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Letter from L.A: “That’s so random.”

This morning, digging through a drawer in my desk, I found a note scribbled on the back of an unfamiliar business card. The card belongs to woman named Dyan deNapoli, who calls herself The Penguin Lady (underneath it says Penguin Expert — heh). When I looked up the associated website I learned that DeNapoli specializes in educational programs on penguin behavior, biology, and conservation. She’s also the author of a recent book titled The Great Penguin Rescue. DeNapoli seems very cool, but I have no idea why I have her card. I must’ve met her at some point (she’s a writer, there’s a clue), but when or why is long gone.

The note scribbled on the back reads: Start with the restaurant. Kill the chickens. As the kids say, that’s so random. But I know what it means. It’s a note to myself about the opening chapter of a novel I was working on some years ago, how the story maybe started in the wrong place, and how I might shift things around. I never followed through, but finding this note has set off weird little fireworks in my head, and it’s prompted more note-taking, which will go into a drawer, to be resurrected or not when the time comes (or not) to work on that story again.

In a week I’ll be up in Grand Lake, teaching and writing. Preparing for class always sets off cascades of randomness, tidbits I want to share but won’t, because when the time comes they won’t really fit what we’re doing, or because they’ll seem stupid, or because I won’t remember what my point was.

This morning’s scribbles:

  • Never underestimate any character. Never count anyone out.
  • There are enough stories in a single issue of The Enquirer to keep you in novels for the rest of your life.
  • Everything doesn’t have to make sense.
  • Admit it when you’ve made a mistake. Apologize. Do all you can, and more, to correct it. Make sure it never happens again. (This has more to do with living than writing; but for writers, really, what’s the difference?)
  • Do those rare people who have one blue eye and one brown eye see the world differently? Would you want to be one of them?
  • I always put on lipstick before I sit at the typing machine. Who am I making myself pretty for?
  • If you’re weak on plot, you can train. Every day for a month write ten three-sentence novels: this happened to set things in motion; this happened to complicate the story; this is how it turned out.
  • You might catch more flies with honey, but you’ll still have to kill them.

6 comments on “Letter from L.A: “That’s so random.”

  1. andreadupree
    July 3, 2011

    And this, my friend, will have to tide me over until we get the week in Grand Lake. Thank you. That first point about character is one I feel I’m constantly struggling with, even when I think I’ve finally done it. No, I haven’t. It goes back to that usual question of whether anyone’s ever that knowable or consistent. And I love that everything doesn’t have to make sense. Some of the best things don’t. See you in a week!

  2. Lisa Kenney
    July 3, 2011

    Love these random tidbits and can’t wait for Grand Lake!

  3. Catherine Wallace Hope
    July 20, 2011

    For a beautifully written passage about heterochromic eyes, read the Prologue of Laura McNeal’s DARK WATER. You can find it on Amazon as an excerpt ( (p.s. This is only a bit random.)

  4. Karen
    July 20, 2011

    Catherine, how’s this for random? Laura occasionally writes for the The Reader, and I occasionally edit her. We’ve corresponded a bit. I don’t read many YA novels, but I’ve read two of hers, including DARK WATER, because her writing is so superb.

  5. Catherine Wallace Hope
    July 20, 2011

    *random* connections. (geez)

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This entry was posted on July 3, 2011 by in Uncategorized.

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