I Heart Lincoln Center

posted in: Musings, The Muse | 0
The Lincoln Center Plaza

Much of The Muse is set at Lincoln Center. It’s where Ballet Theater of New York performs in their season. It’s where Darcy confesses his love to Elizabeth, and where she reads his tell-all letter in the wake.

It’s also one of my favorite places in New York City, an aspirational corner of the city for those who love the performing arts. Lincoln Center is the largest performing arts complex in the world, home to 13 theaters, a public library, several movie theaters, classrooms, restaurants, and more. Many of NYC’s beloved cultural institutions call it home, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet (NYCB’s feeder school), and the Julliard School. American Ballet Theater, while not located on the campus, also performs there.

The David Koch State Theater, where the ballets are performed.

 

Ironically, Lincoln Center came into being after the filming of West Side Story, which happened several blocks away. Once the opening dance sequence of the movie had been shot, the entire neighborhood and its historical tenements were razed to make way for the arts complex.

 

 

Recent renovations have made Lincoln Center a more open place to the city’s residents.

There’s always tension between “culture’s” place within a larger culture, with many artists looking down upon what the masses call “art” and many regular folk finding “art” hoity-toity and inaccessible. Lincoln Center’s physical location in New York City embodies this tension. Prior to its recent facelift, Lincoln Center was often criticized as being walled-off from the rest of the city. Pedestrians could only enter the complex through the plaza at Columbus Avenue – the posher side closer to Central Park. Separated by a literal wall at the back of the complex were city housing projects. Recently, Lincoln Center underwent renovations to make it more pedestrian-friendly and open to the people of New York City. Now, there is more outdoor seating, including a lovely grassy knoll perfect for sunbathing and picnicking, and free outdoor events.

Lincoln Center offers daily tours of the complex, but the best way to experience it is to buy tickets to a ballet, opera, play, musical, or concert. It’s utter magic, particularly when the iconic fountains are lit up.

Did you know I’m on Pinterest? Click here for more pictures of Lincoln Center, NYC, and images that I love: Follow Jessica’s board NYC on Pinterest.

Turn Off the Fluorescent Lights!

posted in: The Muse, Writing Life | 2

This post touches on writer’s craft and has some spoilers.

 

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Writing should be like Chinese brush painting.

I used to write love scenes like fluorescent lighting: I revealed everything. Like a sportscaster giving the play-by-play, I accounted for every breath, every moan, every facial expression, every body part.

Then, I stopped doing that.

Call me a prude, but knowing exactly what was going on in every love scene really turned me off. In Chinese ink painting, the concept of negative space is just as important to the composition as the dark strokes of ink on the paper. The idea is to capture the essence of the thing in as few brushstrokes as possible.

Now, I try to do the same thing with my words that Chinese painters do with their brushes: I try to build emotion and sensuousness by not only carefully choosing words, but by choosing to not use words. I say things simply. I use fewer adjectives and name fewer body parts. I write the essence of the love scene and not the play-by-play.

For example, one love scene that I wrote in my book, The Muse, was described entirely through the Elizabeth’s drunken flashback. She barely remembers her night of passion, so the love scene is fragmented, told only in blurry snapshots. Here’s an excerpt:

She could only recall the night in flashes—like photographs in a slide show:

Banging her knee against an iron bistro chair as they scurried, mid-kiss, back into the bedroom… The touch of his fingertips as they brushed against the nape of her neck… The feel of his abdomen under her fingers, ridged yet soft when she’d peeled off his shirt.

Also, in the climax of my story, when Elizabeth and Darcy have finally settled their differences, worked out their misunderstandings, confessed their feelings towards each other, and come together for their first real kiss, this is what I write:

William drew her close and kissed her. They came up for air some time later, wild-eyed and flushed.

By not describing the softness or wetness or slowness or deepness of the kiss, I might be disappointing some readers, who have been waiting the entire book for this moment. But, actually, this kiss leaves room for imagination. It’s coy. It continues to entice and titillate, even as it relieves tension.

