Wildfires on the brain

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Over the past few months, I’ve been drafting a new YA novel titled “Wildfire Girls” about–you guessed it–WILDFIRES and a gang of powerless/powerful girls that start them. And so, when the Santa Barbara mountains burst into apocalyptic flames again this summer, I felt my inspiration following suit. I’ve been furiously drafting, and now I’m closing in on the last few chapters.

My writing has always been grounded in place. My last two manuscripts were set in San Francisco–no big surprise, since the kid version of myself meandered the Mission long before the hipsters grew out their man buns. I love novels that are filled with sharp sensory details, and I find that my strongest writing is so much about place and the crazy cast of characters that find themselves there.

I’m sorry to see acres of dry drought land burning in the Whittier Fire, and firefighters risking their lives to protect our precarious city by the sea. I’m sorry to find the ash of oak trees on the hood of my car, and the evacuation notices that ring out on the radio. BUT, the best I can do is write and keep writing and let the inspiration of this place carry my story forward.

Stay tuned for more posts on my inspiration for WILDFIRE GIRLS…

no fires sb ellickson

 

Save my Synopsis

Recently, I was writing a synopsis for my novel. I’d been dreading it for weeks. Go ahead, sum up all the complexities of your entire manuscript into an enticing one-pager without digging a grave under that lightning-struck apple tree. But luckily, the blog post “HOW TO WRITE A 1-PAGE SYNOPSIS” by author Susan Dennard saved me. Mental note, read this before you break out the shovel. It’ll keep your hands clean and your mind from imploding. Also, if you’re a fan of Star Wars (and who isn’t a fan of Star Wars), you’ll have a fun sample synopsis to pick apart.

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She brings up a good point too–“Sometimes, I even use it before writing a novel to help me get an idea of the general plot I want to follow.” Brilliant! (As you can tell, I’m more of a panster when it comes to plotting, but even I can change my ways.)

Any luck writing your synopsis before writing your novel?

Inspiration: Hitting the Streets

My current writing project digs into the graffiti underworld of San Francisco. What better way to get inspiration than walking the color-soaked streets. There’s an awesome organization called Precita Eyes Muralists that even goes into the history of graffiti and murals in the 24th and Mission. So much pain and hope on these walls.  Here’s a few pics from my adventures:

Painted by Martin Travers in 2002

Painted by Josue Rojas and Maria Garcia in 2014

Painted by Carlita in 2011

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Painted by Patricia Rose in 2000 – Artist is also standing in the photo

Enchantia (Čarokraj): A Return to the Enchanted

Photo Credit to the Prague National Theater and Irena Vodáková

Enchantia Opera – Photo Credit to the Prague National Theater and Irena Vodáková

What if you could rewrite your world every half century? Redesign the creatures, reassign the rulers, rewrite the book. And what if this magical book was an opera singer with a carousel dress of mythical creatures?

On Sunday morning, I slipped on a black dress and rode a tram to the Národní divadlo (Prague’s National Theater) to catch the magical world of Enchantia (Čarokraj), a Czech opera by Marko Ivanović and Petr and Matěj Forman accompanied by the Czech National Opera Orchestra.

DSC02036On the way there, I passed a line of children and parents dressed in their Sunday best while a green toad led them toward the carved doors lined in gold. Spiral after spiral of red velvet stairs led me to my red velvet seat in a balcony towering over the entire theater. Peering over the edge, I started to grumble about my lack of binoculars, until the orchestra thumped to life and a white feathered parrot-man boasted a long deep chord of sound. A chorus of hooded glowing women surrounded him along with goat-men on stilts, slithering creatures, and a woman with a massive carousel dress. Instead of whimsical unicorns and winged pegasus creatures, her dress was a carousel of pages twirling with the images of mythical creatures. She was the singing book of life in Enchantia—a book with the power to change the world every fifty years.

A small screen projected lyrics translated into Czech and English. For the most part, it was incredibly difficult to drag my eyes from the amazing stage sets, costumes, and dance performances. Sound became my guiding stick as the National Orchestra powered through every emotion and gesture. The giant marching drums, the slew of violins, cellos, flutes, and chimes, the surprise appearance of modern instruments. It was a classic quest story, and I didn’t need the words.

National Prague Opera Orchestra

The National Prague Opera Orchestra down below the stage.

Like the children in the row in front of me, I propped my elbows along the railing and lurched toward the spectacle bellow. Evil bird-like creatures called Cockatrices stormed the stage with spears intent on rewriting themselves as the rules of Enchantia. Suddenly, a human woman in a white dress was plucked like a daisy from the orchestra as if the fourth wall never existed. Her name was Penelope. Immediately, the opera threw me into an Alice in Wonderland style adventure—a much needed fall into another world.

During four weeks of intense studying and teaching in Prague, I almost completely locked away reading and writing fiction simply because there wasn’t enough time or brainpower leftover. For a whole month, I’ve been re-learning English in a way natives never usually do, all while adjusting and adventuring in a foreign city. Too long has my mind been filled with the laws of grammar, the intricacies of phonology, the preciseness of vocabulary, and the mysteries of Czech language and culture. For me, literature and English language are incomplete without creativity. I needed to return to the Enchanted.

Photo Credit to the Prague National Theater and Irena Vodáková

Photo Credit to the Prague National Theater and Irena Vodáková

I followed Penelope, Parrot, and Toad on their quest to save the world and defeat the evil Cockatrices. They sang through perilous seas, swam with mermaids, fought werewolves, escaped dang dungeons, and jumped through mythological realms. The costumes and stage sets were clouds of imagination brought to life—flapping, glowing, slithering, spinning, splashing. Humans became creatures, and the audience became Penelope plucked from the orchestra stage. And then, when the red velvet curtains slid shut, I was still Penelope, eager to return to my Enchanted world of writing, eager to rewrite my own book.

Andrea Ellickson National Theater Národní divadlo