Friday, October 31, 2008


On this date: In 1892, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is published.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween in the Hood

A lot of my neighbors really get into Halloween - lots of decorations, some of them kinda scary...

And of course, every neighborhood needs their own haunted house. This one is right next to the elementary school and every year they spend weeks decorating.

We take a stab at some decor...

But this, hands down, is my favorite piece. Next year, I'm going to find out where to get them and buy a whole flock for the front yard:

On this date: In 1938, Orson Welles broadcasts War of the Worlds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One of Those Days

It's been one of those days where right now is the first time the tushy has had contact with chair all day. I drove on a third grade field trip today, forgetting at the time that it was one of those all-day affairs. This was my second time on this particular field trip, and I suddenly remembered that it wasn't one of those sit-back-and-be-entertained trips, oh no. Parents had to help with the fieldtrippin' learning process. Okay, deep sigh, but I'll get the freelance work done later.

Except that later, DH tells me that he has a conference call with Hong Kong (yeah, he the kind of job that requires lot of conference calls to Hong Kong, or Egypt or Rotterdam) and I would have to take T to soccer practice. The only time we had between school-fieldtrip and soccer practice was taken up with scooping the guts out of unsuspecting pumpkins because Halloween was a'comin and we didn't have any other time between now and then.

After an hour of sitting on the sidelines and freezing the aforementioned tushy almost off, we made a quick dash to the taqueria for burritos, because cooking dinner just did not fit in there anywhere. DH was on yet ANOTHER conference call after dinner, so I had to sit and listen to T read for half an hour before bed.

It was while I was sitting on his bed, arm wrapped around my eight year-old that I noticed how small his hands are. I can still wrap my entire hand around his little one, and I realized that in just a year or two his hand would be as big as mine, and these little, quiet moments would be over. Right then, he stopped reading, leaned up against me and said "Thanks for coming on the field trip today." I gave up.

This is why we budget and work around my spotty freelance career and even spottier book sales - so I can go and kill an entire day with 20 third graders learning about the history of our little town (I got to run the mock-bucket brigade). So what if I have to stay up until 1am to meet my Friday deadline? I got to go on a field trip, gut pumpkins, watch a soccer scrimmage and listen to my kid read a book. I can't imagine time better spent.

On this date: In 1929, the Stock Market crashed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Don't Adjust Your Monitors...

It's not you, it's me. I haven't been blogging lately because I felt like I didn't have much to say. My BFF called me up to ask if it was her computer acting up or something, which made me feel a little bad about it, but no sense mucking up the web-waves with drivel if I've got nothing interesting to post about.

I now have things to say because I got to go to a SCBWI conference over the weekend, and - even better - hang out with the amazingly wonderful Agent E for the better part of TWO DAYS! She's lucky that she lives so far away, otherwise I'd be making batches of chocolate chip cookies to bring over just to give me an excuse to hang out with her. I hope to make that woman a lot of money some day because she deserves it.

Agent E actually braved dinner over here at the house, and I think she gets now why I hesitated at first. Even with the boys on their best behavior, it's...frenetic in this place. You can't have a conversation because everyone else is begging for attention, I'm all distracted and trying to keep the plates in the air (sometimes literally) and even the dog is in your face with his disgustingly damp toy bear. God bless her, she didn't even blink when T started climbing the dining room door molding until he could touch the ceiling.

The conference was awesome, editors Julie Romeis and Gretchen Hirsch spoke and were informative and adorable. Erin's talk was fab, even though she actually used my query letter as an example (of what to do, thank God) which was really weird, in a nice way. By the end of it, she had everyone in the place wishing she was their agent, and all I could think was "Can you believe she picked ME!" Andrea Brown Agent Jennifer Laughran was hilarious - if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, jump on it. She's so passionate and blunt about kidlit and YA in particular - we were wiping away tears of laughter when she was done.

I think the best part of the day was at the first break when I found myself standing next to Jennifer Laughren outside the theater. I'd met her once at an event at her bookstore in SF (Books Inc. in Opera Plaza - M.T. Anderson is coming on Nov. 5, and J and I are going), so I started to introduce myself again, but before I could finish, she looked at me over her glasses and said "I know who you are" (helped no doubt by the big white nametag stuck to my left breast). I stuttered a bit and said, yes, that I'd been to a bookstore event, and she gave me that look and said again "I know who you are." I hafta say, it was awesome. For the first time, I felt like one of the cool kids. Jen Laughren knew who I was. Awesome.

I went with the intention of finding a writing buddy - not so much to write with as to kvetch with - and I did! My sometimes Berkeley friend Heather Mackey was there, and we had such a great time together that we swore we're going to get together more than twice a year. She has a book coming out with Bloomsbury in 2009 about werewolves that is going to be great.

I was listening to Erin speak when the most perfect book dedication in the world came rushing into my head. I quickly wrote it down, and today it still looks perfect. Too bad all of you will have to wait until Spring 2010 to read it!

On this date: In 1955, Rebel Without A Cause opened.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Race Card

I found it! After hearing all this talk about the race card, someone actually sent it to me. The illustrious school district to be exact. Here it is (don't adjust your eyes, it's a little crooked):

My favorite part is that they ask for a Primary Ethnicity - and you can only choose one. Me being me, of course I called the Assistant Director of Research and Program Evaluation down at the school district and left a message asking him which parent should be secondary - me or my husband? As he hasn't called me back, I'm assuming he doesn't have a good answer.

Our community has a large number of biracial and multiracial kids of every possible combination. This just goes to show that the government is still choosing to ignore the fact that for many people there is no primary identity. They insist on collecting the information so that they can divide test scores along racial lines, except that no matter how I answer this, it will be wrong. In the past, I've always put "declined to state", but that is no longer an option.

