Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Address!

First off, thanks so much to all of you who have followed and supported Write Present. If you'd like to continue in my blog-o-sphere, please visit my updated site:

August McLaughlin's Blog

I look forward to sharing and connecting with you soon!

All my best,


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Heart Ache and Loss

It’s been said, and joked about, that life’s greatest challenges provide fuel for writers. When bad things happen, we write our way through them; the pen becomes our coping device. But that doesn’t make the “bad” any better.

A few days ago, I witnessed a horrific car accident from a mere twenty feet’s distance. I watched a car spin out of control, flip in the air and come crashing down, taking the life of the young driver. Since then, it’s replayed like a film clip in my head and my heart has remained heavy. I can only imagine what his family is enduring...

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, particularly not in tragedies such as this. But I do believe that we can give meaning to turmoil. One man’s accident can lead us to drive more carefully and cherish our lives and loved ones more actively. And our selfish efforts to cope through writing or other art forms might one day touch another.

I suppose that artists' ability to empathize and hurt deeply for others is duel blessing and curse. If given the choice, I imagine that most of us wouldn't trade our heightened sensitivity for any level of numbness. Would you agree?

Words of others can also prove medicinal:

"The true artist's heart searches not for treasure at rainbow's end; But is instead content to play upon the colour there-in."
Karen Sapp

"The heart is an artist that paints over what profoundly disturbs it, leaving on the canvas a less dark, less sharp version of the truth."
— Dean Koontz

"No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster."
— Dalai Lama XIV

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pretty Songs and Dresses

I had an experience yesterday that drew me back to high school. (Yep, one of those...) After opening night of the fall musical, during which I made a wrong dance move and twirled myself off stage, a friend rushed up to me and the rest of the cast. “Oh my god. You were awesome!” she said to a fellow cast member. “And, um, wow... You...looked cool in your costume,” she said to me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed about the experience, after the initial embarrassment wore off.

So yesterday, in response to reading my cookbook proposal, an editor said, “Well, I looked at your proposal and your website. You have a great singing voice.” (She was referencing my YouTube video featuring one of my songs.)

I nearly burst out laughing as I envisioned myself twirling again off stage in that ever-so-cool costume...

She went on to point out my strengths and the proposal's prominent flaws. Granted, it's but one person's opinion. And I sincerely I take no offense. To be honest, I was relieved that she wasn’t gung-ho, ‘let’s get started,’ seeing as my heart is in my fiction, as is, it seems, my agent’s.

On a positive note, the editor did compliment the short story I wrote, which serves as the cookbook’s preface. I suppose I can take that as an affirmation that I’m on the proper path.

Brain Spa: FAR, FAR, FAR

Yesterday I woke feeling what I’ve come to call “groggily.” (It reads like an adverb, speaks like an adjective and need not make sense, seeing as you use it when you feel blah, foggy, gross and/or blob-like.)

Was it hormones? Lack of sleep? My early-morning bull dog alarm? Regardless of the cause, I couldn't shake it. Once I realized that I’d written almost a full article on the effects of caffeine on cellulitis, which was supposed to cover caffeine’s effects on cellulite--a completely different animal, I surrendered to a much-needed break.

I headed to the salon for a haircut, met a fabulous stylist named Spring... (My last stylist was named June, go figure!) then came home for a pretend nap to the tune of an Oprah rerun in the background. My mother instilled this in me as a youngster: “If you close your eyes and rest, it’s just as good as sleeping!”

Last night I slept like a rock and have been writing away all morning, my intellectual capabilities for the most part replenished.

My New Year’s resolution was to rest more and yesterday served as a reaffirming reminder.

In his book, “The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough,” Dr. Matthew Edlund offers a valuable technique for instilling rest into your every day. Food, Activity, Rest. I’m recommitting to FAR as of this very moment. Which's time for a snack.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Cup of Agent-Tea

When I finished my first novel, about a year ago, my mom flew down from Minnesota to help host a “Novel-Tea” party. I knew as soon as the characters and story began formulating in my mind that I’d want to celebrate in such a way. A handful of my dearest friends gathered to make dream-centered crafts, eat tasty food and talk about our creative goals.

A friend who couldn’t attend told me he’d be at the next one, which would be “even better,” seeing as it would mark the day I landed an agent or signed a publishing contract. Although I didn’t say it, I disagreed; you only finish your first novel once. I suspect that no event will match the unique sensation that brings. Sure, I had revisions to complete, then the whole query letter, agent-hunt spree. But regardless of what happened next, no one could take what I’d accomplished. (I hope all writers feel this way...)

A couple of days ago I came upon photos from the tea party and noticed that the pink flowers my mom planted during her visit had sprung to life, seemingly overnight. I then received two exciting emails from agents, both interested in representing my novel.

