Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My particular gift

So, it's been a month already, huh? What do y'all think? Are we doing okay around here with our fabulously multi-hued tapestry? I know I've enjoyed all of our maiden entries and am eagerly looking forward to more.

But then... came the second entry. First entry was easy—a lot of pressure, because I was the debut entry for the blog, but relatively easy in that I had the topic handed to me. But for this one, I had to think of something all on my lonesome. Oy.

It's not that I don't have a lot to talk about. I mean, didja know I had a new release last week? (When the Stars Go Blue) You should, if only because I was a total promo whore and it felt like I was absolutely everywhere and can someone give me a cookie and a Cabana Boy, please? Because I really have a hard time with promo. I'm convinced I'm not very good at it-- I don't have the natural flair and gift for it that say, our Jenn Echols and Steph Kuehnert do.

But promo's not what I want to talk about because the title of the post is "My particular gift" and as we've already established, promo is not my gift.

But it is something about Stars that I want to talk about and tangentially, my earlier releases, Adiós to My Old Life and It's Not About the Accent, and the new YA currently in progress. It's no real secret that in my YA novels in particular, I've tended to write about the arts. It started sort of by accident, since I never expected to find myself writing YA, but when it was suggested, I did what most people do with the first time they try something: I stuck to something I knew well while I explored that which was unfamiliar. So I made my lead character a musician, like I'd been, once upon a time.

Readers seemed to really like that aspect of the book.

Then, for Accent, my lead character was a theatre major in college. I'd never been a theatre major, but I do have a longstanding history and love of theatre, especially musical theatre. In fact, one of the things I'd most wanted to do, career-wise growing up, was be Barbra Streisand. I wanted to sing, dance, and act.

Turns out, too, my male lead in Accent was an artistic type: Peter was a computer graphic arts major. (I am not an artist in any way, shape, or form, but I do love art.)

And of course now, with Stars, I honestly couldn't escape the arts, even if I'd wanted, which, incidentally, I hadn't really wanted to. It's an adaptation of Mérimée's & Bizet's Carmen so the artistic pedigree was there from the get to. Then, I deliberately chose to set it in the very artistic world of competitive drum & bugle corps with an aspiring professional dancer at the center of the action. Even the athletic endeavors I describe in an artistic fashion, not to mention that my soccer jock turns out to be an artist. (Are we sensing a theme here?)

The reviews for Stars have said things like, "Ferrer understands the drive that consumes aspiring artists and athletes," and describe the book as a whole as a "love letter to the arts".

For cripe's sake, reviewers and readers even use words like "lyrical" to describe my writing.

And still I didn't quite catch on.

It wasn't until earlier this week, when I finally got back to the current work-in-progress that it really hit me. This particular work is developing a strong blues undertone in places and as such, I have a very blues oriented soundtrack (one of four I've already got for this MS— it's a bit schizophrenic, personality-wise.) I went off into my zone for the first time in weeks and just let the music play and the words flow. And when I was done and sat back and read what I'd written, that's when it finally hit me. I figured out what it is about my voice, what I think my particular gift is.


I'm a musician and I always wanted to be great at it. I wanted to have the kind of big voice and talent that stopped people dead in their tracks and made the little hairs on the back of their necks stand up. Alas, not to be. I'm good, maybe even better than good, but I'll never be that person. Broke my heart when I came to that realization.

However—

When it comes to writing about that sort of talent—writing about music or art... Maybe... just maybe... that's where my gift lies. Because I can take my knowledge and passion for those disciplines and channel it into words. Bring the sounds and images to life.

I should probably just let you judge for yourself. From the WIP:

Smoky heat and the intricate, meditative twang of a blues progression drifted out as she pushed open the glass-paned door. Quietly, she closed it behind herself and moved to the battered leather recliner set to one side of the pot-bellied woodstove. It was her favorite spot in the room—warm, near a window that gave her good light, and best of all, provided a good vantage point from which she could observe Daddy, his hands moving deliberately over his Gretsch archtop, the raw beauty of the music making her insides hurt—in a good way. Reaching over the arm of the chair, she picked up one of her ever-present sketch pads and a graphite pencil, using light, sure strokes to capture the curve of Daddy's back, the delicate tension in his hands as he coaxed out the sobs and wails that he'd said his Louisiana granddaddy told him made the blues the truest music of the heart.

