Author Archives: Shary Hover

About Shary Hover

I love to write, dance, garden, read and travel (especially in France). My dog, Lola, is my loyal companion.

Chatting with an Author

I’ve loved books since I was a little girl and sharing the pleasure of reading with friends always deepens the experience, so I gravitate toward book clubs. Right now I belong to four different groups. One thing they all have in common is that it doesn’t matter if anyone likes the selection. Talking about the characters, plot and themes makes each story meaningful for every reader.

One of my groups has a leader who selects fascinating reads and guides our discussions. Another is delightfully disorganized; we choose books based on whim and our meetings are more like conversations. The other two groups rotate book selection responsibilities and whoever chooses the book leads the discussion. In all of the groups, our meetings successful because every opinion is welcomed.

Sometimes, though, there are special meetings when we listen instead of talking. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have the author as a guest. Last month, one of my book clubs had the pleasure of speaking with Zoreh Ghahremani, author of Sky of Red Poppies, a One Book, One San Diego selection for 2012.

This vivid novel tells the story of two Persian schoolgirls, one from a privileged background, the other from a deeply religious family, who become friends despite their differences. It’s a beautiful coming of age story set during the political upheaval of the 1960s.

Zoe shared her inspiration for the novel and answered our questions about the culture and history that she brings to life through her words. Her anecdotes and family stories, both funny and sad, added depth to my appreciation for her work and my enjoyment of her writing. Listening to her was delightful and now I want to read her novel all over again.

If your town has a program like One Book, One San Diego, try attending an author event. Or encourage your book club to read local authors and invite them to attend your meetings. I can almost guarantee that your reading experience will be enhanced. If you’re a writer, you’ll be inspired.

Has your book club ever invited an author to speak? What was the meeting like for you?

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Filed under Authors, Books, Writing

Writing Every Day

This spring I’ve been working steadily on my novel and also on eradicating the weeds in my garden, but I don’t feel that I’ve made enough progress on either task. The weeds are green, so if I look from a distance, they’re barely noticeable. The lack of words on the page is harder to ignore.  I have a lot of control over my schedule, so why can’t I find more time to write?

One of the biggest reasons I get stalled is the fear that my work isn’t good enough. When I’m feeling that way, I’d rather do almost anything than work on my current project. (Even scrubbing the shower or cleaning the oven seems appealing.) There are plenty of writing tasks that don’t involve actual writing, so it’s easy to accomplish something during my writing sessions without adding to my page count, but at the end of the day, I can’t deny that I’ve wasted precious time.

I’ve heard the same thought echoed by so many writers and it helps to know that I’m not alone. I still need to fix the problem, though, so I went looking for advice from one of my favorite writing teachers.

I bought a copy of Midge Raymond’s new book, Everyday Writing: Tips and prompts to fit your regularly scheduled life, and I signed up for her class at San Diego Writers, Ink. Both were filled with practical advice.

This small but mighty book fits perfectly in the pocket of my netbook sleeve, so no matter where I write, I’ll be able to take it along for inspiration and a variety of helpful writing suggestions.

The first half of the book is a series of short chapters centered on making the most of your writing time, like How to write when you’re not really writing and How to meet your writing goals.

The second half is packed with prompts for every occasion. Most involve writing, but some simply provoke thought so that the time you spend waiting (like standing in the security line at the airport or sitting in the dentist’s chair) can enrich your future writing sessions.

The class was just as beneficial as the book with advice tailored to each student’s situation and exercises that encouraged us to reflect on our own writing time. Two of the exercises we did were particularly enlightening for me.

We wrote out detailed descriptions of our daily schedules and I discovered that I don’t have as much control over my time as I thought. Many of my responsibilities are scheduled during the morning, my most productive time of day, and unfortunately, I can’t move those activities. So although I have the time I need to write, my free hours are often in the afternoon when I’m less alert.

Midge suggested that I make those afternoon writing sessions more stimulating by creating rituals around that time, like brewing a favorite flavor of tea to drink while I write. She also suggested rewarding myself with a treat and I love having an excuse to eat a piece of chocolate at the end of my work time.

Another useful exercise was to write descriptions of a good writing session, a mediocre one and a bad one. By comparing the elements of each, I could see clearly what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that I absolutely must start with a pen in my hand and do a quick warm-up prompt to get my brain in gear. I also realized that my internal editor is still sabotaging me. I’m going to try tuning her out by shutting off the monitor while I draft a scene. I’ll find more typos when I go back in to edit, but those are much easier to fix than a blank page.

I’ve taken great classes from Midge Raymond on topics ranging from setting the scene to editing a manuscript. This latest class was equally invaluable. If you have the opportunity to work with her, don’t hesitate. And if you’re not lucky enough to be able to learn from her in person, Everyday Writing is a great substitute. Treat yourself today.

