<![CDATA[Cori Tadrus - blog]]>Tue, 21 Nov 2017 21:09:13 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Cutting Room Floor]]>Sat, 04 Apr 2015 17:12:59 GMThttp://coritadrus.com/1/post/2015/04/the-cutting-room-floor1.htmlLike with every other book that has been through the editing process, there were things that didn’t make it into the published version of Flawed Happiness. Superfluous themes and excerpts wound up on the cutting room floor, only to be swept into unnamed files in the dark crevices of my laptop. 

One such file contains a series of spoken word poems that were sprinkled throughout the first draft of the story. They culminated in the final chapter with the protagonist, Athena, reading a poem on stage at an open mic night {a scene that remained, but the poetry was replaced with a different piece}. My intent in using the poems was to represent the movement of Athena’s self-realization from subconscious to conscious thought in an artistic way; however, as my publisher bluntly pointed out, I’m not a poet. And, in fairness, they’re right. I have never taken a poetry class, have yet to read the works of Rumi, and couldn’t tell you how many syllables are in a Haiku.
A line from the classic movie, Wayne's World
But even though I’m not a poet, I’ve always had an affinity for listening to spoken-word poetry, as well as hip-hop music {I believe that good hip-hop, unlike the empty, mainstream stuff that fills the pop radio airwaves today, is composed of lyrics that are no less than urban poetry}. I mention music also because, as I’ve said before, I draw a lot of inspiration from it. As a teenager, I would often stay up well into the night, hypnotizing myself to songs by everyone from Nas to John Coltrane, and translating my muddled, adolescent emotions into prose in a journal adorned with Keith Haring artwork. 

Now, like the poems that were originally in Flawed Happiness, they didn’t follow any literary rules, and probably wouldn’t make much sense if anyone else read them. However, in both instances, they led me to where I needed to be, even if in the end their words weren’t perfect. And that in itself is pretty poetic.

So, in honor of National Poetry month, I’m blowing the dust off one of those raw and imperfect cutting room floor files to share with you. It speaks to Athena’s Greek and African heritage, which was initially a more significant theme in the story. Here’s how the first chapter of Flawed Happiness originally opened:

I am a descendent of royalty. Queens and Kings of Greek gods and Nubian empires whose civilizations birthed the earth’s first philosophers. The astronomers. The artists and the architects. The poets and the revolutionaries. 

My ancestors surround me. In every feeling of déjà vu; in the lines of a century old statue in the park; in the smell of the air and stillness before a summer rain; in the texture of sidewalk chalk and the laughter of children skipping with their laces untied; and of course, in music... the rumble of classical, the purity of acoustic, the pain of blues, the soul of Motown, the angst of hip hop.

And here I am. Her majesty. Seemingly, as far away from the kingdom as one may be, misunderstood, misguided, missing. Too often I walk these city streets, my body aware of where I am, my mind constantly seeking where I am going. Somewhere. Nowhere. 

The epitome of usual.
<![CDATA[Finding Happiness in the Everyday]]>Fri, 06 Mar 2015 20:08:59 GMThttp://coritadrus.com/1/post/2015/03/finding-happiness-in-the-everyday.html I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately. Not just because it’s the subject of my book, either.  Since the arduous task of editing is done, I actually have a few minutes of the day to get lost in thoughts that aren’t related to plot structure or character development. Now that Athena’s story is complete, now that she has found her happiness, I’ve found myself focusing on my own happiness in a new way.  I’m in a much different place in my life than I was when I started writing Flawed Happiness five years ago, when I was working two jobs and childless and driving to another state on my days off to visit my husband. I feel like I can finally take a breath. In this place between the book release and baby {and book} #2, I’m able to take a few moments to think about everything that has happened in my life recently and make sense of it. Evaluate the positives and negatives, what’s helped me to grow and what I’ve had to let go of for my own good.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what brings me happiness in my everyday life. Not just the profound choices, but also the simple, seemingly superficial things that undoubtedly make the day a little better. Here are ten things that come to mind, in no particular order:

1. Snuggling in bed with my daughter first thing in the morning
2. A hot latte or cup of tea (edit to “iced” in the summertime and “wine” in the evenings, when I’m not pregnant)
3. Sunshine on my face
4. Receiving a text message or email from a good friend. I am living in a temporary situation right now where I don’t know many people. It’s nice to hear from someone familiar, even if it’s about something silly
5. Settling into the couch with my husband at night, watching one of our TV shows, and sharing a dessert
6. My toddler’s naptime (for those few minutes a day to myself that I spoke of earlier)
7. Eating a good dinner every night. Most of my other meals are relatively light, so I look forward to enjoying a satisfying meal at the end of each day
8. Taking a hot shower while listening to my favorite music
9. The way that my new essential oil diffuser makes a room smell. It’s so therapeutic.
10. Chocolate. More times a day than I’m willing to admit.

What kind of things bring you happiness in the everyday? Comment below for a chance to win an autographed copy of Flawed Happiness. Contest ends March 19, 2015 at 11:59 pm.

<![CDATA[Athena's Soundtrack]]>Sat, 14 Feb 2015 19:47:42 GMThttp://coritadrus.com/1/post/2015/02/athenas-soundtrack.htmlSometimes, I forget about music. I forget about the power it has to touch the deepest parts of me, to speak to what I’m feeling or transport me back to another time and place; to bring a smile to my face, a pang to my heart, or a warm sensation to my soul. But then a song plays and I remember all over again. I remember the power of music.
I believe that we all have soundtracks to our lives. Whether they define a specific moment or are a constant through our happiest or most difficult times, certain songs are embedded into who we are and where we’ve been. Some people’s soundtracks are rock. Some are blues. Some are hip-hop or rap. Some are country. Some are a compilation of all different genres and styles. In the moment of Athena’s life that I write about in Flawed Happiness, her soundtrack is neo-soul, with a few classic soul and R&B songs in the mix. I chose this music because, although my taste is diverse, it has always spoken to me the loudest, and Athena’s identity and struggle are in way an extension of my own. The story played out like a movie in my mind, so I would close my eyes and listen to certain songs over and over again to put myself into a scene. After awhile, it only made sense to include the songs into the scenes as well. 

There are eight tracks to Athena’s soundtrack, one in each chapter, that demonstrate the character's progression in her journey to happiness. It begins with one of my favorite songs, Mr. Stevie Wonder’s As {the lyric that speaks to the moment being: "As now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow / But in passing will grow older every day / Just as all is born is new / Do know what I say is true"}. There are a few other bonus tracks included too, that set the tone for the different nightspots she visits. Check out the full playlist on my Pinterest Page

I would love to know -- what’s a song that's a part of your soundtrack?
<![CDATA[My Fuck-it List]]>Sun, 18 Jan 2015 16:17:47 GMThttp://coritadrus.com/1/post/2015/01/january-18th-2015.htmlI didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year {well, besides to blog more}. Not because there aren’t things I need to improve upon, but my life has been changing so quickly as of late {military relocations, babies, publishing a novel} that I’m not entirely sure what challenges and opportunities the year ahead is going to bring. So, instead of a list of resolutions, I spent a few minutes on New Year’s Eve coming up with a personal mantra to live by in 2015: Be kinder and more patient, especially with yourself. And, as corny as it may sound, whenever I’ve felt frustrated or overwhelmed during the last couple of weeks, I’ve found solace in taking a deep breath and repeating these words to myself. That, and in a big piece of chocolate cake {yay for no resolutions!}.

Another New Year-sy thing that I’ve done since January 1st is making a bucket {or, as Olivia in Flawed Happiness calls it, “fuck-it”} list. I recently created a Pinterest account for the book and have a fuck-it list board inspired by this character. As many of us do, I’ve always had an abstract idea of the things I’d like to do before I die, but taking the time to really think about and document these things made me feel more accountable to them. Although I haven’t completed as many I would like, especially those things that would have been easier to do in my twenties {before careers and kids, like traveling Europe}, I have done a few, writing a book being one of them. Another was performing a spoken-word poem in front of an audience {check out my Pinterest page for the video!}. Public speaking and sharing my writing are two deep-rooted sources of discomfort for me, so it was eye-opening that both of these items were not only on my list, but two of the most empowering things I have ever done. This realization has inspired me to look not only to my dreams and ambitions for items to add to the list, but also to my fears.