Maybe, just maybe, my particular gift is that I can write about these things I love in a way that adequately conveys my passion.

Hey, I never said I was quick on the uptake, right?

So for anyone who's made it all the way down to the end of this unexpectedly long post, I'd love to hear about your passion. Favorite music, art, sport, whatever it is, I'd love to hear about it. A randomly chosen commenter will win a signed copy of STARS!

14 comments:

  1. *gives cookies*
    From that excerpt, I'd say you have an excellent handle on the arts--music and drawing!
    (On a side note, I can't believe YA Outside the Lines has been up for a whole month! Congrats, ladies!)

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  2. I think "gifts" is a perfect theme for December - and you are certainly a gifted gal, Barb! Congratulations again on the arrival of this much-anticipated beauty of a book.

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  3. I wish I knew.

    I suppose it would be Dance. One of those things I can't even say I was ever good at, if I'm honest with myself. Just don't have achilles tendons that cooperate near enough.

    But oh boy, how I dance in my mind!!

    -Si

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  4. I'd like to think I have a particular gift for taking complicated ideas and expressing them so that they can be more widely understood.

    But you? Have many gifts - communicating music in words being only one of them. I can't wait to read the new one, though currently poverty is keeping me from it.

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  5. Congratulations! I too am not sure if I know the answer to the question. You see...

    Music, it its many forms of presentation, have always been a part of my life. And my son is studying music with an eye toward a symphony musician. He got that from my love and made it one of his. I learned to play percussion instruments in elementary school's band class because there were no girls there and I wanted to be one of the proud, the few, the percussionists. Moving on to orchestra in junior high, I chose the bass. It was taller and wider (and probably weighed more) than I. I loved that. There I excelled. All through school I was in one choir or another. In HS I got involved in drama mostly because two of the three plays presented were musicals. I had a lovely second soprano voice. But a capella, I'd tend to go flat. Turned my music to private times like lullabyes and with family. I even sing hymns while I do dishes. I love music; I love to sing. But, alas, I'm not that good. But, boy, do I sound good when I'm alone!

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  6. Great excerpt, Barb. Exquisite, really. You are gifted, no doubt about it!

    I don't know if it's a gift or not, but I like the fact that I still view the world with wide-eyed wonderment. Also: that I write from a vantage point that's unique to my own experiences.

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  7. Congratulations on the new release. I'm so thrilled for you--for now, I can only imagine what that must feel like (although I'm looking forward to experiencing it for myself in March!).

    Like Shoebrera, I love to sing but am no. good. at. all. (3rd grade music teacher suggested I just mouth the words for the Christmas program.)

    As for gifts... my middle name (really) is Hope, and a sense of optimism and persistence carries me forward and keeps me from drowning. My motto, posted over my desk, is: Be peaceful. Be patient. Be persistent.

    www.ashleyperez.com

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  8. Congratulations on your release! So exciting :)

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  9. I absolutely love baking. Any kind as long as it's in the kitchen. So much fun.


    Vivien
    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

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  10. What a beautiful cover and sounds like a yummy read! Congrats!

    I always wanted to be a singer, but the farthest I got was singing at top of my lungs in my car.

    I have to refrain myself from singing while listening to my iPod. Especially at the gym. Other people would not share my passion.

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  11. Barbara, I love how you describe how your sense of music comes through in your prose. No wonder it's described as lyrical!

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  12. Thank you for the lovely compliments, everyone! It's always a bit nerve wracking to put any of your work out there, be it bound with a lovely cover or just a paragraph you've been toodling with.

    And I love hearing what you guys had to say-- Vivien, you especially hit me in one of my favorite places-- I love to cook and as a matter of fact, I collect cookbooks (my collection is nearly a thousand volumes, including some antiques that I treasure.) However, baking, while I'm competent at it, is where I continue learning and practicing. Talk about a skill that takes a lifetime to master (still too scared to try paté choux).

    And thanks to Random.org, the number I have for the free book is Vivien! Vivien, I'll be getting in touch with you for your mailing addy!

    Thanks again, everyone!

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  13. I just wanted to say that you are very gifted indeed at describing the arts and especially music. That's why I love your books so. Congrats again on this amazing release!

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  14. What an amazing book concept! I can't wait to read it.
    I would have to say that my gift is giving the courage to think freely and deeply. At least, I hope this is my gift:)

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