Monday, April 30, 2007

Why I Love My Town

Living in Northern California has it's drawbacks. Gas is ridiculously expensive for no good reason and don't even get me started on housing prices. A $600,000 house in my neighborhood is a serious fixer-upper. And despite the costs of living here, we are always fighting to keep the schools afloat and functioning. But...

On Friday, we went to see our local High School's production of Grease. Danny Zuko was black, Sandy was white. Frenchy was Asian, as was Marty. Patti was white, Cha Cha was Hispanic, Rizzo was black and the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds were all over the map. The big deal in all of this is that it wasn't a big deal at all. At the end, when the cast sang "You're the One that I Want" and the leads kissed, they all got a standing ovation (except from my boys who were covering their eyes in embarrassment). And that, in a nutshell, is why we put up with all of the other stuff.

On this date: In 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Appliance Love

Is it wrong to love a small appliance the way I love my Dustbuster? Sadly, my old one broke the other day, and I made it almost 36 hours before I had to rush out and buy a new one. I use this little darlin' about 10 times a day and I'm not OCD - I'll leave that to other beloved members of my family. It's just that with one big hairy dog, two smallish hairy boys, more cats than I want to admit to and an old house this is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Sniff. I'm so glad I have a new one.

On this date: In 4977 BC, the universe is created, according to Keppler.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Whose Line is it Anyway?

I love and strive for a good opening line. No, not the kind that follows a drink being placed in front of you by the bartender with a nod to the guy at the end of the bar (do people still do that?). I'm talking about opening lines in books that just grab you in their teeth and shake you. Lines like:

The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.


I did something to that cat, I admit it.


I first became famous when I was eight years old and my dad took me skiing at Lake Rochester with his old-lady boss.


My name is India Opal Buloni and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni and cheese, some white rice and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.

and of course, who could forget:

Where's Papa going with that axe?

My crit partner Natalie-from-Italy has a great opening line in her new YA, but as I'm just supposed to critique it, I'm not going to share it here - suffice it to say it produced a verbal "HA!". I yearn to create fabulous opening lines. I think I'm getting there.

On this date: In 1986, the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

Okay, I could lie and say that one of these lines was mine, but none of them are. They are, in order:
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Francie by Karen English
The One Where The Kid Nearly Jumps To His Death and Lands In California by Mary Hershey
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Charlottes Web by E.B. White

I'm sure you have a million favorites of your own.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wish I'd Thought of This

What? This.

(Thanks to Miss Snark.)

On this date: In 1947, Truman inaugurates the White House bowling alley.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Done. Finished. In the most capable hands of Agent E. Armadillo Season has been revised within an inch of it's life and is very very much better. It took many late nights and quite a bit of help (thanks Natalie) but I'm proud to have my name on it. Now, on to find just the right editor....

It is amazing how much easier revising is from creating. When you're creating fresh copy, it's like pulling thoughts and plotlines out of thin air and if the wind stops blowing you're sunk. Good revisions are just the elimination of preconceived notions of what your MS is about, and the ability to let go. I had to let go of some of my favorite bits - and it was painful but necessary. So long Super Dead Dad Comics - maybe we'll see you again someday in another book.

On this date: In 1916, the Easter Rebellion begins in Dublin.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ahhh, Youth

I have nothing to say today. I feel giddy for no apparent reason, and it's best not to explore these things too deeply. My step-mom found a bunch of pictures from a long, long time ago and I thought I'd post one for your viewing pleasure. Those of you who know me now will get a kick out of it. Actually, those of you who don't will get a kick out of it too. Please note the date on the corner of the pic.
Yes, this was my Christmas outfit, circa 1985. The bottom half of said outfit consisted of black go-go boots, black tights and a green and black paisley mini-skirt. Oh, and we were at my grandparent's house.

On this date: In 1564, William Shakespeare was born.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

IGYSNN Syndrome

Warning - Rant Ahead:

I'm concerned about the syndrome that I've seen increasing in frequency lately - okay, twice in the past week, but still. Why, when you are waiting for someone to back out of a space in a full parking lot they go into s...l...o...w........m...o...t...i...o...n? Let's call it the I've-got-your-space-neener-neener syndrome (IGYSNN for short).

