Will the Real Movie Please Stand Up

Today Fifty Shades of Grey will come to a theater near you. And with its opening, comes the stirring of the coalescence that somehow caused the gray confusion that brought my Shades of Gray a rather bumpy, interesting and never-could-have-envisioned entrance into the literary world. While I may not rush to the movies this weekend, I will, at some point, check it out; in the same light that I felt compelled to read each of EL James’ books. Truth is, if everyone was going to be looking at me with raised eyebrows when they heard the title of my book, I needed to know what was behind it. Even James conveyed in an email to me how she got a kick out of the “confusion” that gave my Shades all kinds of press and got my neighborhood principal in trouble for leaving a copy of my book on his desk.

So, once again, I am not complaining about the eyebrow raising or that they cast Christian Grey very unlike what I imagined; I am however feeling a little testy that this Shades of Gray, the one that sends a message about equality, racialism and intolerance hasn’t been snatched up by some movie producer yet. While a little BDSM can make (and undoubtedly will) movie goers wriggle in their seats, wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where people flocked to the theaters or book stores for stories that make them squirm in a whole different way? Yes, I agree, we need a little of each sort of agitation, if you will, in our lives. I believe it is called balance.

That being said, who do you think should play Olivia Dalton in the film version of Shades of Gray? I actually have a list: Emily Blunt (except I am not sure how the British accent will work in), Jennifer Love Hewitt, Julia Stiles, Kate Hudson or Kristen Bell. I am pretty flexible. What about Kie’s character? I’m thinking China Anne McClain or Amandla Stenberg. And while I am thinking big; I’m wondering if Jay Z and Alicia Keys would mind if the soundtrack for the film started with their amazing Empire State of Mind. They could even create all the music for the movie. I’d be more than cool with that. There could be a campaign advocating inter-racial relationships and adoption, peace and tolerance for all. Diana Eck, the Harvard scholar and recipient of the National Humanities Medal for her work on the Pluralism Project and Angelina Jolie (no introduction needed) could be the spokespersons who by chance refer to Shades of Gray – the movie, and grin meekly when people’s eyebrows rise, then redirect humankind down the path of real world issues that my movie, while entertaining, will contemplate. I’d even concede to a few hot, steamy kisses and the insinuation of more throughout the film, because I’m not so naïve to not realize that sex sells (and besides, I already told you I read Fifty Shades.) I think this could work. A good film, a real film, a noble cause and an opportunity to wear a stunning dress to its opening. Know any good screenwriters? Together I think we can make America wriggle for all the right reasons in one great movie, bound together with a.…neck tie? 

Tweeting Down

Get this. I hired a tutor to teach me about social media. Yes, it was over a year ago and being a diligent student, I believe I have progressed in a positive direction. I now understand the value of social media to promote one’s business. I get that it is beneficial to have many followers on Twitter and even greater when those followers retweet your tweet.  I know that Twitter is timely and that my (non-personal) Facebook page need only be updated once or twice a day with the hope that what I write is so witty/inspirational/informative it will entice followers to share. I am aware of the abundance of other sites that can be used to promote whatever it is that needs promoting as well. Goodreads, for instance, is a great place for a writer to stimulate sales…..somehow. And Pinterest, what fun; only all I generally get when I peruse Pinterest are new recipes or a unique way to redecorate my kitchen/family room/bathroom. Not sure that is going to sell books. I am not too confident any of it will. Yet, I am afraid to discontinue tilling my brain to come up with creative and thrilling things to say. I’ve developed this unusual innate pull to intrigue others through social media enough that, in turn, potential folowers may buy, recommend, review or somehow endorse my book.  I can’t seem to stop playing the game. I have become addicted to various websites that keep me current on the on-goings in education and adoption – prominent topics in Shades of Gray. That part is pretty cool. The fact that I then feel the need to post all this stuff (and I use that word loosely) feels a little like going back for that last chocolate chip cookie even though I know my stomach would be much happier without.

I often try to reexamine why I wrote Shades of Gray in the first place and none of my answers lead me back to Instagram or Twitter. Frankly, the only real reason I dabble on Facebook is to stalk my children (nope, not ashamed to admit it). I’ve said before that I think life was simpler before people were glued to devices. Being on the beach without cell/internet service are some of the most invigorating and thought provoking moments of my life. The peacefulness of the beach inspires me. Other novels inspire me. Walks through a bustling city energize me. Some of the articles/tweets/inspirational quotes I read enthuse me to want to write more as well.  What does not arouse the creative juices are the knots in my shoulders from being glued to a screen while wondering if I am being inventive enough to promote something. I wrote Shades to share my story. I am still hopeful that my book will be read by many and even better, inspire educators and parents or parents-to-be. I hope that word of mouth will get it out there, particularly because I believe it is worthy, but also because I miss idle talk.  I still want to hear about a good book from friend, not just a website. So, I am going back to writing more and worrying about social media and sales less. I never wrote to be rich or famous. Nothing personal for those of you who have that innate app I am apparently missing, but for now I am tweeting down. For now.