Our next president has the same basic genetic background as my boys. Despite the fact that his mother was white, he's still almost universally classified as black. No matter what the talking heads say, race will play a big part in this election. I heard a woman interviewed on the news today say: "I'm not voting for that black guy because he doesn't believe in the flag." Uh huh.

My kids are varying shades of tan and they identify with both my husband and I equally. Maybe sometime in the next four years the government will get it through their thick heads that for my kids and many others, identity means only one thing: American.

As an aside: I also heard a (different) woman on the news today respond to someone who said they couldn't vote for a black man with : "Well, he's half black and half white. Go ahead and vote for the white half."

On this date: In 1882, Bela Lugosi is born.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Darwinian Halloween

There's always a fight around Halloween. We need to find the delicate middle ground between my need to avoid the ewww factor and my adolescent's need to be scary. This year, I let him get this mask:

Which he is planning to wear with a thrift-store suit and a purple velvet hat, so I'm not entirely sure what the idea is. My favorite part was the warning that came on the tag:

"If the holes need to be enlarged, trim the mask with a sharp pair of scissors. DO NOT TRIM MASK WHILE WEARING IT. Do not wear mask while: Driving, Smoking, Sleeping, Swimming."

On this date: In 1951, I Love Lucy premiered.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Thousand Words

I was going through some old photos over the weekend, and came across this - one of the favorite photos from my childhood. Not for how great I look (I'm the one in the blue sweatshirt), but for what I remember about it.

It was taken on Cape Cod in 1973. That's my cousin Billy holding the fish, my cousins Laurie and Suzie, my sister and my Uncle Scott in the background (he's the big one). Check out the look of awe on our faces and the look of absolute, positive determination on Billy's.

Billy woke up that morning and decided that he was going to catch a fish. We played, picked blueberries, swam in the pond and jumped off the dock, but he would have nothing to do with it. He had a fish to catch. He sat by the side of the water with his pole all dang day, until we started to tease him about wasting his time. Right as the sun went down and the entire day was wasted, there was a tug on his line and voila, Billy's fish.

I like to think I learned a lot about perseverance that day. I don't remember what happened to the fish - if we ate it, or if it got thrown back - but it sure made a heck of a moment and one heck of a photo.

Here's a shout out to the Billies of the world.

On this date: In 1959, Marie Osmond was born.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Location, Location, Location

I've been plugging away on my new book, but I hadn't really been 'feeling it'. It's been going okay, and I'm up to Chapter 3, which isn't bad for a week's work - but it's been tough. I never really got into the groove of the thing. And now I know why - I was working in the wrong place.

Apparently, all freelance work (and I have a new freelance job - even pays better than the last one, yay!) has to take place here:

And all fiction/fun work has to take place here:

Swap places and all heck breaks loose. Now that I know, I won't mess it up again.

On this date: In 1940, John Lennon was born.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Last Minute Panic

My picture book When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco is in proofs and about to be printed. It's a book that shows what other kids are doing all over the world when it's six o'clock in SF. Like when it's six o'clock in San Francisco, it's 2 o'clock in London and kids are playing soccer at school I have only seen a couple of pages of the art, but I got the galleys with the words to check way back in May of last year. Crossed that to-do off the list, and now all I had to do was wait and see the final printed product. Or was it?

My fab editor over at Clarion sent me a bone-chilling email yesterday - there was an error in the book. All of a sudden, the time for one of the countries was off by an hour. How can that be? I doubletriplequadruple checked it, along with the copy editor. We were about to go to print, so any major changes now were going to be mucho expensive and not appreciated by the publisher. After doing some research, I found out that the government of Argentina, in all its wisdom, decided to adopt daylight savings time starting last December. And they didn't even ask me.

After a few panicky emails (on my part) and a few comforting emails (on her part), we figured out a good solution that worked well for everyone and was also cost effective. A couple of days of uncertainty, but maybe it will make a good anecdote at the book launch.

I may even be able to post a cover in the not-too-distant future.

On this date: In 1982, Cats debuted.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Free Books!

Now this is what I got into the business of writing for: free stuff! The lovely man in brown brought me a surprise package from my editor Mary Kate today. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. All great titles and I'm in fabulous company at Walker.

Now if everyone would leave me alone long enough to get some reading done...

On this date: In 1847, Jane Eyre is published.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I try to leave the politics to the grownups, but this was just too much awesomeness not to post. It comes from the Picture Book People for Obama. Feel free to copy it, download it and print it.

On this date: In 1995, OJ Simpson was acquitted. He's still out looking for the real killers when he's not in court.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Starting a new book is a lot like diving into a pool that you know is going to be cold. At first, it is a shock to your system, but once you get into the rhythm of it all, it starts to get warmer and easier.

There is a thing in the writing world called NANORIMO (I think I got it right - it stands for National Novel Writing Month). It starts November 1st and the idea is that you get the entire first draft of a book done in a month. I like the idea, but I think the stress would kill me.

I've been putting off actually starting the new book just because once I open a file for it, I have to do 1,000 words per day, even if they're garbage. I decided that October 1st was as good a date as any to start. Until last night at almost midnight when I finally finished my freelance work and started making excuses to myself about why I couldn't possibly start the new book NOW. Heck, it was really late, I was really tired and had had a crazy day what with volunteering, the cross country meet and soccer practice. Guilt (I'm really good at that) finally prevailed, and I opened a new file and started writing. When I closed the computer (yes, it was after 1am) I had a brand spanking new 1,111 words on my story.

I could put pressure on myself and keep a running tally on this blog...but I'm not sure I want to.

On this date: In 1985 Rock Hudson died of AIDS.