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.
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.