Tuesday, May 31, 2011
We had a long weekend in the States and I spent most of it moving through the sunshine, as if I'd been let loose from the angry rain. I rode over it's reflections on the pavement with my bike, watched it slice through the trees as I hiked and, with my hair in the grass, I let it soak right through me.
On Saturday we went to Governor's Island which, in it's own strange way, is an inspiration for my current work in progress, Rabbit Island. Governor's Island is the kind of place I know I'll be talking about in years to come. I'll come back to New York City and learn of it's fate. I'll shake my head in dismay.
"Remember when the ferries were free?" I'll say. "When you could ride your bike wherever you wanted and there were no cars? Remember the abandoned houses and the dormitories? How everything was all fenced in? The weird art installation in the church? The miniature golf course that looked like something your old hippie neighbor had scrambled together in his yard and let the neighborhood kids play for free? Remember when we signed a waiver to look inside a castle? How we peaked our heads inside a darkened room and listened to an audio recording about trading a boat for a bit of dust? Remember?"
Every time I'm there I want to change the cliche because it should be: 'nothing strange can stay'. But I hope that Governor's Island does.
After that, we took the ferry back and looked at the Brooklyn Bridge, all covered in white tarp and construction. "What a terrible time to take a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge," I told Tyler.
And so, he snapped a picture anyway.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
So that's the short version. Read on for the long version.
Last year, I was a a BEA psychopath, getting my hands on as many books as I could, because I couldn't quite get over the fact that people were just giving books away. This year, I still couldn't get over that fact, but I used a lot of restraint. Because, er, I still have a stack of unread books from last year's expo. I look at some of them and I think 'huh'? I really have zero interest in them. So I thought it best not to get carried away.
The day began with signings for the only 2 books I really cared about getting at BEA. Lauren Oliver's new middle grade book Leisl and Po and Beth Kephart's You Are My Only. Of course their signings occurred at the exact same time, but I managed it, only once or twice calling it 'a situation', because the hour I spent on Lauren Oliver's line was really infringing on the block of time I would be able to get to Beth Kephart's signing. This is becoming 'a situation' I kept telling the dear librarian standing next to me, who was kind enough to listen to my neuroses.
I guess there are worse things in life than worrying about whether you will get two free autographed books from your favorite authors, but...ya know...first world problems...
Like I said, I managed it. And I can't say enough wonderful things about Beth Kephart, I just can't. But I'll guide you to her blog and to her books and ask you to read them so we can hold them up to our hearts and talk about them because that is what I would like to do.
After that, I found Elizabeth Scott who I consider the discovery of the week because I didn't know about her books and she has popped up everywhere in my life this week: in blogs I read, at events I attended, on the BEA floor when I didn't even know she would be there. I like her wild blond hair and her warm personality. She said she liked to give her readers hugs and I obliged, so there's that. Her book, Between Here and Forever, is out right now.
Then, I don't really remember what happened, but I wound up meeting James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner series. He was so ridiculously nice, I just feel I should share that. I wanted to buy him a cake, he was so nice.
At this point, I had a series of Brooklyn encounters.
Somehow, I wound up getting this book called Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Gotta tell ya, with bedbugs being such a terrible epidemic in New York City, I'm not so into the book idea. But he sold me because it takes place in my neighborhood in Brooklyn and some scenes take place in a coffee shop nearby.
Then, I truly stumbled upon a signing for Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman, which I remembered hearing about in Beth Kephart's blog (did I mention you should read her blog?) And boy am I glad I did because he was such a kind and genuine person. When I asked him why he signed his book with a sunflower, he told me it was 'Aura's favorite flower'. The book is about his wife, Aura, and her tragic death in a freak accident, and just the way he said that was so heartfelt, I nearly started crying right then and there. Which would have been really attractive. Then, I learned that he is my neighbor! He lives just a few streets away from me in Brooklyn. He told me that if I ever saw him, he hopes I stop him on the street to chat. And I believed that. He seemed like just that kind of guy.
Those are the books and authors that made an impression. I hope to talk a little bit more about the experience, especially the panels I sat through in the afternoon. But this post is already getting much too long.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Looks like I'll be winging it this year!
I plan on attending the Teen Author Carnival this evening and I will be wandering the expo floor on Wednesday. And, if I'm able to leave work, I'll be on the floor Tues. afternoon as well. If you look to the right of the post, you will see what I look like. And since I look like every other brown-haired girl in the universe, you should have no trouble spotting me.
And, did I mention, Tyler will be moderating the "Technology for Blogging" panel at Book Blogger Convention? If you see him, you should say 'hi'.
Ok...fine...I know that most of the book bloggers have no clue who I am and they all know Tyler (or should I say @tylerbreed) so...in other words, if you know Tyler, please say 'hi' to me! haha.
If you're going, please let me know in the comments or through e-mail. I realize this is terribly late in the game, but that's how I roll! I'd love to meet up with you.
I also am addicted to food and like to make restaurant recommendations, so if you're travelling from out of town, I am a good person to know in NYC.
