Saturday, February 12, 2011

Obsession of the Month, or Reasons Why Melina Marchetta is Awesome

Throughout January, I reread all of Melina Marchetta's novels. Well, all of them I had could get my hands on...which means all but Looking for Alibrandi (couldn't find it at the library) and The Piper's Son (not yet released in the US).

In the middle of the night, I started a blog post about...


And now I've just finished it, and I've decided to share them with you. Yaaay!

1) Her dialogue: It's smart. It's snappy. Like a good play, it always brings the plot or the character development forward. Also, in Jellicoe Road, Taylor plays with words as fantastically as Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It.

2) Her heroines: Marchetta creates characters you just KNOW in a deep way. They're real the way that Cleopatra and King Arthur are real - realistic/based on historical fact and also larger-than-life/mythological. Her heroines are ruthless, capable, damaged, and vulnerable. Marchetta gave Taylor - the MC of Jellicoe Road - asthmatic, as well as contrary, stubborn, and independent, but it's the asthmatic part that led to quasi-romantic scenes that make my heart squee. P.S. She gives the female MCs the most hurtful lines, and the MCs ALWAYS use them on the love-interests. (It almost happens in Saving Francesca, but she perfects it in Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock.) Is it wrong that I think that's awesome beyond words?

3) Rereading: If your memory is good, rereading can literally break your heart, because you actually know what's going on. With the mystery spoiled, all clues become foreshadowing, and it's like watching a car crash in slow motion - without being able to stop a thing. But in a good way. In a satisfying fiction way.

4) The plot: Inevitable and unforeseeable. I rarely read for plots. I don't mean to brag, but I have a knack for figuring out the ending after watching the set-up, at least four times out of five. Watching NCIS, I guess the killer in the first 10 minutes. Books aren't all that much different.

But Marchetta's books sucker punch me every time. Sucker punch, because I should've seen it coming and I NEVER do. And I love Marchetta for it.

5) Melina Marchetta: her name is so cool. I know she probably can't take credit for it, but it's awesome. Have you said it outloud yet? It rolls off the tongue like Pop Rocks. It's just fun to say.

6) The friendships: The truth is that in Melina Marchetta's universe - and sometimes, ours too - people arrive already broken by the ripe old age of sixteen or seventeen. It's an old, overdone story at this point, and I've just stopped reading these stories b/c they depress me to tears. And I do mean that literally.

But Marchetta does something brilliant: she pairs these broken characters together and makes them whole again - not all the time, but usually. And the truly brilliant part is that those whole-making relationships don't end with just the love-interests as they do in so many YAs today. It's the new friendships too.

7) Themes: over and over again, Marchetta weaves in one of my favorite themes: the younger generation tackling the same problems that the older generation succumbed to, and conquering them, simply because the young dream bigger and brighter than their parents.

For example, in Finnikin of the Rock, Finn (the MC) and his father (who's been imprisoned for about a decade) are trying to escape from some nasty prison guards. They hit a roadblock, and Finn's father is all for sacrificing himself to save Finn.
"Finn, listen!" Trevanion said, his voice raw. "I prayed to see you one more time. It's all I prayed for. Nothing more. And my prayers were answered. Go east, I'll lead them west."

"We have a dilemma, then," Finn said fiercely. "Because I prayed that you would grow old and hold my children in your arms as you held me. My prayers have not been answered yet, Trevanion. So whose prayer is more worthy? Yours or mine?"

(Okay, maybe you need to read the whole book for this passage to have more impact. But trust me - it's awesome.)

The Piper's Son comes out in just less than one month...

Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait!

(But the real question is, Will I have time to read it? Sigh.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Beach Adventure, Or An Excuse to Post Pretty Pictures

I had my very first Writer's Retreat about a week ago.

It was pretty awesome. I mean, it wasn't organized. I just wasn't getting enough writing done. Most of the current WIP takes place by the ocean, so I booked a few mid-week days at the Sunset Inn in Sunset Beach, NC. (There may have been a hint of OMG-I'm-so-sick-of-packing-I-might-scream, but we don't need to dwell.)

I drove down. I walked for hours on a very cold beach. I picked up seashells. I found a sand-dollar. Well, technically, I found three, but I broke one and gave another way. But this is cool, because the last whole one I found was alive and thus un-keepable. The people at the Inn were unbelievably nice (and I totally recommend going to anybody near the Carolinas). I wrote. I unsnarled some annoying plot problems.

Overall, it was pretty productive. I plan to make these writer retreats a regular happening.

Besides that, there really isn't much to say.

But I have pictures. Check it out:

This is what it looked like the first day.
It felt like you could just walk forever. But actually,
I just walked two hours. Accidentally.

The sanddollar I found! Plus, some other shells

Did I mention that I had my own porch?
It was a little too chilly to hang out there, though.

The porch had a really cool view of the island's marsh.

But on Wednesday, it was ridiculously foggy...

I almost got lost during my walk, but then I found the pier.

But when I drove a couple miles inland for dinner,
the sky looked like this. Veeery weird.

But Thursday, it looked like this.
Gorgeous, right?