Why Write: A Kristinish Kick-Off

As the responses to the Why Write genre questions have trickled and poured in, I’ve been thinking a lot about genre and why I define myself as a fantasy writer.

And of course, if I ask other writers to torture themselves with difficult questions, it’s only fair that I try to do the same. But since I’m queen of this little corner of the internet, I get to take a slightly different approach to the process.

I can’t quite remember how my love affair with fantasy started.

I embrace my own nerdiness.

Actually, that’s not true. I remember exactly how it started, but I can’t remember which particular book kicked it off. It was either Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong, first of the Harper Hall of Pern trilogy,  or Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragons of Autumn Twilight, first in the Dragonlance series—yes, novels based on Dungeons and Dragons modules. I was a nerd in the womb, I suspect.

I was between eight and ten years old.

Barbarians are sexy.

I don’t actually remember which of these books I read first, but I vividly remember coming across Dragonsong in the library of my gifted program. I read it in a couple of days, and then, completely book hungover, wandered down to my fantasy-loving older brother’s room in search of other dragon-filled reading material.

There, on his crowded bookshelves, I found the entire Harper Hall trilogy.

I was a goner after that. I think Dragonlance must have come next; Pern was my gateway drug. From that time on, I read mostly fantasy. I went through that long dragon phase, and after that it was King Arthur, and for awhile it was epics, and lately it’s been urban fantasy.

In discussing Why Write shenanigans on Twitter, I found myself saying, “The need to write is a part of me, like my blood type. I couldn’t not write. But what genre to write—that was more like choosing a friend or a lover. It’s part of me, but it could change.”

For me, that’s true. Maybe some day I’ll write historical fiction. I’ve always thought I might like to try. Or perhaps someday my fantasy tales will cross into horror. But for now, I want to write all across fantasy: epic, urban, romantic.

And in the coming weeks, I’ll tell you why.

Look for a Why Write post from Emmie Mears on Wednesday!

Wedding Lessons I Learned… From My Own Wedding

In case you don’t know, I got married a couple weeks ago. And now that I have some distance from the event, I can share some of my hard-earned wisdom.

1. Learn to pick your battles. Realize that every time you point out something that doesn’t look the way you expected or doesn’t play out how you anticipated—even if it’s something tiny, and you’re just pointing out your surprise—people will try to fix it for you. Be aware of this, and keep your mouth shut, or you may end up with people running around trying to fix something you just don’t care about.

2. If you’re getting married outdoors during an unusually hot summer, get a full updo. I had my heart set on a half-up, half-down look, and it turned out just beautifully… six hours before the ceremony. By the time we’d finished the pre-ceremony photos, the curls were coming out and I found myself standing in front of the bar mirror with a curling iron, making the futile effort to fix my limp hair, while the bartenders were setting up cases of wine all around me. And by the time the reception rolled around, there was sweat dripping from the ends of my hair. I repeat: get an updo.

3. Roll with the punches. We had a brief music mishap right before the ceremony, and I had terrifying visions of having to throw a hissy fit, refusing to walk down the aisle, until the right song was playing for me. I was too hot and dazed to worry, really, and the music got sorted out: everything turned out okay. Sometimes you just have to let things go and know that they’ll work out all right in the end. And if something goes wrong, only you will know that it did. (Unless it’s obvious: see #5.)

4. Expect everything to be a blur. As the bride (or the groom, or whatever), you planned out every detail of this wedding… and on the day everything finally comes together, you’ll probably be too nervous/excited/busy/hungover from the previous night’s festivities to actually observe the beautiful day you planned. I wasn’t hungover (I swear!), but I was ridiculously nervous about the whole thing coming off without a hitch and so busy getting beautiful and having my photo taken, that, at the end of the night, I said, “I feel like I didn’t even get to attend my own wedding!” Apparently this is normal.

5. Laugh. This one is definitely the most important, and I’ll give you very specific reasons why. My husband and I did our cake cutting without a hitch: he neatly sliced us a huge piece of cake, and we opted to feed it to each other nicely. After that, a cater-waiter appeared like magic to take care of the rest of the serving. Delighted, we scampered back to the head table to enjoy our delicious dessert.

Now, just so you know going into this story, the cake was one of my very favorite parts of the wedding. It was iced to look like a birch tree with green leaves, each layer was a different flavor (the top, which we sliced, being my favorite: white chocolate raspberry sour cream cake), and cake toppers handmade to look like little owls.


Adorable, right?

We were enjoying our cake, chatting and laughing, and feeling glad we weren’t in the giant cake-scrum, when there was a squealing noise and a crash. We all looked up, puzzled, and could only see people milling around. I briefly remember seeing one of my girlfriends staring at me in horror, and then she appeared at my side like she’d Apparated.

“It’s okay,” she said. “The owls are okay, and you got your piece of cake.”

“What…?” I said eloquently, still confused.

At that moment, the crowd parted, silence fell, and everyone turned to look at me. I could see the wreckage of our cake on the floor. I covered my mouth with a hand, and a million thoughts ran through my head: I’ll always be the bride whose cake got destroyed; no one is going to get any dessert; we paid an unholy amount for a cake that’s now on the floor; AAAHH EVERYONE IS STARING AT ME, I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!