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Filed under Books, Writing

Creative Color

I love color. In my garden, my house and my closet, color boosts my mood and stimulates my creativity. I appreciate minimalist design and the freshness of white walls, but while I might like to visit those places, I find it hard to work in them.

My house has several white rooms and I’m slowly transforming them into spaces that suit me. I like the process of deciding on a color and choosing the shade that pleases me best.  Much to Lola’s dismay, I’ve been doing the painting myself. I move slowly (boring), I spend a lot of time on a ladder (I don’t climb down every time she wants me to open the door) and she hates walking on the slippery plastic drop cloths I tape down to protect the floors.

While DIY projects can be rewarding, I’ve made a few mistakes with my color choices and whether you do the work yourself or hire someone to paint for you, starting from scratch can be costly. My first redo was the powder room. It was a bright mustard yellow when we moved in. I loved the color, but not the shade, so I toned it down and it was perfect.

Until we replaced the stained glass window. The new one by artist Susan Bernard is wonderful…

…but the yellow walls were all wrong with change in the light, so I had to paint the room again. This time, I chose a lovely dark blue that works with the glass. It’s absolutely perfect.

I was so happy with that color that I decided to paint my white office in a similar but lighter color. I expected to love it, but it was just “nice” and the difference in light changed the colors so they almost clashed.

That failure stalled me until I had a visit from my cousin, an interior designer, who is trained to see color in ways most people can’t. She helped me choose a better color for my office and for the rest of the white rooms in my house.

My cousin went back home, so I’m without a resident designer again. I’ve been wondering if I could do a better job of choosing colors in the future now that I’ve had some good advice.

As I was wandering around online, I stumbled upon Colour Me Happy by Maria Killam and I read her post, One Bad Decision Pays for the Designer. I believe her assertion that it can be more expensive to make a color mistake than to hire an expert in the first place. She also has a post that explains why that light blue didn’t work in my office (A Light Colour Will Never Come to Life in a Dark Room) and several posts about undertones that reveal why it was so hard for me to choose the right neutral colors to tie the rooms together.

If my cousin isn’t in town next time I choose paint colors, I’ll have to hire a designer. I could try to learn more about color theory and undertones, but unless the choice is obvious, I think I’ll be better off relying on a color expert for decorating decisions so I can focus my energy on fiction instead.

The more I novels and short stories I read, the more I learn about what works and what doesn’t, but I’ve discovered that simple reading isn’t enough. It takes active study to understand plot structures and character nuances, sentence patterns and voice. When I find a story I love, I have to focus on these details to learn why it resonates for me. I have to look for those undertones in the words like a designer does with color.

But now I can do that work in a room that’s the perfect color for me. Thank you, Tracy!

I’m taking a break from painting, so when I need to recharge my creative batteries, I’ll focus on my garden. Lola approves of this plan and she was delighted to help me plant herbs outside the back door last weekend. If the sun comes out this afternoon, I’ll take my notebook outside so I can enjoy the bright colors of late spring blossoms before they fade away.

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Filed under Books, Creativity, Reading, Writing

I Wanna Rock

I guess I’m not a kid anymore… I know this because they’re now making Broadway musicals just for me. There are days when my aches, pains, wrinkles and grey hairs remind me that I’m forty-something, but most of the time, I still feel like I graduated from high school thirty seconds ago.  Last night, Rock of Ages took me right back there.

Set in L.A. in 1987, it’s the story of young dreamers, Sherrie and Drew, who fall in love on the Sunset Strip. The storyline isn’t complicated and many of the scenes are silly, but you know how I love spontaneous song and dance numbers. The performers in the touring cast were terrific, particularly the leads, Shannon Mullen (Sherrie) and Dominique Scott (Drew). I also loved Katie Postotnik (Regina) and Justin Colombo (Lonny). Colombo must have been exhausted at the end of the night because he was onstage in almost every scene. The award for hardest working performers, though, goes to the Rock of Ages band: Darren Ledbetter, Chris Cicchino, Maddox, Alan Childs and Andy Gerold. They truly were the heart of the show.

It was hard to keep myself from singing those songs that I’ll probably still remember when I’m in the nursing home; twenty-eight songs from groups like Bon Jovi, Foreigner, Journey, Quarterflash, REO Speedwagon, Survivor and Twisted Sister. I had to buy the CD even though I already have a lot of the music, some of it on LPs and 45s that I bought with my babysitting money.

The Hollywood version comes out in June 2012. Drew and Sherrie will be played by Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough and the movie also stars Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Russell Brand, Tom Cruise, Will Forte, Paul Giamatti and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Tickets to the show were an anniversary present from my husband. Great job, honey! We’re definitely going to see the movie this summer.

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Filed under Music, Musical Comedy, Theater