Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bride and Prejudice

I don't usually write movie reviews--in fact, I don't think I've ever written a single one, but I couldn't resist blogging about how much I enjoyed watching "Bride and Prejudice" two weekends back.

Made in 2004 and directed by Gurinder Chadhu of "Bend it Like Beckham" fame, the movie was one I've wanted to see for some time but never seemed to get around to it. Recently, however, I've been on a bit of a Jane Austen tangent, so when I was at the library the other day and saw the film on the DVD shelf, I knew it was the right time for a little fairy tale fantasy.

It turned out to be a serendipitous choice--I absolutely LOVED this movie. For those of you who haven't seen it, it's a modern-day version of Pride and Prejudice set in rural India. Aishwarya Rai (aka "the most beautiful woman in the world") and Martin Henderson play the parts of Lalita Bakshi and Will Darcy, or as we might recognize them from the original Austen text: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Moving the story up a few centuries and taking it from the English countryside to Amritsar was an incredibly clever interpretation of a much beloved classic. The Bakshi family was the perfect remake of the Bennets; Will and Lalita were just as conflict-ridden as their original counterparts; and the chemistry between all the characters--including Jaya (Jane) and Mr. Balraj (Bingley) was almost better than the book!

I've always been a big fan of Bollywood: lots of bling, embroidered silk veils and saris, singing and dancing for no reason whatsoever, dreamy couples who seem to have all the money and time they need to fly around the world to gaze wistfully at sunsets and each other, and of course the 3-hankie happily-ever-after ending. Bollywood is the ultimate escapist, love-conquers-all movie moment. "Bride and Prejudice" was no exception.

Which got me thinking about what makes a great romance book or movie. And this is what I've come up with: two strong, intelligent characters overcome their very real differences so they can learn to work together. Yep, it's all about work. Kissing is the easy part. Getting to the altar takes courage. And a lot of singing and dancing.

I've always thought Pride and Prejudice is essentially a story about marriage. The relationship between the parents--the Bennets in Pride, and the Bakshis in Bride--truly intrigues me. Mismatched on the surface but made for each other; their bond is what has made Jaya and Lalita the heroines they are. My favorite line from "Bride and Prejudice" is when a distraught Mrs. Bakshi is scolding her daughters on being so concerned about marrying for love. She turns and points to a sheepish-looking Mr. Bakshi. "Where was love in the beginning?" she chides. Where indeed? And yet here she is, with four pretty girls, a home of her own, and a husband who obviously cares for her. Awww. As the girls sing after dinner with the endearingly awful Mr. Kholi: "No Life Without Wife!"

Tip of the Day: Watch this movie! Afterward you might like to think about your other favorite romantic films or books. What makes for good chemistry between the characters? Anything you want to change in your own writing? And now it's time for some more singing:                                                                   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Life is a Playground

When I was little, I could play all day. ALL DAY. From the minute I woke up to the second I fell into bed, I was in play mode. For weeks on end I could live in a world of my own, a fantastic landscape filled with talking animals, altered realities, and pith helmets. (I always had to wear my imaginary pith helmet.) Not that I didn't get into trouble; I don't think a single report card ever went home without "Too much daydreaming" scrawled across the bottom. Sigh.

Report cards aside, I still managed to grow up into a fairly disciplined person, so much so that when I made the comment in my writer's group that "life was a school," I was somewhat surprised when another member countered with, "Actually, life is a playground."

When I started thinking about it, however, the idea made a lot of sense to me. Playgrounds, as I remembered them, were a place to let off steam, have snacks, and learn to take turns with the ball. They were a place to sit quietly and talk with my friends, or else to go find a team and run around and scream--as loudly as possible.

Being allowed out of the classroom was a reward for enduring what seemed like endless hours of boredom and repetition: math, spelling, "current events." Instead of rulers and leaky pens there were slides and swings, scraped knees, split lips, and badge-of-honor Band-Aids. When it rained we couldn’t go outside but we invented indoor games and turned our classroom into a makeshift playground. And when nobody was there on the weekend, the empty fields could sometimes feel like the loneliest place on earth--a feeling I rather liked when it conjured up visions of ghosts and captured fairy princesses.

So what made me turn my back on the playground? Perhaps it was the fear of looking too happy, or even foolish. Real writers frowned and worried about their manuscripts. They complained about editors and constant rewrites. Yet I should have known better: literary history is ripe with successful fools: wise fools, holy fools, jesters, clowns, Nasrudin and Silly Billy. In the tarot deck, the fool can be the smartest person in the room. So shouldn't we all be fools for our art? Fool around. Just fooling. April Fools. Feast of Fools. Ship of Fools.

The best way, I realized, to get back to the playground is to examine what is so much creative fun we're embarrassed to admit it. It can be anything: from crayons to mud pies aka ceramics. It can even be an obsession with cats.