So, friends, I know I’m a few weeks late, but I’d like to wish all of you a 2015 filled with the kind of unadulterated happiness and fulfillment that comes from chasing your dreams. What’s on your fuck-it list this year?
<![CDATA[… and a pig, too]]>Thu, 02 Oct 2014 19:36:56 GMThttp://coritadrus.com/1/post/2014/10/-and-a-pig-too1.htmlIt's been a minute since my last post, so I thought I would fill you in on what's been keeping me busy!

A few weeks ago, we moved from Albany, New York to Fort Lee, Virginia, where my husband is stationed for the next six months. We made the nine-hour drive south in two cars; in mine, the dog, the two-year-old, and no good music or adult conversation because my phone leaped out of my back pocket into the toilet before we left… On a related note, did you know that Target sells wine down here?! It was a very, very happy surprise when we finally arrived and I had to run in for a roll of paper towels.

Anyway, amidst the chaos and clutter of uprooting our home, I have been working on edits for the first three chapters {roughly the first third} of my book. It seems like inspiration always strikes when the mind is furthest from it, so of course as we were unloading the moving truck I was flooded with ideas on how to improve my novel. My husband wanted to kill me because I kept disappearing to write down my thoughts, but I promised him it would be worth it. For months, I had been really stubborn about keeping a particular theme in my story, but suddenly it became clear what my editor was saying all along about the theme being unnecessary. I also had spoken-word style poetry in a few places throughout the manuscript – the idea was that the protagonist’s voice was moving from her subconscious to conscious thought through this medium – but decided to remove it as well per my editor’s recommendation. I still am attached to this concept {it was what I originally based the story on} but realize now that it didn’t convey what I wanted it to in a story that eventually took on a direction and life of it's own. Perhaps I will share the poems in a future post, to ease the blow of the cutting room floor : ) . 

As the last of the packed boxes sit disapprovingly at the corners of the room while I write this, I am left with the notion that whenever life presents change, whether in the form of location, thought, or something else, adjusting is often a slow and uncomfortable process. Just as often, it is worthwhile. Besides one-stop paper towel/Pinot Grigio shopping, "moving away" also introduced me to a new perspective on my book. Oh, and to a pig, too. Here is a picture of my new potbellied neighbor, who both intrigues and terrifies me. I wonder what other surprises Virginia will have in store...
<![CDATA[The Path to Publishing]]>Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:20:23 GMThttp://coritadrus.com/1/post/2014/07/the-path-to-publishing.htmlWhenever I tell someone that I've written a book, I’m usually asked what the book is about and when it is coming out {I swear, friends, I’m not being coy about the release date, I don’t know it yet and I’ll tell you why in a bit}. But many, especially fellow writers, are also curious about how and why I obtained a traditional publishing contract, especially since most authors these days are going the self-publishing route. So, here’ the scoop.

For those unfamiliar with the publishing world, a self-published book is one that the author takes full responsibility for producing and distributing. The author may hire specialists to edit, design, print {if releasing hardcover/paperback versions} and distribute the book, and will incur all of the costs associated with this work. The benefit of self- publishing is that author owns all of the rights to the book and keeps all of the profits the book generates. On the other hand, a traditionally published book is one that is produced and distributed by a publishing company. The publishing company will absorb the above-mentioned costs, and likewise will keep a large percentage of the book’s profits and own many of the rights {as defined in the publishing contract}.

When I finished writing my manuscript, I didn't know a thing about book publishing. In fact, that very moment went something like this: Typing the words 'The End' and staring at them in disbelief for at least ten minutes; hitting 'save' about 15 times, closing the document, then reopening it to make sure it really saved; thinking "holy shit, I actually finished it, now what?"; and googling "I wrote a book, now what?" It took a few weeks to sort through the answers, to read up on the pros and cons of each type of publishing, and to define my goals. Ultimately, I decided to pursue traditional publishing because I believed it would give my novel the greatest chance of success. I wanted the guidance and experience of a professional publishing team beside me, even if it meant relinquishing most of the potential income. 

