small mountain of tokens on the table.

“One token at a time,” I instructed my kids. I typed a few words, glanced up as a kid rushed back for a token, and resumed writing. I was interrupted every thirty seconds, but soon I settled into a rhythm: type a bit, get a visual on the kids, type a bit more.

In subsequent months, I wrote more of my book in the dentist’s waiting room while my kids got their teeth cleaned, and in the carpool line for school (don’t worry, my car was in Park.) When my agent called to announce she was sending my novel out on submission, I picked up my battered laptop and took the kids to see Kung Fu Panda and frantically re-read my manuscript, searching for typos, while mainlining M&Ms (er, perhaps that last bit wasn’t really relevant. Plus, it’s now making me crave M&Ms. Excuse me just a moment).

But here’s the crazy thing: I actually prefer writing on the fly to the inherent expectations of the coffee house culture. I think it’s because we writers are so good at messing with our own minds. We type a sentence, mock and ridicule ourselves because it’s so lame, then begin to wonder if we’ll ever write a decent sentence again. We decide we probably won’t, so we wander off in search of a snack. Then we beat ourselves up both for breaking our low-carb diets and for not having the discipline to sit down long enough to hit our target word count for the day. It’s emotionally exhausting.

Writing at places like Chuck E. Cheese’s somehow makes the process less precious. All the pressure is off, because who in their right mind would try to craft a novel while a giant mouse dances a few feet away and crazed, glassy-eyed children careen around, screaming in either joy or terror (all screams sound alike at Chuck E. Cheese’s)? Somehow, the writing comes more easily there. And I don’t mind the noise, because I used to work in crowded newsrooms and am used to the screams of editors (which, for the record, were not usually screams of joy).

Writing works best for me when it fits in around the margins of my life. Now that I’m on my third book, I’m better able to handle longer writing stretches, and I’ve even ventured out to coffee shops at times. I’ve found I also adore writing first thing in the morning, during those quiet, golden hours when everyone in my house is asleep.

But I still return to the way I first learned to write a book, in little snatches and pockets of time. Just the other day, I scheduled an admissions test for my son to attend a new school.

“It’ll take about an hour,” the school official told me. “Do you mind waiting?”

I thought about my laptop, and the deadline for my next book, and I smiled as I said, “I don’t mind waiting at all.”


Thanks again to Sarah for showing how it is possible to write in noisy spaces and for offering her book for our giveaway.


How to win "Skipping a Beat":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)

1. Please tell us: What is the strangest thing you've been able to do under noisy or chaotic conditions?
2. Please tell us: What is/was your favorite game at Chuck E. Cheese (or any video game place for that matter)?
3. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends Thursday, February 24th at midnight EST.

For more chances to win "Skipping a Beat," visit Chick Lit is Not Dead. Ends Thursday after 6 pm PST.

68 comments:

Melissa Roske said...

1. The strangest thing I've ever done under noisy/chaotic conditions is write magazine articles. I used to be an in-house freelancer for a London-based teen mag, Just 17, and we were expected to produce articles with Spice Girls' music blaring in the background (this was the '90s, after all). We also got impromptu serenades from visiting boy bands from time to time. Crazy stuff!
2. I hope this doesn't take me out of the running to win Sarah's wonderful book, but I've never been to Chuck E. Cheeze's. Does playing BrickBreaker on my BlackBerry count? If not, how about Pac Man? :)

Melissa Roske said...

Further to my comment, I didn't mean to hit a "z" in Cheese's! Eek!

Colleen Turner said...

God I love Sarah Pekkanen! Even when she is talking about "controlled" chaos she is witty and eloquent.

Ok I have a five year old boy so everything I do has a background track of noise usually punctuated with screams, uh oh's and crashes. The most important thing I have had to do in chaos and noise is probably answer my bosses questions over the phone while taking care of my sick son. One particularly crazy time something important to my boss was not getting done in my absence so he called to find out the protocol so he could make sure it got done properly in while I was out. My son started this weird whining while I was trying to talk to my boss and rub my son's back. All of a sudden my son puked all over me and I loudly gasped. When my boss seemed to not here that or my son's crying I had to finally stop him and tell him I would call back!

Candc320@gmail.com

Colleen Turner said...

I love the game where you roll the hard little balls into the various holes in the target behind the screen. I have no idea what it is called but I cannot get enough of it!

Candc320@gmail.com

Colleen Turner said...

I am a GFC follower (Colleen Turner).