Capitalizing on New York and London

Not that anyone has asked me, but if young people wanted advice about writing I might jump right in and introduce them to some old friends, Strunk & White. Old fashion, perhaps, but there is something about the formality that its pages outline that I still kind of like. I understand the new theory that we first want kids to get the ideas out there and then later we can get them to clean it all up and make it look pretty, but somehow that second step seems to be going by the wayside. Even my own children seem to be guilty of this at times and believe me they spent their formative years being corrected on a regular basis by a mother who was an English teacher (except for the mispronunciations that were just too cute to modify.) When did we, as teachers, as parents, as people who speak the English language lose sight of the importance of a period at the end of a sentence? Don’t people need to take a breath anymore? Think of punctuation as one’s chance to breathe. Unless, of course, this sort of free form writing technique is new and creative, and I am missing the boat somehow. Yet, I still believe it is our students that are losing out. Somehow, I learned to be a creative writer and I know when to use a comma (and if I don’t I check with Strunk and White) at the same time. I am grateful to editors as well, but last I looked seventh graders don’t generally hire editors, but are likely to be somewhat acquainted with spell check.

As I said though, I do understand the need to get all those thoughts and ideas out first while creative thoughts are flourishing. My question is when do we go back and fix things? Or better yet, when, if we don’t continually teach it, will young writers learn to write automatically using punctuation and capitalization? I see it happening in my own backyard and I am not sure who to blame? Perhaps no blame is necessary. We all make mistakes.  I make them all the time, but this isn’t what I am kvetching about. I love reading my own daughter’s blog, with or without occasional tiny blunders. Let me just make clear that she has talents that far surpasses anything I could have dreamed of and I see great things in her future. Her creative mind ticks in a way that mine only tocks. Her creative energy is probably one of the biggest reasons I finally got off my tush, compiled a load of the stories I had been writing for years and ultimately published Shades of Gray. If it weren’t for my need to prove to myself that I can do it too and I better do it before my then teenager beat me to it, I would still have a drawer filled with anecdotes of a time in my life that has been resurrected and provided me with a platform to talk about things that really matter to me. Once more I am involved in plans for dropout prevention, talking about important issues of today that are real and for some, still difficult to discuss. Not that I wasn’t enjoying my time as class mother and PTA meetings, but my heart is once more getting close to where it belongs and my head is thinking beyond the next load of laundry and I love it. Should I thank my daughter for that and overlook the itty-bitty inaccuracies? I suppose so.

Then, this morning, I read something and I wondered – literally – if the essayist knew that New York and London both should be capitalized. I know the writer and I know she knows, but why doesn’t she do it? In the same light, I am sure that all the essays I edit for college bound kids have used spell check and yet they aren’t fazed by the squiggly, red lines that appear on their pages. Why don’t they care? Yes, I remind myself, my own daughter’s writing is compelling, soulful, original, and even funny sometimes and that is far more important. Writing is not texting though. Why has writing become a brainteaser? Is it possible that the message gets lost when we have to spend time figuring out the riddle that just a little punctuation and lack of abbreviation might explain more clearly? I digress. I am complaining about the text message I could have gotten from any of my three children that has tended to baffle me for ten minutes until I realize it was simply telling me that he/she would be late for dinner. Just say that! When did L8 become late and is there still a chance that we can twist this resourceful spelling/abbreviating game into a better use of these children’s creativity? True, I do want to keep my aging brain productive and I know that a good brainteaser can assist in that, but I still would much rather be mystified by some sort of real writing. I am not asking for more meaningful texts. I understand there is generally no witticism required for I will be late for dinner, but then I am brought back to the essayist. London, like New York always gets a capital! I’ve been to both cities and I assure you, they both deserve it.

As I am sure many people have complained and blogged about this topic before, I will go back to thanking my sweet daughter for her inspiration and continue anticipating her next blog. I will hope and pray that sooner rather than later educators will wake up and realize that we can teach children to write properly while being creative. One does not have to follow the other, nor should it. I will renew my focus on the issues that have become forefront for me – interracial adoption, dropout prevention, and infertility – and be grateful for this opportunity to get involved again. I will not complain when I am stymied by the spelling on an essay I am editing and I will find merriment in the vision of brilliance behind the grammatical errors. I will. I will. I will.