Thursday, January 29, 2009

It Stinks...Oh Wait, Maybe it Doesn't...

Writing a book seems like a straightforward process. You sit down, you write some amazing stuff, email the file to your agent and they sell it. Yeah.

What really happens is far uglier. I won't take the bloom totally off the rose here, but let's just say there is a lot of teeth gnashing and hair pulling and not a few tears as you try to shape up a work in progress. The other night, I finished a revision for my agent and felt pretty good about it. Yup. Went to bed thinking it was ready to go. Opened the file up the next day for a quick run through and was filled with angst - was there enough of a ticking clock? Did taking out that plotline remove too much of the drama? Were the characters at all believable? Didn't the ending totally stink? Argh. I closed the file and frantically tried to think of ways to fix my humongous mistakes.

And then, you guessed it, I opened it up yesterday and started from page one. By the time I'd finished the first chapter I was back to "This is pretty good" and "The changes really are working". I really have no idea what it's like - maybe it stinks, maybe it doesn't. Only Agent E will tell for sure.

On this date: In 1845, The Raven is published. Nevermore...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

We Almost Lost Her

My heart is still beating hard at the thought of losing her and I'm filled with gratitude that the great laptop Gods in the sky let me keep her for a little while longer. That's right - my laptop almost died on me. At 3:04 this morning (don't ask why I was on my laptop at 3:04am) I found myself staring at the screensaver because it would not shut down no matter what I did. No CTRL-ALT-DEL, no hybernate, no repeatedly pressing the power key would do anything. I finally had to unplug it and let the battery run down, all the while thinking about what I would lose if I couldn't recessitate my beloved computer. Of course I didn't sleep well all night - I had just finished revising Armadillo Season (more on that angst in another post) and of course hadn't saved it to my flash. Was it the universe's way of telling me that the revision stunk? That I need to wake up and backup more often? That I should start looking at new laptops? As much as I love this one, it's been rode hard and put away wet and has been giving me warning signs for weeks now.

To my great relief, DH was able to get her back up and running with a few turns of the screwdriver. It's like that little tremblor that warns you that the big earthquake is comin'. I'd better start paying attention-my birthday is in, oh, about six months. Now I know what I'm getting. Right after I backup everything onto my flash.

On this date: In 1976, Laverne and Shirley premiered.

Monday, January 26, 2009

And The Winners Are...

Every year at this time, the kidlit world geeks out over our very own version of the Oscars - namely the American Library Association awards for Youth Literature. So many people crowded around the ALA live feed that it couldn't take any more viewers and the rest of us had to scramble to keep up. All of the writer boards have been active with people talking about the winners. Every year the librarians give everyone a big "huh?" with a couple of the nominations, when they seemingly pull some things out of left field. Not left field to them mind you, but left field to us readers. Like last year, when The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott - big "huhs" all around (well, it was a split decision). This year there wasn't anything major, but a few favorites were left out and several won that I've barely heard of, let alone read.

I know I have a lot of non-industry types who read this blog, so let's break down the majors:
Caldecott: For the best illustrated American book (really for the illustrator, not the author) - The House in the Night illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson

Newbery: For best Mid-Grade novel - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Printz: For best Young Adult novel - Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchette

William C. Morris Award: For First Young Adult Novel - A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce (A big shout out to her because she is my cousin-by-agent!)

The only disappointments for me were that Frankie Landau Banks didn't win the Printz, but it did get an honor(although I haven't read Jellicoe Road), and that Hunger Games was missing altogether - maybe because the didn't really know where to put it.

If you want to geek out too, the complete list of all of the awardees is at MSNBC.

On this date: In 1950, the Republic of India was born.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My friend L talking to an 8 YO neighbor:

(I should mention that L is showing neighbor kid pictures of rotary dial phones on the Internet because said kid had no idea what he was talking about.)

L: No, seriously, there wasn't any Internet when I was a kid.
Kid: How did you do stuff?
L: I don't know, we just did.
Kid: Was there glass when you were a kid?
L: Hey, I'm not a thousand!

On this date: In 1789, the first American novel was published. Don't worry, you haven't heard of it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Must See TV!

T and I watched it together at home before school, while J got to watch it during class. DH is in Trinidad but was able to watch it on the Internet. It's been amazing to be able to tell the kids that they are witnesses to history, and that for the first time, they truly can be anything they want.

On this date: In 1961, Robert Frost read at JFK's inauguration.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


On Squirrels

So, where is all the squirrel poop? I mean, at least around here, there are squirrels all over the place. Just this morning, on our walk, BHD and I watched a squirrel hustle up a tree, shimmy down a skinny branch and make a valiant leap from said branch to the tip of the peaked roof of a nice Storybook Tudor house...and miss. Scrambling to get a foothold on the roof, he fell down the face of the house, bounced off the retaining wall and landed on the lawn - feet first. As we watched in disbelief, he shook himself off and started back up the tree, although a little more slowly and not a little bit ashamed.

So, this afternoon, I'm out back picking up the dog nuggets from the yard (although J is supposed to be doing this for $1 everyday so he can earn a longboard, but I digress) and another squirrel is chattering away at us from the neighbor's redwood tree. I figure that in a one block radius, there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of squirrels. By rights, we should be knee-deep in squirrel poop, but I've never seen any. I wouldn't even know a piece of squirrel poop if I stepped right in it. Maybe they've got secret potty trees or a cadre of squirrels that goes out every morning and cleans up the yards and streets before anyone else is awake. It's got to be something, because now that I'm aware of it, the absence of squirrel poop is disturbing.

On this date: In 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Slipping

I've never been a fashionista - ask anyone who knows me. Even though What Not to Wear is one of my favorite shows, I almost always wear jeans and I never learned how to walk in heels. That said, I usually wear fairly nice jeans and try not to leave the house in ratty t-shirts. I figure my standard silver hoop earrings mean that I'm at least making an effort. Or at least I was.

