Friday, November 28, 2008

For No Reason...

...other than this picture sort of sums up the season for me. T LOVES to go to the next door neighbor's house and help with their baby. I happened to be passing by the window the other night and caught him feeding her in their dining room.

I'm thankful for great kids, a wonderful husband and fabulous neighbors, friends and family.

On this date: In 1925, the Grand Ole Opry debuts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Five Stages of Revising

I'm at that point in my novel revisions where everything is crap. Every sentence seems contrived, the main character is shallow and setting...what setting?

I would be plunged into total despair, except that I recognize this as stage three of the revisions process. I've decided to list the five stages of revising so that when I reach stage four and want to toss the whole thing in the shredder I might feel a glimmer of hope.


1. Unabashed optimism. This is the stage where you get that bubble-envelope in the mail, read over the editors comments and realize that you don't have all that much work to do. After all, your project was pretty much perfect when you sent it in, so what's a little tweaking?

2. Creeping dread. As you dive into the revisions process, you start to read between the lines of your editorial letter. What does "explore this further with a deeper level of complexity" mean exactly?

3. Craptastic. This stage lifts the veil from your eyes and you see how bad the whole thing really is. You read other people's books and realize that your work is never going to come near that in terms of prose and characters. Basically, it stinks. It is at this point that you consider rewriting the entire thing in third person to see if that will help.

4. Deconstruction. In this stage, you will lay all of the pages out on the dining room table, the floor, the bed and every other horizontal surface to try and rearrange them in some sort of meaningful order. Why in the world did you put Chapter 3 before the point where she meets the guy? Stupid. It obviously has to come after. But that affects the relationship with the best friend, so the last half of Chapter 5 has to come before the first half of your new Chapter 3. At this point, your editorial letter is tattered and stained with coffee rings and tears of frustration.

5. Resignation. Your due date is looming and the manuscript is a mess. As the hours tick closer and closer you just try to cobble the thing back together so that the narrative makes some sort of sense. As you're skimming it for blatant spelling errors, you read that one sentence on page 127 that rings so true and so right that you allow yourself to think that it might have a few redeeming qualities after all. Maybe the editor will get it and be able to salvage something of the original idea and they won't cancel your contract and ask for the advance money back. Maybe.

In the end, you finish up this process with the knowledge that in a few weeks, you'll get another bubble-mailer with another print out and another editorial letter. And off you go for round two. See #1.

On this date: In 1922, Charles M. Schulz was born.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Zen Shorts For the Rest of Us

J, 8:53pm: "Mom, when does west stop being west and start being east?"

On this date: In 1888, Harpo Marx was born.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yay Julie!

The day started with my usual perusal of my favorite blogs, and when I got to the famous
Fuse #8 I started jumping up and down. Not only did Ms. Bird feature my friend and crit partner (and cute - Ms. Bird says so herself) Julie Phillipps who just got a copy of her fab new book:

but she posted an image of the cover and all but guaranteed a good review! Julie has a fan in Fuse #8. Yay Julie! I'm so getting a signed copy when this comes out and I suggest that you all do the same. Not only is Julie a great writer, but she does all of her own illustrations - mostly cut paper. Amazing and utterly unfair.

Now that I've been at this awhile, I'm starting to see writer friends around the blogosphere, recognize their books at bookstores and read about them in writerly pubications...which brings me to my next question: When can you say you know someone? It used to be, that it wasn't such a difficult question. You knew when you knew someone, but now, not so clear.

I've decided to redefine knowing as I know it. Posting on someones blog, or having a back and forth in a forum thread does NOT count as knowing someone. Meeting them briefly at a conference or chatting as they sign your book also NOT knowing them (bummer - I don't really KNOW John Green or M.T. Anderson, as much as I'd like to think I do). Even having the same agent doesn't count as knowing someone, although it gets you much closer. Friending them on Facebook is a little fuzzy and has to be defined by your actual real-life relationship.

In my new definition, you can say you know someone when you've exchanged meaningful private emails back and forth. You can know someone without ever meeting them, especially if you are in an online critique group together. Some of my closest friends I've never met as they live on the other side of the country, but we've shared our rawest, roughest first drafts with each other and if that isn't KNOWING someone, then I don't know what is.

All of this isn't really going to help me when I'm in a bookstore with J and he picks up a book and asks if I know the author. Well, kinda...