Candc320@gmail.com

Colleen Turner said...

I am a.Facebook fan.

Candc320@gmail.com

PoCoKat said...

The strangest thing I've been able to do under noisy circumstances is read...not really strange but I do find that to be a challenge.

littleone AT shaw DOT ca

PoCoKat said...

I follow on GFC

littleone AT shaw DOT ca

PoCoKat said...

Fan on Facebook

littleone AT shaw DOT ca

PoCoKat said...

I like air hockey

littleone AT shaw DOT ca

Anonymous said...

1. Hmm...strangest thing I've ever done in noisy conditions? Well, when I went to the hospital to have my son, there wasn't a room ready for me so I had to labor in the waiting room for an hour! The older couple there waiting for their grandaughter to be born asked me inane questions between contractions.
2. I LOVE SKEE BALL!!!!

Monica S
msrockville@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

And I'm a follower of the blog!

Monica S
msrockville@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

And facebook too (both chick lit central and Sarah Pekkanen)

Monica S
msrockville@gmail.com

Nancye said...

The strangest thing I have ever done in noisy/chaotic conditions is sleep or read.

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Nancye said...

I love Skee Ball!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Nancye said...

Follower

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Nancye said...

I joined Chick Lit on Facebook

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Nancye said...

Tweet! Tweet!
@NancyeDavis

http://twitter.com/#!/NancyeDavis/status/39878645120110592

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

shanaelyse said...

1. The weirdest thing I've done (and still do) under chaotic conditions is to practice yoga in the middle of Times Square in New York City during the summer solstice. The organizers call it "mind over madness," and I agree.

shanaelyse@gmail.com

shanaelyse said...

2. My favorite video game at an arcade (I barely remember having been to Chuck E. Cheese) was always Ms. Pac-Man.

shanaelyse@gmail.com

shanaelyse said...

I follow you via GFC.

shanaelyse@gmail.com

shanaelyse said...

I like Chick Lit Central on Facebook, too!

shanaelyse@gmail.com

Jen R said...

1. I once slept through an entire movie at a movie theater.
2. Skeeball!!!!
3. gfc follower jen161

jen161 at hotmail dot com

Teresa said...

I love this! My son loves the mouse house and was so kind to take me there for my birthday.

No need to enter me, I'm already enjoying Skipping A Beat.

Heather said...

Wow, it's been a long time since I've been to a Chuck e Cheese! I think skeeball was my favorite!
ra6352 (AT) gmail (Dot) com

Heather said...

I am a follower!
ra6352 (at) gmail (dot) com

Heather said...

I shared on facebook!
ra6352 (at) gmail (dot) com

Heather said...

I am a member of Chick Lit Central!
ra6352 (at) gmail (dot) com

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

1. Definitely sleep... if I'm tired enough I can sleep no matter how much noise there is. lol!
2. Oh man, I loved the balls. I know they're disgusting and all but it was so much fun!
3.I'm a follower!
4.I tweeted! :)
5. I'm a follower on FB too

amber_johnson2004@yahoo.com

Kat said...

I remember one time when I was younger (probably about 11 or 12), my brother and I had a small get together for cousins and family friends around our ages. The music was absolutely pumping in the house, and somehow I managed to fall asleep in my room.

ladykathryn@rogers.com

Kat said...

I don't even think we have Chuck E. Cheese here?? If we do, I've never been. I'm not a big video game fan either, however, when I had a Commodore 64, I'd have to say my favourite was Galaxy.

ladykathryn@rogers.com

Kat said...

I am a follower of this blog.

ladykathryn@rogers.com

Kat said...

Already a member of CLC.

ladykathryn@rogers.com

Kat said...

Posted on FB.

ladykathryn@rogers.com

Kim said...

I can sleep ANYWHERE, ANYTIME! No matter how noisy!

walker03 (at) telus (dot) net

Kim said...

I like skeeball and I also love any of the car racing games!

walker03 (at) telus (dot) net

Kim said...

I am a follower of this blog!

walker03 (at) telus (dot) net

Kim said...

I'm a fan of CLC

walker03 (at) telus (dot) com

Kim said...

I've shared this on Facebook!

walker03 (at) telus (dot) net

Linda Kish said...

I'm not good at it but I love Skeeball.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Meg said...

The strangest thing I've been able to do under noisy conditions is read! (Imagine!) While waiting for a concert to begin, the opening act was playing at an eardrum-bursting intensity... but were boring me terribly. I pulled out a paperback and returned to my current read before the headliner came out. :)

writing.meg [at] gmail.com

Meg said...