Last week, my BFF and I were in a crowded beach parking lot - not one space. We spy a guy and his kid walking toward their SUV and ask if they are leaving. Yes, comes the reply...on goes our blinker and we sit. We sit blinking while he shakes out all of the towels. We blink while he wipes the sand out of every orifice of his kid. Then, he takes his kid's shoes and starts banging them on the bumper to get the sand out. We blink while he tries to swat the sand out of the back of his car. FINALLY, this OCD poster-boy starts to get into the car. We blink, and sigh - at last. Wait, wait...he gets out of the car and sits on the back bumper, takes off each of his shoes and wipes every last grain of sand off his feet. By this time, my BFF was about to ram her car into his kneecaps, and I have to say I would have cheered her on. After 13 minutes (not kidding, 13 minutes), he waves as he drives off. Textbook case of IGYSNN.

Today, the locale was a crowded supermarket lot. Found a couple loading the car with groceries, waved to them, pulled to the side and started blinking. They load the car, and instead of leaving the cart tipped up into the planter box like normal people, their case of IGYSNN demands that they actually walk the cart all the way across the vast parking lot and leave it lovingly in the rack in front of the store. Then they laugh and gesture on the long walk back to the car. I hope their ice cream melted.

On this date: In 1970, the first Earth Day.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Morning Schedule

Since I just finished my revisions for Armadillo (and am now having serious doubts about the there enough going on? Does it conclude the right way? Ack!) it is going to take a couple of days to get the wiggles out and settle back down to my YA in progress. To demonstrate, I started keeping a log this morning:
8:30 Check email. No good news from Agent E (although for really good news, she calls).
8:32 Get youngest son into shower.
8:40-8:50 Attempt to get knots out of youngest son's hair (see post of Feb. 28)
8:53 Check email again.
8:54 Check some of my favorite blogs.
9:15 Kiss youngest son goodbye.
9: 16 Settle down to laptop. Open up MS.
9:17 Realize I haven't taken a shower yet.
9:18 Shower.
9:32 Sit down with laptop. Check email again. Peek at Ms. Snark.
9:40 Did I make the bed yet?
9:41-10:15 Various household chores. Start first load of laundry.
10:16 Sit down with laptop. Realize I'm way behind with Brotherhood 2.o. Go to blog.
10:25 Check email. Stare at MS. Try to get TK2.o to stop walking on laptop.
10:26 Dang. I was supposed to clean the PTA closet at school today.
10:29 Walk up to school.
11:30 Back with laptop. Answer email. Not from Agent E. Check other blogs.
11:42 Write PTA Newsletter.
12:oo Break for lunch and What Not To Wear.

So anyway, you get the idea. This usually happens when I've finished something big, but it's still frustrating. Hopefully by Monday I'll be back to normal.

The good news is that tonight is take-out and movie night. DH is getting Vietnamese from our favorite place in Oakland. I got Harold and Maude, but I don't think I can get him to watch it so we've got Man of the Year as backup. How much do I love Netflix?

Have a great weekend!

On this date: In 1999, the Columbine HS Massacre.
Peace to VA.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Marinating Season

All together now...breathe in...hold it...hold it...exhale slowly. Yee ha! I've finished the revisions for Armadillo Season. I cut about 4k words and one whole character's plotline and I have to say it's much better, more focused and tighter. When I'm doing revisions, it's pretty hard to actually do anything else - any free moment I want to work on the MS. The timing is good, because there is a new CSI on tonight, and I can now watch it unencumbered. That would be the original, fabulous Las Vegas CSI, not the lame one with that red-headed guy who is so intensely irritating.

Now it's marinating season. I have to sit on it a bit and take a fresh look at it in a little while to make sure the scars don't show before I send it back to Agent E for her eagle eye to peruse. I had to get rid of some of my favorite bits, but I think the book is much better for it. Whew.

On this date: In 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Awww. Actually not so much. About 15 seconds after I took this photo, the big, cranky old-lady cat woke up, figured out that TK2.0 was there, hissed, spit and shoved him off the couch. But it was cute while it lasted.

I think we're close to finding him a home - fingers crossed.