On this date: In 1962, Jodi Foster was born. I don't KNOW her.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

I've been a little lax on the blog lately, and I blame this:

My wonderful editor Mary Kate sent back my (5 page, single spaced) revision letter and manuscript for Dirty Little Secrets with some great suggestions. Now all I have to do is take those suggestions, turn them into brilliance and get the whole thing back to her in a few short weeks. No problem.

On this date: In 1978, the mass suicide at Jonestown.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Words to Live By

"Sometimes it's painful being 'it'."

On this date: In 1956, Elvis' first movie Love Me Tender opens.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's Here!

I got a fabulous package from my editor yesterday - the cover and beautiful pages for my picture book! (See it at a store near you on July 20th.) I can't post the pages, but if you come over for a cup of coffee I'll show 'em to you.

On this date: In 1968, my sis was born - Happy BDay W!!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Stick

Late last week, the National Toy Hall of Fame entered the lowly stick as their newest exhibit. This was particularly timely for us as an example of news imitates life (or is it the other way around?).

T did what he usually does at his brother's soccer game on Saturday - wandered aimlessly around the field. Except this time, he came away with a treasure - the perfect stick.

He embellished the perfect stick with a pirate skull and crossbones just so that nobody would mistake this for an ordinary stick and throw it away or burn it in their fireplace. I had to take a picture of it while he was in the shower, because otherwise it has been in his possession ever since.

For those of you non-violent types out there who tsk tsk the whole gun-thing - I'm betting you don't have small boys. They are indeed a different breed. I learned this when my oldest was about 5. We went to a friend's birthday party in Berkeley (If you don't know how Berkeley is, then never mind. If you do, well then you know what I mean.) in a very non-violent household. No guns, no Nerf, no electronic toys. So what did this group of 8 little boys do? They went into the bedroom, made guns out of Legos and ran through the house shooting each other and falling over in very loud, very dramatic death throes.

I draw the line at mature video games, gory movies and realistic-looking weapons (they do all of those things at their friend's houses). But if a kid is going to make the best gun in the world out of a stick he found at the soccer field, I'm not going to take it away. Plus, the price was right.

On this date: In 1969, Sesame Street debuted.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

MT Anderson

Last evening, J and I drove into San Francisco to see him speak at Not Your Mother's Book Club (although as I was there, for J it actually WAS Your Mother's Book Club - but I digress):

He was great and very friendly. J had tried to read the first volume of Octavian Nothing, but it can be slow going for a sixth grader, so he read Burger Wuss instead. Mr. Anderson read the first chapter of Octavian to the group and I saw J's eyes light up. He leaned over to me and said: "Wow, it makes so much more sense when he reads it out loud".

As we got him to sign this:

Mr. Anderson graciously agreed to come to our house at book time and read this out loud chapter by chapter. Just a reminder in case he's checking this blog - book time is at 8:15 sharp. Jammies are recommended, and hot vanilla will be served if you're good.

On this date: In 1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected President.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The White House will never be the same. The best part was watching the returns, and then his eye-tearing speech with my own half African, half American boys. It really can happen.

On this date: In 2008, the world woke up to a new sense of hope. Yes we did.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Take Your Child to Vote Day

One of this best things about this historic voting day has been sharing it with my kids. DH took T to the polls first thing this morning and I took J right after school. I let him fill in the box for President and he was so pleased I thought he would burst. The cafe around the corner is having an Election Returns party and we're all going to head over there this evening, hopefully to celebrate a new era for the country in so many ways.

Now we just watch and wait...

On this date: In 1922, King Tut's tomb is discovered.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Agent E sent me my contract on Friday and I had the pleasure of signing it and sending it off today - all 12 pages of it! It makes it even more real to be the "author" of "the work" named herein over and over again. I made a comment about a part of it to Agent E and she laughed and said "You read it?" "Of course I read it," I told her, but the part I didn't tell her was that I only read it to see how many author copies I was going to get. Let's just say that unless you are an immediate family member or someone I owe a lot of money to, you're going to have to buy your own. I'll sign it for you though...

One thing that came to mind as I waded through the publishing legalease was how grateful I was to have an agent. She had made several changes in earlier versions that would never have occurred to me (actually I didn't even understand them, so I wouldn't have known about what I didn't know about).

If any of you out there are wondering if you really need an agent, answer is unequivocally YES!

On this date: In 1956, The Wizard of Oz debuted on TV.