At Chuck E. Cheese (or any game place!), my favorite game would have to be Whack-A-Mole. I used to be a champ as a kid!

writing.meg [at] gmail.com

Meg said...

I'm a blog follower!

writing.meg [at] gmail.com

Meg said...

And I'm a member of Chick Lit Central on Facebook. :)

writing.meg [at] gmail.com

Bonnie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dani In Chicago said...

1. What is the strangest thing you've been able to do under noisy or chaotic conditions? I'm good at tuning people out and sticking my nose in a book.
2. What is/was your favorite game at Chuck E. Cheese (or any video game place for that matter)? Anything on Atari. I also remember Showbiz Pizza that was bought out by CEC. I remember getting kicked out when I was 17 with my friends because we were under 18 and didn't have an adult with us.
3. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too). I believe I already follow; if not I will now!
4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it. Done!
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.) Done!
danisilvia223ATgmailDotcom

Bonnie said...

When I took my kids to Chuck E Cheeses it was generally for birthday parties but the adults didn't stay. If they did we enjoyed making up drinking games - good thing we didn't drink alcohol or the kids would have had to drive home - and they couldn't reach the gas pedal!
LOL

smallb@gmail.com

Bonnie said...

I am already a follower of this blog. :)

Smallb@gmail.com

Bonnie said...

The strangest thing I have ever done under noisy/chaotic conditions is read. I had the ability to tune just about anything out - just ask my hubby. lol Unfortunately this ability is now severely lacking...

smallb@gmail.com

Bonnie said...

I'm a follower on facebook too!

smallb@gmail.com

patebooks said...

Former reporters do all sorts of things under loud conditions, but I would go for reviewing a Springsteen concert as happening, and writing disaster news stories on deadline: Challenger, Columbia, 9/11

I'm a Chick Lit member, a FB follower, my e-mail is patebooks@yahoo.com

and I remember Pac-Man!

Margie said...

I find it hard to read when the TV is blaring. Sometimes I can tune it out, and other times I wear earphones and listen to music.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

The last time we were at Chuck E Cheese was about twenty years ago, for our son's birthday party. I seem to remember that he enjoyed some driving game, where he was seated in a little car. But it's a little fuzzy!
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

blog follower via GFC
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

Facebook fan
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

karenk said...

sleep...anywhere :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

karenk said...

can you believe that i've never been to a chuck e cheese...

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

karenk said...

email subscriber :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

karenk said...

i'm a follower, too :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

JHS. said...

I am also giving away a copy of this book at Colloquium! So your readers should stop by and enter there, too! Might as well double the chance of winning, right?

JHS
Colloquium

Anonymous said...

otkeri at comcast dot net
am a fan on FB and a member
I love the car and driver video games..pole position I think they call it

Chelsmac91 said...

1. The strangest thing I've ever done under loud/chaotic conditions would be write my 10 page term paper I had at the end of my Freshman year of college. Towards the end I just wasn't able to work in the library any more so I went to my room where my roommate was watching t.v. and I could play music.
2. I play so many video games it's a little ridiculous to be honest. I have to say my favorite would be Left 4 Dead on the Xbox. Also, the first one not the second one, I think the original is just better.

Email: chelsmcfadden(at)rocketmail(dot)com

Chelsmac91 said...

I'm a blog follower

Email: chelsmcfadden(at)rocketmail(dot)com

Chelsmac91 said...

I joined on facebook

Email: chelsmcfadden(at)rocketmail(dot)com

Chelsmac91 said...

I posted the contest on my twitter
http://twitter.com/Chelsmac91

Email: chelsmcfadden(at)rocketmail(dot)com

Katie said...

The strangest thing I've ever done is read a book. I'm kind of boring. :)

Katie said...

My favorite ChuckE Cheese game is Skee Ball. hands down.

Samantha C. said...

haha, funny questions. :D

1. My friend had just taught me how to juggle, but I could not juggle more than 2 oranges at a time for the life of me. So people got bored watching and went back to doing whatever they were doing before they started watching me (chatting, DDR, cooking, screaming, play tag, etc.) With all the noise, I suddenly started juggling 4 oranges... :S

2. I like the one where you smash the little purple animals that pop out? With a hammer? I'm not sure if it's got a name... :)

Thanks for the contest! I love your books!

hsiu_an(AT)hotmail(DOT)com