On this date: In 1906, the great San Francisco earthquake.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Research in the Olden Days

I was thinking today about what writing life would be like without the internet. My first picture book (that is coming out in Spring of 2008 - mark your calendars) is set in 9 different countries. Whenever I needed a detail about something, I'd type in a few words and I'd get more info than I could possibly need. Looking for a Pakistani boy's name? No problem. The weather in Beijing on February 7, 2006? It was raining, thank you very much.

Back in the olden days any of this info must have involved days of library research, thumbing through card catalogs, hunched over microfiche. I felt a little guilty because all the info I needed was right there - wasn't that cheating? Would it make the book too light on atmosphere? My answer came when one of my crit partners read the book. The original version had a scene in Brazil, and she happened to be from Brazil. When she asked me excitedly when I'd visited last, I knew I'd gotten the details right.

As an aside, if you haven't popped over to the discomermaids blog recently, you owe yourself a visit. The are running a contest looking for suggestions for new celebrity book titles. My current favorites are: Hop on Pop by Woody Allen and Soon Ye Previn (shout out to my girl Natalie) and Errogant by Donald Trump. Check out the entries in the comments section - but don't laugh too loudly if you're at work.

On this date: In 1937 Daffy Duck debuted.

Monday, April 16, 2007

20 Years to Overnight Success

My new writer friend has made her agent choice and I think she really weighed her options and made a good decision. Who is it? Afraid I'm not at liberty to say...

But in our back and forth emails, I found out something interesting about this overnight success. Seems that even though this was her first kidlit conference and first contact with an editor (who subsequently offered her a contract, if you haven't been keeping up), she has been writing for 20 years and spend six years working on this book. Overnight successes are never what they're cracked up to be, which should make the rest of us feel good. In any case, the book sounds grand and I hope she does really really well. I'll give more info about her work when I'm allowed.

On this date: In 1943, LSD is discovered.

Friday, April 13, 2007

What I Did on My Spring Break

नोव ई कैन टाईप इन हिंदी
That is so cool - now you can blog in Hindi. Unfortunately, I know absolutely no Hindi, so this amazing new tool is lost on me. Almost makes you want to learn though, doesn't it?

This was my view at 8am today from my BFF Karen's hot tub:

Very NoCal, yes? Then we stopped here, to get some warm sourdough bread from this funky little bakery across the street:

The cows really are happier in California. Then we went here:

and the kids pretended it was snow and tried to sled down the dunes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, ends Spring Break 2007. Now back to our regularly scheduled lives.

Oh, did I mention that my DH spent the whole week out of town working? Yes it is sad. Wait, did I tell you it was in Hawaii? Not so sad.

On this date: In 1964, Sydney Poitier became the first African American to win an Oscar.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kicking Them Out of the Nest

I was chatting last night at a girl's nite out dinner with a friend who's daughter is in high school. We were talking about college, specifically the benefits of going away to school vs staying home and going to a local college. I was a little surprised at how strongly I feel about some of these issues. Of course, it's easy for me to say, as my kids are 7 and 9, but I really think I'll stick to it. We've actually already discussed some of this in my house, so here is my advice to my sons:

1. Go away to school if you're going to study. Move at least 2 hours away to a mainly residential school and live in the dorm. It is a great transition from home to real life. Plus there's always a party. If you're in college, you're allowed to come home for the summer and hang out. Also, you can live here the summer after you graduate. But only the summer.

2. If you're not going to college (although you'd better go to college), you have until September after your senior year in high school to get it together and move out of my house. Get an apartment with some roommates and a nice job and we'll see you for dinner on Sunday. Yes, you can bring your laundry.

3. In college, take a year abroad. This is the best, cheapest and most authentic way to discover other cultures. I lived in Scotland for a year (because I stink at languages and had to go to an English speaking country) and traveled around Britain and Italy mostly by myself. It was probably the most formative year of my life. Youth Hostels are your friends.

4. After college, go and live in a big city. It can be any city except LA. New York, Chicago, Boston, even San Francisco(although that is a little close, but maybe DH and I will have retired to the islands by then) all count.