Some of the benefits of returning to a playful mindset can include:
  • Play is infectious. Editors and readers will pick up on, and appreciate, your ability to entertain.
  • Constantly marketing or submitting work for publication or other venues can be depressing if you're not seeing the results you want. It's good to take time off from relentless social networking and always being "on."
  • You can withstand rejection and negative critiquing better when you remember that you started all this to have fun. (They don't call 'em "screenplays" for nothing!)

Tip of the Day: When’s the last time you chose the playground over work? If it's been a while, you might want to ask yourself why. Write a journal entry, perhaps in the form of an unsent letter to whatever, or whoever made you stop playing. Or perhaps you'd prefer to create a collage mapping out some future play dates. Be sure to take them!


Monday, September 10, 2012

I Love Cats!

True confession: If you send me a link to a video with cats, or tell me there will be a cat somewhere in the middle of the video if I look closely, or even tell me it just features 1-nanosecond of something that remotely resembles a cat, I will watch it. In fact, I will not only watch it, I will watch it again. And again. And then want to watch the sequel and probably read the book if one exists. 

The other day I got the full package when a good friend sent me a link to the absurdly, impossibly ridiculous faux E-Harmony video of "Debbie who loves cats," that has around 22+ million hits of which I've contributed about 5 or 6. If you've seen it already, I apologize in advance, and if you haven't, well, here it is. (Go on, you know you want to watch it. Again.)

After about the 6th time viewing it, I then realized there were spin-off videos of "Debbie": satires and diatribes, posers and posters and posts and so on. My favorite was the "Songify" version.

And then while I was laughing hysterically, tears at the corners of my eyes, I suddenly took a look at my office and computer table (yes, I know I should have been working on my writing rather than watching viral videos. . .). I was surrounded by cat images, i.e.,
  • My hand was resting on a cat mousepad.
  • A Mexican cat figurine was on my desk.
  • My favorite cat tote bag was on a chair facing me.
  • I was wearing cat earrings.
  • The binder holding my WIP, a nonfiction manuscript on pet ownership was covered in a cat collage I'd made to inspire my writing.
  • A stack of cat stickers was on the shelf of my computer hutch ready to be placed in my journal.
  • And for the last few weeks, I've been drawing cats and kittens in my sketchbook.
I was as bad as "Debbie"!

I loved their ears!

I loved their whiskers and noses!

And their little bow ties!

I had a problem!
Or maybe I just love cats?
Tip of the Day: What do you love? What's your passion? Basing our writing and creativity on the subjects we love is a surefire way to guarantee a constant source of inspiration.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Happy September! The year is flying by too fast--way too fast, which doesn't mean "give up" because time is running out; it means: Do all those fun things you've been dreaming about!

With that in mind, I couldn't wait to visit The Sketchbook Challenge to see what the latest theme for the month would be, and I was very excited to see it was "Patterns." I've always loved patterns, and am constantly on the lookout for new ones to include in my drawing and collage work. Even better is the way the topic lends itself so nicely to writing and journaling, starting with one of my favorite poems since childhood, "Patterns," by Amy Lowell.

Other than poetry, which is perhaps at the top of literary pattern-making, I also thought of investigating:
  • Animal fur, hair, hide, and skin.
  • Fabric swatches.
  • Architecture: structure, decorative detailing, even the random plaster and stucco work.
  • Plant material, e.g., seed pods, bark, leaves, fungi.
  • Seashells.
  • NASA photos of star formation.
  • Antique books with their intricate borders and covers.
  • Wallpaper.
  • Gift wrap.
  • Ceramic dinnerware, good China plates, tea sets.
  • Lace, ribbon, and braided sewing trims.
  • Jewelry.
I'm sure there are dozens of other sources you can think of too, but this list seemed to be a good place to begin--at least as far as the physical world is concerned. But what about the other side of "patterns," as in "habits," or dare I say it, "ruts"?

I felt I needed to ask myself some questions about my own patterns, especially those connected to my creativity and daily living. Some of the thoughts I jotted down in my journal were:
  • What patterns do I fall into too easily?
  • How could I create some new patterns for myself?
  • What about the patterns I create for my characters--how can I make them more interesting, lively, and surprising?
  • When I write, draw, or paint, am I focusing enough on the overall pattern of the actual piece? How can I improve or work on this?
  • Is there an artist, writer, or mentor I'd like to pattern my own work/life upon?
  • What would happen if I didn't have any patterns to follow?
I haven't written down my answers yet, but I'm looking forward to whatever comes up for me. I have a feeling this is going to be a good September.

Tip of the Day: What are your favorite natural patterns? How can you bring them into your own work? Over the next few weeks, make a daily practice of observing and recording the patterns you see in the world around you.