New Book Review

For my birthday I received the new book “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” from my boss. I had been looking forward to reading it after hearing an interview with the author on the local NPR station, Portland’s KBOO 90.7. I finished it in 96 hours–pretty fast for me these days, since I’ve barely had time to read with my crazy schedule.
A review of “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
After her mother died at an early age, permanently scarring her and leaving her without any sort of home base or support system, Cheryl Strayed went on a head-clearing hike from the Mojave Desert in California to the Bridge of the Gods in Washington State, following the Pacific Crest Trail. While preparing as best she knew how, she was completely flummoxed by her lack of “street-smarts” on the trail and made multiple errors in judgement, creating an entertaining yet sympathetic retrospect for her audience.
It was a fast read, but an interesting one. I flipped through the pages, chomping at the bit to see what idiotic newbie mistake Cheryl was going to make next on the trail (and in her flashbacks)—hey, we all like to watch disasters…that’s why America loves reality TV. She didn’t disappoint me. I hope she realizes how lucky she is. She definitely had a guardian angel on her shoulder, because no matter how many mistakes she made, and how many times a weird situation could have gone terribly wrong, something always saved her. She didn’t get off scot-free, but things could have been a lot worse.
At the end, it seemed there was a slightly mad scramble to tie up the ending in a neat little bow with her final “summit” and letting go of her mother once and for all. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Cheryl experienced a great epiphany about herself and her mom during her hike, but I liked reading about the journey. Honestly I would have enjoyed it without all the inspirational nuggets, but that is because I’m a hiker myself and I like reading about adventures on the trail.
I wasn’t bodily moved like I was with the travel memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” but I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad Cheryl wrote it. It obviously meant a lot to her. Maybe her guardian angel was her mother’s spirit all along…but it turns out I feel pretty indifferent about that.
I would recommend it to hikers and locals.

NaNoWriMo has begun–write now!

I started the blog this week by creating a pie chart of how my time is divided into a million pieces, how I’m soooo busy, and how I worry that I won’t have enough time for National Novel Writing Month amongst all my other bad-ass extracurriculars. Then I realized that is pushing the nerd envelope, even for me. So I pitched that concept and decided to be honest. I may not write great blogs during November. I may decide to copy and paste some of my novel into WordPress and call it a blog post. What I don’t need to do is worry that you all are judging me for not writing—except that I am writing, in enormous quantities—and do what my heart tells me, which is to live my NaNoWriMo experience and take a breather from This Curious Universe if I need one.
What I will give to you this week is a look inside my brain. My novel is going to emphasize the characters instead a plot. Have you ever seen the movies “Mother and Child” or “Crash?” Those were based on the intertwining of several people’s lives, all of which came together in a dramatic clash of action and emotion at the end. My story is heading in the way of dramatic, for sure. But first I need to get to know these people and figure out how they are going to lead this story.
If you’ve ever started writing, and all of a sudden the story took over and left you typing frantically to get it all out, then you’ll understand my elation when last night one of the main characters finally told me what her purpose was in the story. It was one of those moments where the answer was so obvious, but it had taken me the better part of a day to figure it out. I got over 2,000 words written last night, which was amazing and gave me the ability to meet the November 3rd word quota. I have never met a word quota in my life. I was so excited!
Now that I am a few hundred words ahead, I can stop panicking and really start digging in. These characters are going to tell me what they do and do not like; if they are outgoing or quiet; if they went to school or built their way up from the bottom at a small company; if they secretly snort cocaine. It takes a while to develop them and to get to know their motives and personalities. I’ve got a gay 25-year old man, a playboy ER doctor, a female black activist who is missing her pinky finger, and a grumpy Persian man who is ready to retire, among many others. Those descriptions are just one part of them, and this week I am determined to find out everything about all of my characters. Have an idea? I welcome them! I don’t want to expose too much of my story today, but I can honestly say that any plot twist you throw at me, I could probably work into my story somehow.
If you are a comrade in NaNoWriMo 2011, good luck! If you’re in the Portland area, hit me up for a write-in. I attended my first one on Wednesday with a new friend that I met at the Portland NaNoWriMo kickoff meeting and it was highly successful! Until next week…