The next step was having my manuscript professionally copyedited to fix grammar and formatting errors. Then, like most first-time authors with grand illusions of my book becoming a New York Times best seller and next summer’s box office blockbuster, I wrote a query letter to ten top literary agents {people who represent authors to big publishing houses that will generally not accept unsolicited manuscripts}. I mean, Terry McMillan’s agent HAD to love my plot synopsis because even though no one in the literary world had ever heard of me, it was just THAT good. “Move over Stella, here comes Athena!” she would declare after reading my riveting two-paragraph plea.
Aww, thanks Ryan Gosling. You just earned yourself a roll in my movie!
In the days that followed, every time my inbox chimed my heart would skip a beat. But as rejection letters and reality trickled in, I began to consider the more likely path of self-publishing. The problem was that producing a quality book would take time, resources, and, most of all, money that I wasn't confident I could muster. So, I decided to take a different approach and research small, indie publishing companies that might be more willing to take a chance on me. That’s when I discovered my publisher. After a few months of emailing back and forth, I finally received an acceptance letter. Cue the doves flying off my laptop screen and church choir singing Hallelujah!  

Having a publishing contract means a lot of things. It means feeling excited and validated. It means the beginning of a career that I really, really want. It also means edits that are sometimes painful and unfair, and a lack of control over the production timeline {the reason why I don’t have a release date yet}. But above all else, it means that I am one giant step closer to having my book in your hands.
<![CDATA[The First Chapter]]>Mon, 23 Jun 2014 00:58:21 GMThttp://coritadrus.com/1/post/2014/06/the-first-chapter.htmlNot too long ago the pool in our apartment complex opened for the summer. My husband and I packed up some sunscreen and water {or beer, depending on how judgy you are} and headed outside with our two-year-old. Despite the balmy weather, the pool water hadn’t warmed up yet and was FREEZING. While we dipped our toes in and deliberated whether or not it was too cold to swim, my daughter barreled down the pool steps wearing floaties and a look of sheer determination. I had to race in after her, my skin burning and lungs gasping for breath as soon as I hit the icy water. After a few minutes, though, I got used to it, and the water started to feel pretty comfortable.

This first blog post is a lot like that day at the pool. I’ve been dipping my toes in, writing a few sentences here and there, and deliberating when and if I should start a blog {could I really be THAT interesting?}. So, after wrapping up edits on the first chapter of my novel, I took a page out of my daughter’s book and decided it was time to just jump in. Hopefully after a few posts {or beers, again depending on how judgy you are} it will start to feel comfortable, too…
Now, about that first chapter. As you’ll see in my bio, when I started writing my book I had no aspirations of becoming an author. Creating Athena and living vicariously through her experiences was a type of therapy for me; it provided direction and meaning during a time in my life when I felt like I had neither. I didn’t know exactly where I was going with the story until later chapters, when I began to take the journey that both of us were on more seriously. 

Fast-forward to the edits for chapter one that came from my publisher recently. The changes suggested were relatively minor, but nevertheless left me frustrated with myself and questioning my decision/ability to publish in the first place. I struggled for weeks with this process, not just because of the plot inconsistencies, but also because I have a problem re-envisioning anything. Once I perceive something one way, whether it’s a person, situation, or words I’ve typed on a page, I have a ridiculously difficult time seeing, or saying, it any other way. 

Another obstacle was that my husband deployed to California two weeks ago, so the only time I was able to write uninterrupted was after my daughter went to bed. I don’t know about you, but the only thing I’m good for after 9pm {at least since I turned 30, now I'm in bed long before the time I used to go out!} is either watching TV or reading a good book. Definitely not writing one. 

After a few sleepless nights producing what turned out to be cringe-worthy material come morning, I knew I had to do something different. I packed up the car and headed home to Syracuse, where I could escape for a few glorious hours to the Barnes and Noble café {shout out to my mom for babysitting}. Typing on a new page instead of staring at an old draft, along with a cup of non-Keurig coffee, a Michael McDonald(!) soundtrack, and not having a toddler yelling “mamaaaaaaa” at the top of her lungs proved to be just what I needed to get the edits done.

If I’ve learned anything while working on my first chapter, it’s that writing a novel does not end with the last word on a manuscript. It’s a journey that at times is therapeutic, and at times is maddening. In this blog, I hope to not only talk about the book, but to bring you on this journey with me. To celebrate the ups, reflect on the downs, and learn what it really means to see a dream through to the end.

Thanks for coming along.