Before the phone meetings, a crazy mix of hope, eagerness, glee and punched-in-the-stomach nausea overwhelmed me. I listened to songs from the tea party and songs my dad has sent me via iTunes (they always seem to speak to where I’m at) and headed to the park to sit in a quiet place.

I wrote, more like scribbled in hyper/nervous pen, in my journal that regardless of what happened next, I wanted to recall and savor the current giddiness. It’s about the journey, after all -- right?

Yesterday I signed a contract with a fantastic agent at an incredibly reputable agency. After I stopped floor dancing (don’t ask...) I shared the news with loved ones.

I’m so glad I took time to observe and mentally record how I felt beforehand. The happiness and gratitude I feel now marks another step, another beginning, in my writing career. And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t finished the darn thing in the first place! (See how important that first draft is???)

Okay, so perhaps I’m stating the obvious: Not completing your book is the one sure way to not get agented or published. What’s more important, in my opinion, is the bumpy, cool ride and diligence it takes to get to that final page, paired with appreciation and willingness to celebrate every step along the way.

I’m the same person and writer I was before the flowers sprouted, the agents beckoned and the contract appeared. But now I have the joy of bringing my vigor regarding this next step to the page. (The other vital aspect of writing success: KEEP WRITING. Most days I feel as though I couldn’t help or stop if I tried.)

Fellow writers with whom I’ve shared my latest news have offered big time support and encouragement, I imagine because they truly get it. Many of them are significant steps beyond my current stage, yet they all seem to recall what it’s like to sit here. With them in mind, I’ll sip a spot of agent-tea then get straight back to work. One of the best parts of new beginnings: the work, responsibility and possibilities they bring...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writing Cave

Time and conversation with loved ones is a prime cure for loneliness unless you are a writer. Don’t get me wrong—I savor and rely upon such connectedness as much as anyone. But investing too much time and energy into non-writing pursuits feels to me like being in the wrong relationship. (If you feel lonelier with him or her, it’s time to get out...)

And since gone are the days when writers simply wrote (unless you're fabulously wealthy or care little about those trivial, shelter and the like), the passionate ones create and prioritize time in our own "caves" -- places with little distraction, carved out of our ever-hectic, fast paced lives. My friend Darin is a talented writer by night and a physician by day. Ernessa T. Carter, author of "32 Candles," wrote her first novel by writing for 30 minutes every day and working 40-plus hours per week at a radio station. We all have the same amount of time each day and night to do with what we wish. Yes, we have obligations and responsibilities...but some of the most important ones are to ourselves.

"Of course, when one is faced with a canvas, one is no longer alone, and the sense of solitude diminishes. This can be an agreeable passage of time. In fact, solitude then becomes a kind of companion." Pierre Alechinsky

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to Write Efficiently on Planes

Your right elbow is two centimeters from your neighboring passenger's and if his eyes wander toward your computer screen ONE MORE TIME, you'll use it. The woman in front of you finally stopped yapping at the top of her vocal capabilities only to recline her chair back so far back it nearly crushes your beloved laptop, ripping you from the end of what was sure to be your most poignant sentence to date. (Crap! What was I saying???) She then snores through your none-too-subtle knee jabs to her back, which seems to trigger a nearby infant’s screaming fit. But you have three uninterrupted hours to WRITE! And dang-nabbit, you're going to.

How you ask? Here is what's working—er, um...I imagine would work, for me:

1. Open a document or web page featuring information sure to off-put your neighbor. for example, terrifies young, embarrass-able males... Masturbation Techniques for Her might stave off a persnickity, anti-feminist female. (Caution: Do not mistakenly use option B for passenger A.)

2. Type I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS, BUSTER! in bold, large letters. (If you feel so moved, add cuss words.)

3. Bring your fire to the page. This is your win-win. Gather all of your frustration and convert it into writing fuel. Use your anger to strategically kill off the bad guy...your despair to convey the loneliness an imprisoned woman feels knowing she may never pursue her dreams...your humor to write a goofy satire involving a frustrated writer whose trouble-filled plane ride leads to fame, fortune and countless best-sellers...

Ideas to add? tell.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ten Things I Loved About ThrillerFest

1. NYC!
2. Submersion in bookworms.
3. Eavesdropping—er, um, overhearing cordial conversations about blood, murder, weapons and psychopaths.
4. Waking to car horns. (How I've missed that...)
5. The smell of sweet nuts poking through the humid garbage stench.
6. Hanging with two of my favorite artists. (Thanks A & R!)
7. Books...and more books...
8. A new book I could scarcely put down.
9. This comment: "Your protagonist is female? The agents already want you!"
10. This comment: "Send me the whole thing. Pronto."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just Leap

I quit modeling more times than I recall throughout my career. Today, I quit officially -- no more contract renewals, no more "leaving my options open." That method likely works well for some people, but it doesn't bode well with me.