Last week, I tried to take T to school in the sweats I wear around the house in the morning (it was an early day and I hadn't taken a shower yet - so sue me). Because we walk the three blocks to school, it's not like I can hide in a car, but I wasn't naked or anything. You'd think I was, from his reaction: Mooom, you can't go like THAT! So I changed into jeans just to make him happy.

I usually take the BHD for a mile-or-so walk in the morning, and yesterday I got busy and forgot to change out of my walking shoes and into my usual black boots. The minute I picked T up from school, he pointed to my tennies and asked what I was wearing on my feet with his nose all wrinkled up in disgust. They're not that bad, but I'll make it a point not to do it again.

I think Blackwell has found his replacement.

On this date: In 1954, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

One of the Best Books You Haven't Read

This is going to be a semi-regular feature because I tend to read some stuff that is off the radar. While I love John Green and e. lockhart, there are some amazing authors out there that deserve a stadium wave, so here's mine.

Today's Choice:

Trigger by Susan Vaught


Paperback (of which I don't love the cover):


Jersey Hatch seemed to have it all together—he played sports, was popular, had a great girlfriend, best friend, and supportive parents. But when he emerges from a recuperative care center, all that is gone, his legs and hands don’t work right, his mouth says every word that pops into his brain, and he has to write down his thoughts so that he remembers even the most basic directions and details. Through it all, one question haunts him: why did he try to kill himself?

Publishers Weekly

The motivation behind a teenager's suicide attempt and its lasting effects on family and friends is the subject of this rather disturbing, well-crafted novel. Seventeen-year-old Jersey Hatch, who narrates, attempted to blow his brains out using his father's gun. Now, back home from rehab and frustrated with his limitations, caused by the gunshot wound, Jersey struggles to remember why he wanted to kill himself. Mama Rush, an elderly neighbor, and her granddaughter Leza try to help him-the only two people in the whole community who seem willing to talk to Jersey honestly. Jersey's random, compulsive narrative (he possesses little ability to sensor his speech) makes this brain-damaged character compelling. Most of the secondary characters are also believable-although some of their angry reactions to him seem extreme, given his incapacitated state. Vaught's tightly focused story never deviates from its exploration as to what would drive a teen to suicide. Readers who ever wondered what could happen if their suicide attempt failed may find this to be a powerful cautionary tale. Ages 12- up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

I loved this book, and have passed it on to many people who just ate it up as well. The insight into the mind of a brain-damaged teen is fascinating and she did it so well. Susan is a neuropsychologist, so she knows what she's talking about when it comes to these things. Not to be a one-book wonder, she has gotten raves for Stormwitch (which I haven't read) and Big Fat Manifesto, which I read and loved too.

One admission - Susan and I share an agent and we met once on a shuttle bus to the airport in Kansas City, but I doubt that that moment was a highlight of her life. Other than that, we have no connection, except for the fact that I want to write books like hers that are great reads and stay with you for a long time.

Looking for a great read? Pick this up - you won't be sorry.

Coming soon - J's review of Hunger Games (which I finally had to buy for him and press into his hands), if I can get him to sit down and do it.

On this date: In 1971, Masterpiece Theater debuted.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Agent E and I are revisiting the novel I wrote that snagged her in the first place. It's been a couple of years since I wrote it and I can see many ways that it can be improved so I'm taking another crack at it because I think its an important story that can find a home with a caring editor.

The first thing I had to do was cut the first two chapters, which was rough because the first one in particular was my favorite - something to do with UPS and an urn, but I digress. I've decided the plot line that this chapter led into isn't working, so out it goes and not like a lady at the Four Seasons with a steak knife, oh no. This is pure Freddy Kruger in the first Nightmare on Elm Street (the one with an adorably young Johnny Depp that I'm old enough to have seen in a theater rather than on DVD).

The hardest part of writing sometimes is letting go of the good stuff to get to the great stuff. In cutting the first scene I've gotten rid of something clever that was funneling the story away from what it truly wants to be. Oh sure, I'll save that chapter in my orphans file where all good writing goes to die, thinking that I might use it again in another story, but we all know I won't. It will sit there in its Word file taking up precious little memory until my laptop crashes or I forget about it all together. Sniff.

Chopping, hacking, screaming and weeping - that's pretty much what my night has been like. But, you know, the book is better for it, and that's the point after all.

On this date: In 1973, Schoolhouse Rock premiered. I'm just a bill, yes I'm only a bill, and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill...sing it with me!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Portrait of a Dog...

with a brand-new toy.

Utter awesomeness.

On this date: In 1999, the euro debuted.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Changing Seasons

So I found myself in Target yesterday. A quick glance at my calendar told me that it was indeed January 1st. I had to glance at my calendar to check the date because you'd never know it from the inside of Target. There, nestled next to the overstocked Christmas decor and pink and red Valentines gifts were these:

and these:

So yes, on January 1st, we are supposed to take down our Christmas lights and slip into a bathing suit. Forget that its raining/snowing/freezing outside. Target says that summer is coming, so you'd better get on it. And you'd better, because these things don't last. Come June when you really need a bathing suit, the only things on offer will be snowboots and down jackets. Cheer up though. Pretty soon, stores like Target will be offering things so early in the season that it will come full circle and in a couple of years, you may actually be able to buy a snowboot in January. But not this year. No, this year you need to cram your doughy, after-holiday body into a teeny tiny bikini before bundling yourself back up in your winter gear and trudging through the slush to your car. Because Target says summer is coming.

On this date: In 1979, ex-Sex Pistol Sid Viscious goes on trial for murder.