Am I suggesting you cut out entire love scenes? Am I suggesting that we stop describing sex or kisses or longing looks? No. But your writing doesn’t need to be weighed down with endless description of who’s doing what to whom and where they’re doing it. That actually slows the pace and, to me, is less satisfying. Sometimes, writing less makes the reader use her imagination more.

Fluorescent lights show everything. They’re unsexy. Now, I write like candlelight, painting my love scenes with a gentler, less revealing light.

Looking Back and Ahead

posted in: Musings | 0

Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. He’s characterized by having two faces – one that looks forward, and one that looks behind him. It’s appropriate, then, that our month of January is named for Janus, as the new year offers a great time for looking back on the past year to learn from our accomplishments and mistakes, and to look ahead to set goals.

Janus, Roman god of beginnings and transitions

2014 was a monumental year for me. This year, I saw one of my long-cherished dreams come true when I published my first novel! 2014 began with a flurry of revisions. In the beginning of the year, I tried to submit the book to agents and publishers, and then, when that didn’t pan out like I’d hoped, I sunk into a short-lived funk in which I thought my dream would never become a reality. In September, signing with Meryton Press revitalized me. The run-up to publishing The Muse involved so much work: revision, editing, web design, social networking, and book marketing and promotion. When it finally released a few weeks ago, I stared at my Amazon author page, basking in relief, joy, anxiety, and exhaustion, and thinking, “What now?” I spent so many years being an “aspiring writer.” Now that I’m an “real writer,” I’ve had to shift my identity and my priorities a little bit.

Here’s what my year of The Muse taught me:

  • Revision is hard. Plan first. Don’t be afraid of the Delete key.
  • Find and keep a network of writers. This year, I joined the Romance Writers of America’s NYC chapter. In addition to soaking up the advice of some very savvy writers, chapter meetings inspired me to keep writing, revising, and submitting. The authors in the Meryton Press network also share writing and marketing ideas, which proved to be very useful as I embarked on this journey. I can say with 100% confidence that, had I not had these writing networks, I would not have been able to publish my book.
  • In that same vein, being a part of a reading community has been essential, too. Writers need to read. I use Goodreads and Facebook to interact with other readers and shared books, articles, pictures, and jokes.

Looking ahead at 2015, here is what I hope to accomplish:

  • Continue to build my network of fellow readers and writers by participating in RWA meetings, becoming more active on Goodreads and Facebook, and perhaps even attending a writing conference or two!
  • Prioritize writing in my life by carving out and protecting time to write daily and weekly. As a writer with a full-time job and full-time life, it’s easy to schedule work, friend dates, time with my boyfriend, Internet surfing, etc. into all of my free time. This year, I’m going to start scheduling writing dates with my MacBook into my calendar. Similarly, use school breaks (winter, spring, and summer) to write.
  • Start (and finish!?) my next book. I have a few ideas for the next project. The problem is choosing one and going with it!

What about you? What has been your biggest accomplishment of the year? What have you learned? What goals will you set in the coming year?

Ballet Basics

posted in: Ballet | 0

Some readers alerted me to the fact that they wanted to know about all of the ballet terms that I use in The Muse.  So here’s your ballet basics tutorial.

One of the most common steps that I refer to in The Muse is the plié. In French, plié means “to bend.” That’s exactly what the knees do in this step. Dancers can plié on one foot or both feet.

The “opposite” of a plié is a relevé. A relevé is where the dancer will rise to the balls of her feet, or, if she is wearing pointe shoes, to the tips of her toes.

Here’s an example of a plié-relevé exercise at the barre:

 

Tendú means “to reach.” When a dancer does a tendú, she extends her leg in front, to the side, or behind her, with the toes touching the floor, like so:

 

The first step that William Darcy choreographs on Elizabeth in his piece is a piqué arabesque. In a piqué arabesque, a dancer steps onto the tip of her toes, with her leg extended in the air behind her. It looks like this:

Pique arabesque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be covering some other ballet basics topics on my blog, but let me know in the comments if there’s something in particular you’d like me to cover.