Knowing that my agent might call with an appointment, check my availability for a job or, god forbid, a booking, felt like having a boyfriend while continuing to flirt with other options, just in case! Well...just as I've committed to Mr. Lifelong (today's is our 3 year anniversary, by the way ;)), I've committed to my writing career.

The last time I passed on a big film audition, I finished my first novel -- that very day. After I turned down a walk-on TV role a few months later, I got a new writing client and a marked pay raise. Who knows what today's decision will bring...

I do know this: When you're honest to yourself, you are honest to the world. It only makes sense that professional authenticity and success should follow. I also know that when I write, I'm happy.

If more people pursued their dreams, I imagine many of the world's problems would end, if not minimize. As long as I've listened to my heart and moved forward with purpose, I've had food on the table and joy in my heart. Okay, so some of those days, my food came from the 99 Cent store... But you know what? Even then, I felt rich.

It's not that I don't look before I leap... I just don't wait for the giant net and "GO" sign to do it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Your Book Made My Butt Hurt (My Fan-Letter to Mike Sirota)

Let me explain...

For whatever reason, I read best at the gym. Amidst a hectic couple of weeks, I found myself longing to delve back into the book that "had me" from Chapter One.

I brought my Kindle to the stairclimber, hoping for a solid 30 - 40 minute reading/workout session. Well... an hour later, the darn machine turned off! (Apparently there's a time limit...)

Chapter One was one of the most original, haunting -- okay, and intimidating -- pieces I believe I've read. It's a stand-alone story that could itself be made into a movie. I'll likely read it again and again.

It stayed in my mind throughout the book, which was more like stepping into an entire world than a novel. (I suppose great novels do that.) I was equally struck by the realness of the characters, the places, even the ghosts. There were no "jumping cats," as they say in the film business -- every bit made perfect, even rational sense. The way you wove the characters and story together, switching from one character's perspective to the next, blew me away... Odd as this may sound, it read more to me like a symphony than a book.

I wondered at first whether this supposed "love story" was actually going to happen. Once it did, HOLY SCHMOLEY. I read faster, probably climbed the stairs faster, and before I knew it... The End. (What? No!!!)

A young man "climbing" next to me said, "Must've been a good one."

Huh? "Oh...the book. Yes!" (Reminder to self: You're at the gym.)

Apparently he'd tried to nab my attention twice and I ignored him. After I briefed him on the book, he typed "Fire Dance" into his i-phone and promised me a review next time I see him. If, that is, I can get his attention.

Thanks for writing such a fun, readable book. It reminded me of the reason I first fell in love with reading in the first place -- no better, or cooler, escape. ;) So hurry up and finish that next one! In your own good time, of course.

And don't worry. The exercise wasn't compulsive -- only the reading. I plan to replenish lost calories and more ASAP. As for my butt ache, it was worth it.

Your fan,


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Her Shadow

Hi All,
I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I would share the initial pages of my novel for those of you who haven't gotten a peak. I've been busy working away on my second, querying agents to represent my first and enjoying life overall. I hope all's well in your world, too!

She gulps the swig of poison like an eight-year-old inhaling cough syrup – nose plugged, eyes squeezed shut, her face pulled into a tight round ball. Toxic, metallic tasting vapors trail the liquid down her throat, filling her with venomous stench and nausea. Swallow, she instructs. Gulp. Breathe. There, that’s it. She did it.

She trembles on the floor, her sweaty back pressed against the bedside, awaiting action. The wrapper from the candy bar he forced into her mouth lies on the floor beside her, crumpled like an odd bit of wrapping paper on Christmas morning. No celebrations today, though. Well, maybe after. She withholds her tears, clinging as though to a ledge of which she can’t let go. If she cries, the poison might come out and that would ruin everything. Come on, she thinks, work. Damn it, work! If it doesn’t start soon, she’ll have to sip some more.

A moment later she feels it. The gurgling in her stomach, the slight lift in her gut, the poisoned-food-particle-stuff moving raucously around inside of her, ready to be regurgitated. Yes, she thinks, it’s working!

Vomit shoots violently from her, a volcano erupting. It cuts slashes in her esophagus, wounds that will sting like paper cuts. She doesn’t mind the pain. In a way, she likes it. Proof of her efforts, her un-doing of the food forced in.

She stands, dizzy, and grasps the countertop for balance. She takes a moment to collect herself. Easy does it. Bumping around or toppling over would make noise, and any noise is too much. She tucks the bottle away with caution, conceals the evidence before flushing. The gushing water obscures the swishing sound in her mouth. She puffs warm breath onto her cupped palm and sniffs it. Well done. No scent, no flavor, no cause for HIM to suspect.

She teeters back to her bed, heaviness pulling like a vacuum on her body. Dizziness clamps her brain as she tucks herself in, the sheets now cool from her absence. She rests her head on her pillow. Slumber finds her quickly, a far cry from the insomnia to which she’s accustomed. A dream captures her before she can detect the blood trickling from her nose.