I had a sudden moment of clarity. I could cry, I realized, and a part of me really wanted to, and there would be a lot of drama and catering minions running to Kroger for more cake. Or I could laugh, and the whole thing could get blown off.

I opted to laugh. The tension eased palpably. It turns out that only the top, most delicious layer was destroyed, and we still had plenty of cake. The owls survived. People started telling stories of the cake that tried to run away. And instead of being the bride who cried, I’m the bride who laughed.

So there you have it. Above all else, laugh.


Today marks the Summer Solstice.

Who wouldn’t love to welcome summer at Stonehenge?

This is the longest day of the year, and the start of summer. It’s funny—it’s always struck me that we should mark summer from the days getting longer, not the days reaching their longest and then starting to wane.

Summer is not my favorite season. I love tomatoes, yes, and green leaves and watermelons and fireworks and lightning bugs and the smell of fresh-cut grass and all the other things that come with summer. But I don’t like heat. I much prefer a crisp autumn evening or that first morning in spring when you realize the birds are singing again.

Still. It’s the halfway point in the year. How far have you come since the Winter Solstice last December? I, obviously, have gotten married. I’ve seen my friends welcome new life into the world. I’ve worked hard, played hard, and embraced new people in my life. Those are all good things.

And think: this is just the halfway point. What have you half-finished? I have querying and publication decisions ahead of me, and more life decisions, I’m sure. And this is just one year amid all the years. What else lies ahead?

But today isn’t the day to think about those things. Today, you should walk outside and feel the sun on your face. Look at the growing things around you: really look at them. Are there tomatoes in your garden? Is the grass by the highway turning brown? It’s time to notice the fullness of life. Have a cook-out with your friends. Watch the sunrise or the sunset. Relive your childhood and run through the sprinklers. Let the summer into your heart.

What does summer mean to you?

The Audacity to Try

Last week when I wrote about The Good Wife, I forgot to mention how the sheer audacity of the writers takes the show from good wholesome legal drama and transforms it into a daring, even shocking show that keeps viewers too enthralled to think about what they’re seeing.

At one point in the show, Eli Gold discovers that his client’s competition in an election had a boob job. They leak it to the press, write a goofy song about how she got bigger boobs… and then discover that she had a breast reconstruction after recovering from breast cancer.


But the sheer audacity of that moment makes it great. It’s not maudlin: there’s no awkward acceptance and apology. There’s just, “Oh sh*t!” and the recovery from a real, incredible mistake.

If only we real people had the audacity to dive into our actions and then accept our mistakes with such gusto.

We writers can’t say we aren’t brave. It takes courage and audacity to try a nontraditional career, to say, “This is what I want to do,” and pursue it without regard to its practicality.

But how many writers will give up because it’s hard, because they think they don’t have time, because they got a rejection notice? It would be easy, even smarter to give up, but think of all the wonderful stories that would have gone unpublished if their writers hadn’t had the balls to keep going.

Most people—certainly most women—know the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Did you know that Ulrich is a feminist and a Mormon, and was once denied the opportunity to speak at Brigham Young University women’s conference? Although the board of trustees did allow her to  speak more than a decade leader, she was once thought too outrageous to speak to young women of her own tradition.

It takes audacity to say you want to be a writer, but it takes courage to keep saying it when other people tell you can’t. Pat yourself on the back today, writer. Remind yourself just how wild, crazy, hopelessly hopeful, and damned courageous you are.

Nothing to Wear to the Grammys

I had lunch with a friend today and we got to talking about how creative types (and probably other types as well) tend to overthink things.

I told her about a personal project I’m working on that took me a year to get started on because I wanted it to be perfect. Eventually I realized that you have to start somewhere—perfection doesn’t just manifest fully formed. If you never start, you’ll never even come close to perfection.

She told me a story her mentor, a songwriter, once told her. This woman sat down one day to write a song.

But before she even played a chord, she started to think, “Wow, this a great start. These lyrics could be really good. What if it turns out to be a great song? And what if it becomes hugely successful? What happens when my album becomes a bestseller? And I get tons of money? And when I get nominated for an award? I don’t even have anything to wear to the Grammys!”

And she got so intimidated by her own thoughts, she couldn’t even start writing the song.

It’s fun to imagine future success, and perhaps terrifying to imagine the responsibilities that come with the success, but most of us probably shoot the opposite direction with our flights of fancy. We think, “Wow, this sentence is bad. What if the whole chapter is bad? And then what if I finish the book, and none of my beta readers like it? What if I send it to agents and they send me back letters that just say, ‘HAHAHA NO.’? And what if I send it to editors and they tell me I suck? What if I actually can’t write and I have to get a job at WalMart because I have no marketable skills? And what if I’m so pathetic that I’m going to die alone after one of my midnight shifts at Walmart and no one notices until I never show up for my next shift?!”

You get the idea.

Trouble is, it doesn’t matter if you have nothing to wear to the Grammys if you never even write a song.

We need to stop getting in our own way. Every great book, every great song, every great work has to start somewhere. So put the pen to the paper and quit worrying about what you’ll wear.