There seems to be a big trend for kids to stay at home well into their 20's and I don't think it's good for them or any of us. Our job as parents is to raise competent, caring adults and most of that involves pushing them further and further away. We've already taken away most of their decision making power by not allowing them out without a leash to explore on their own, and I think that is a tragedy. Kid's need to have a soft place to land, but there's no point to that if they're not going to launch in the first place.

Of course, being that I'm tossing this advice to them, my kids will probably end up ultra right-wing conservatives living in a tiny town somewhere and cursing foreigners. At least they won't be living in my house while they do it.

On this date: In 1861 the Civil War began.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Zitty MS

I spent the entire day at an indoor pool with the 5 kids who were with me and the 1,500 kids who weren't. I'm not sure what the decibel level was in there, but it was equal to locking a Boeing 747 in a very large echoey chamber and gunning the engines for 3 hours straight. Only now can I hear myself think, but at least the kids had fun.

I'm tired because I was up vvveerrrryyy late last night revising Armadillo. I hate to admit it, but it needs revising. It's funny how the thing that you think is so perfect at one point, turns out to be not so perfect when you look at it later. It's like when you give birth to this most perfect of babies, all smelling good, tiny wisps of hair on their wonderful little heads. Then the baby hormones kick in and about week two they get a face full of zits that could rival the worst pizza-eating, emo-listening sixteen year old. Of course, under the baby acne, they are still the perfect beings that you remember, you just have to go through a week or two of not-so-pretty to get there. I'm definitely at the baby-zit stage with this MS. I can still see the pretty, but it's going to take a little doing to get there.

On this date: In 1970, Apollo 13 was launched to the moon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Character Demands

Right now I have the attention span of a five year-old on a six-pack of Dr. Pepper. I did manage to finish the outline for my PB biography project and I wanted to jump right back into my YA. Unfortunately, the MG that I just pulled for revision is calling me, the characters are popping into my head and they all have something to say and are demanding attention. I think I have no choice but to revise and get this polished up to send back out.

One good thing about being rejected: I don't eat when I'm bummed, so the bathing suit diet is going quite well.

On this date: In 1969, Paul McCartney announced the breakup of the Beatles.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bad Stuff and Good Stuff

As expected, the last editor who had it passed on my mid-grade Armadillo Season. I knew she was going to, and I knew that it needed an overhaul but it still feels like you've been punched in the stomach. Agent E is upbeat as always and still feels that it will find the right home which helps. I know what I'm going to change and how I'm going to streamline the story so I just need to buckle down and do it. Anytime I want to quit I go over to Verla Kay's message board and read the post from Jay Asher about how much he wanted to quit and stomp his cyber-feet over the unfairness of it all. This was...oh, less than a year before he got his mega six-figure two-book deal for his YA Thirteen Reasons Why which comes out this fall.

Speaking of Jay and the Discomermaids, my cool Newbery Jewels totebag came today.

If you want one of your own, head on over to cafepress and order it right away.

So that's one good thing that happened today. Also, TK2.0 is a regular kitten now, eating wet food and using the litterbox. Now, I love the big hairy dog, but I'm sorry, cats are so much smarter. I remember when BHD was a pup, standing out in the backyard at 2am in a freezing February rain waiting for him to do his business because it took forever for him to be house-trained. TK2.0? Figured out the litterbox in about a minute and a half. It looks like the folks that found him might not be able to keep him, so we're feeling out new homes. Anyone want a wonderful, sweet almost 5 week-old kitten?

DH, if you're reading this, don't panic. He's not staying.

On this date: In 1939, Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial. (There's a great picture book about that called When Marian Sang.)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Getting a Jump On It

Spring Break starts today. Okay, technically it starts on Monday but for all intents and purposes, today's the day. I'm trying to relax and go with the flow and just let the week happen. Yeah, that worked for about a minute and then I had the calendar spread out on the kitchen table panicking about what to do with the kids over the summer.

