Sunday, March 28, 2010

Star-crossed: The traits of my characters

So, last night, I realized that Julie, the best friend of my main character, has her birthday on July 16. Don't ask me how this happened. I'm just letting my characters talk to me again and it so happened that Ella started talking to me about a memory of Julie's birthday party on July 16. So, out of curiosity, I went to a website to find out about her astrology. If you're curious, it's

So, here's what I found out about Cancers:

Emotional and loving
Intuitive and imaginative
Shrewd and cautious
Protective and sympathetic
Changeable and moody
Overemotional and touchy
Clinging and unable to let go

Much to my surprise, this is very Julie. Julie is very intuitive, shrewd, cautious, protective, sympathetic, but very overemotional at times and changeable. So I went to see the traits of some other characters.

Ella was born on September 2 and is therefore a Virgo. This means...

Modest and shy
Meticulous and reliable
Practical and diligent
Intelligent and analytical
Fussy and a worrier
Overcritical and harsh
Perfectionist and conservative

It's fun to see a description and be able to remember specific scenes that make her fit this description. Especially, the practical and diligent, intelligent and analytical and conservative.

So, next we come to Michael, the February 9 Aquarius:

Friendly and humanitarian
Honest and loyal
Original and inventive
Independent and intellectual
Intractable and contrary
Perverse and unpredictable
Unemotional and detached

Well, I don't know about perverse or unemotional, but loyal, original and inventive, independent and DEFINITELY contrary.

And finally, of the tetrarchy of main characters, we have Alex, May 17, the Taurus:

Patient and reliable
Warmhearted and loving
Persistent and determined
Placid and security loving
Jealous and possessive
Resentful and inflexible
Self-indulgent and greedy

Jealous/possessive/inflexible/patient/persistent? Not him at all! :P

So, all of these dates were picked without considering the astrology. I like them!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Method to the madness

So, back in high school, my Ancient History teacher said that all brilliance had something to do with madness--the gods would give someone great talent and a little craziness to go along with it. I think I agree with this.

See, I'm a musician and a writer. Both require a kind of masochism. See, I ws listening to Murry Peraiha's recording of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 and I was reflecting on all of the fantastic things about music and making music. There's this one part right before the cadenza that's the pianist doing passagework in parallel 10ths leading to scales, and then this beautiful, insane trill. I call that part of the piece my pipe dream. But really, the whole appeal for me in music is making something that's never been heard before. Really, musicianship is deeply personal because it reflects so much of your own personality. It's why I never get tired of hearing things played in concerts.

Writing is the same way. No matter the familiarity of a plotline or a type of character, it is something that has never been read before, experienced before. And, like music, the difficulty is in making it WORTH experiencing. That's where the craziness comes in.

I remember vividly my seating audition for my last year at the NEC orchestras. I walked in with my viola and Melba Sandberg, my conductor, turned to the other conductor holding the audition and said "This is Kathryn Olsen, one of our violists. You'll never know if you can expect something wonderful or ridiculous from her." Twice I've auditioned for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and gotten rejected. I've flubbed orchestra auditions. In my sophomore recital, I was 90% of the way through the Bach Double Concerto when I lost my place and almost botched the ending of the third movement. I've had great peer reviews, but I also have broken down in tears when told how bad my writing used to be.

So many things in life are only rewarding after a lot of humiliation. I'm sure that some time, I will have a reader or a friend or an agent or whatever tell someone else, "This is Kathryn Olsen, one of our writers. You'll never know if you can expect something wonderful or ridiculous from her." In music and in writing, my two greatest passions, a lot of humility and vulnerability is required. And you never know if it'll be personally worth it.

Like I said, genius requires a little bit of madness, so I must be Einstein.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Me and my babies

I'm something of a Renaissance Woman. I have a lot of hobbies, a lot of skills. I play musical instruments, have a flair for foreign languages. I can steal a base and ballroom dance passably. My parents raised me in a suburb of culture-rich Boston and I say that I'm from Boston because when even when I wasn't at school, I was in rehearsals at New England Conservatory's youth orchestras. I have traveled the world and can both admire myself for being the unofficial tour guide when we visited places I'd only read about in Greece and laugh at myself for not having learned how to use chopsticks until four years after I went to Taiwan with VIP Strings. I draw well and appreciate fine fashion. I'd like to think that Jane Austen wouldn't always turn her nose up at me.

In spite of all this, I am a complete disaster when it comes to communication devices, yea, even normal electronics. No matter that I type 75 wpm and handwrite 15 wpm. I invariably kill everything from my cell phone to my laptop. The only exceptions are the following: the typewriter that I used for the last half of my time as a missionary because my handwriting was too small for President Bennett to read and my iPods.

Case in point. This morning, I saved the latest version of my novel onto the 4 GB flash drive that my friend gave me for Christmas. I have made this a habit because of my propensity for wrecking things. I then put my flash drive in the adorable little carrying case and put it in my backpack for safe keeping. I later packed up my laptop to bring to a friend's house. I never got around to using it while there, but left it out of the way on the couch where neither her mixed-lab nor her children nor her husband nor my friends could trample it underfoot.

So then I got home, ran choir practice, did the dishes and then decided to do some more writing. I pulled out the carrying case for my flash drive and promptly discovered that somehow, while out of the way of harm, it had been snapped. It is in a couple of pieces because part of the motherboard so to speak snapped off and then it broke in two as well.

Then I went to my computer and decided to turn it on. It would not respond to the power button. At all. It was clearly charging according to indicator lights, but I could not get it to work. I nearly cried because usually I'm not THIS disastrous! Yes, I have had a VCR that only worked when a fork was stuck into it and a laptop that turned off in protest every time the Indians scored in the 2007 ALCS vs. the Red Sox.

So, I left it to its own devices, but came back to nurse it (the laptop) back to health. It took a pencil eraser, removing the battery and re-placing it and several repositionings of the screen, but then the CD drive started clicking and flashing a happy little green light and then it just turned on.

So I am back in command of my semi-faithful laptop. Thank goodness!

In other notes, I thought I was done learning about dysfunctional boyfriends, but just found a new variety. I've decided that I've got a knack for dating Darwinian men--who are, as William Schwenk Gilbert put it, "though best [are] only a monkey shaved."