Don't get me wrong, I love hanging out with the kids and doing all of the cool stuff that we can't do when they're in school. We go to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and down to the beach. We swim at the "fake lake" and take the train to San Francisco (this year we WILL go to Alcatraz like we say we will every year). It's just that we have 81 empty days staring us in the face and I know the choruses of "I'm bored" will likely start on day 2. So far we've penciled in Camp Potawasomethingorother for a week in June and skateboard camp for a week in July. The kids and I are going to Texas in the middle of July (yeah, I know that is insane weather-wise, but baseball all-stars is bumping the trip forward) and our annual 40 person camping trip will happen at the beginning of August. J has become slightly obsessed with California history - he tends to get on a tangent and run with it - so I think we're going to schedule a small roadtrip sometime in there to visit 4 or 5 California missions. That leaves 59 days free. Yikes.

If you haven't scheduled your summer activities yet, what are you waiting for? It's already April 6th!!

On this date: In 1896 the first modern Olympic games began.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Paying It Forward

I met a real nice gal at a writer's conference a couple of weeks ago. She was new to kidlit, and it was the first conference she'd ever been to. We sat together, exchanged some talk and have sent a few emails back and forth. She gave her mid-grade novel to one of the editors for a paid critique and he seemed to like it. Well, long story short, he called yesterday and offered her a deal. Things like that don't just happen - not in real life. Am I happy for her? Yeah. Am I impressed at how quickly it all happened? Yeah. I'm I jealous? Hell yeah.

So what do I do? Do I curse and stomp my feet? Do I retreat to my office with an entire bag of Dove chocolate and a week's worth of Tivo'd What Not to Wears? No. I hook her up with my agent, because that is the way the world of kidlit works. It is not the cutthroat world of competitive writers that you might imagine. There is a lot of "paying it forward", mentoring and general niceness that probably doesn't exist in most professions. Kidlit writers are genuinely happy to see others making it and doing well. We're not angels, so sometimes it's tough not to be selfish, but I genuinely hope that my new friend HM signs with my agent, gets a great deal and then takes me out for coffee.

In other news, Agent E liked my proposal for the picture book biography I want to do. She's going to start sending it around and we'll see who else likes it. I'm at a standstill with Triplets right now because I need to talk to the cops. Well, one cop actually; a friend of mine so that I can get the details of the arrest procedure for a particular felony. The girls are getting into a spot of trouble I'm afraid.

On this date: In 1994, Kurt Cobain committed suicide.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The No-Sleepover

Whew! We're back from our 4th grade overnight. It was great, but I'm completely wrecked. We stayed here:

and did everything like it was an 1850's rancho (well, most everything - the grownups cheated with the coffee maker and French Vanilla creamer, but we figured the rancho folks would have used both if they had been invented back then). As you can see, the weather was fabulous, we made candles, baskets, wove yarn, made candle holders and tool boxes and cooked all the food over an open fire kitchen. At night we had a fiesta with a pinata, music and dancing. I don't think I'll get the campfire smell out of my nose for weeks. At night, we stayed in the upstairs part of the adobe here:

(That's my sleeping bag on the lower left.) It was like sleeping in a museum and the kids loved it. If you do the math: 29 4th graders + 14 adults /two loud snorers * 3:15 to 4:30 night watch = no sleep. Nada. Did I mention that it was very cold at night? Still, J wants to be back there more than anything and I think it's going to take a few days to get back to normal.

I just want to go to sleep.

On this date: In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Tapping Into the Male Side

This is pretty much what life is like around her on a regular basis:

Lots of jumping, running, screaming and general chaos. Surprisingly little damage on most days, both to the house and the boys who live in it. I only have sisters, so the whole boy thing is a mystery to me, but they are definitely a different animal. I'm often reminded of a six-year old's birthday party we attended a few years ago. This particular party was held in Berkeley, which for those of you who know Berkeley - 'nuf said. For those of you who don't...well, you just have to see it. Anyway, we were at this party with about 10 six-year old boys. Being Berkeley, there was a strict no-weapons rule in the house - no waterguns, toy guns or cap guns. Everything was cool until all of the boys started screaming through the house shooting each other with the guns they had all made out of the very PC Legos that had been provided. Basically, you mostly have to go with it.

No blog tomorrow as I will be chaperoning my son's 4th grade class on their outdoor education overnight trip. We are going to stay in a real adobe and are going to try to live as much in the period as possible. No cell phones, electronics, flashlights and definitely no blogs. Also, no heat - so I'm sure I'm going to freeze to death. Should be fun!

On this date: In 1902, the first movie theater opened in LA.