OK, that's my final plea for friends at BEA.
I'll stop now.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I hope you will check it out here! <--- click, click! yay yay.
And in case you're wondering what on earth the Thestral Gazette is, this is straight from Laurel's blog:
Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
It goes without saying that I read a lot of blogs. And this is not the first time I've read something like that. I'd say, I've read that in a blog post over a dozen times. I've experienced it in my own life. "I'm working on a young adult novel," I say. "Oh, like Twilight?" They ask.
It should come as no surprise that people ask this, given the success of the series. But what I'm more interested in is the reaction. After people relay this encounter of being asked whether they want to be the next Stephanie Meyers or write the next Twilight, they're usually offended or annoyed.
Am I the only one who isn't?
I've only read the first of the Twilight books. I had a good time with it, truly enjoyed the read-- I just didn't care to move on to the rest of the books. They are what they are. I didn't go into the read thinking I was going to find the next "To Kill A Mockingbird" for goodness sakes. The critics have spoken, the masses have spoken, so I don't have anything to add to the conversation and I don't have any strong feelings about the books. In my mind, the craze is over, or maybe I was just never a part of the craze to begin with.
But, this visceral reaction to being asked if you're going to write the next Twilight, all angsty, angry, and roll-your-eyes-y, I don't understand it.
When someone asks me if I'm going to write the next Twilight, I cross my fingers and say: "GOD I HOPE SO!"
I mean...seriously! Why the hate people?
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Over the weekend, I walked by this door. It wasn't clear where it led. It looked like an entrance to a church, but the rest of the structure was solid grey and it didn't have the customary steeple we so often see. There were no people. And no signs.
I thought...these flowers, this design, this color against concrete, this church but not quite church, an entrance to sanctuary and to peace and to nowhere, this is my mood board. Not the mood I'm in right now or the mood I might be in tomorrow, but the mood I want to live my creative life in, always.
What's in your mood board?
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Because, it was, what Tyler called, 'a big sports weekend' for him with The Player's Championship (golf) and cycling on all in one weekend. We have a small apartment so it means either the television is on or the IPod. One or the other. So we must compromise and take turns.
The characters in my current WIP demand that I listen to music and write about it, which has been this incredibly challenging and exciting task. I need complete silence when I write but lately I must stop in between paragraphs, words, and sentences. I must take pause, close my eyes and listen over and over to the songs. To the voices, to the hammering of a drum, to the way the piano notes skip and fall.
With the Linda Eder concert coming up (this Friday!) and playing catch up on 3 weeks of NBC's "The Voice" this rainy afternoon, it seems I can not get enough music. I want to listen to more and more.
So my ears are eager to know: what you are listening to right now? Who are the musicians that inspire you?
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Every day it grows. Slowly. But it grows.
Rabbit Island Draft One, I type, attach, and press send. And there it is in my inbox.
Tonight I typed, attached, pressed send, and just looked at it. I wanted to cry.
Rabbit Island Draft One.
WILL IT EVER BE FINISHED? WILL IT EVER BE DRAFT TWO? I wanted to shout.
Rabbit Island Draft One.
But, little by little, it grows...
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
So I went to find them elsewhere. And I wondered...did anyone stop to think about what all the trees, even those too close to the path, could be?
Monday, May 9, 2011
The themes surprised me.
I expected a lot of angst and frustration about my parents, but they were scarcely mentioned. Out of the hundreds, there was only one entry in which they were the focus and that was to say that I wanted to be free, which is pretty unoriginal.
I also anticipated a great deal of bemoaning the fact that I didn't have a boyfriend because, when I look back on that time, I think of that being the center of my miserable high school existence. However, most of my discussion about boys was really that I wanted to befriend more of them because hanging out with girls had become tiring and petty. I even recounted an entire romance I had completely forgotten, in which I was the one being pursued but I just wanted to be friends. I did mention boys that I 'liked' but, in retrospect, it seems that I was the fickle one. There was a new boy about every single entry and I changed my mind about my feelings every other day. This was eye-opening. Previously, I had been convinced that, at that time in my life, boys did not like me.
Perhaps the most surprising of all themes was the tremendous pressure I had put on myself to succeed. Almost every single entry refers to a test, a race, a match, or a recital, to which I was 'sick to my stomach' over. They are entries begging, please God, please, let me win, let me come in first, let my teacher praise me, let me get the solo, let me be the best. Honestly, this obsession was a little shocking because it is something that I do not recollect at all.
As I learn to write for a teenage audience, I find these journal entries invaluable. Obviously, I have a lot of misconceptions about my teenage life as a girl who was 'angry at her parents' and 'sad about not having a boyfriend'. In actuality, I may have just been a compulsive overachiever breaking boys hearts with wild ambitions to be free.
Interesting. Very interesting indeed.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
I had not expected to enjoy the conference as much as I did because I consider it part of my 'job' to learn about how kids are learning and playing in the digital age. Just the thought of studies about the 'passback effect' and 'user generated content' and all the buzzwords I hear every day, made me want to pull my hair out.
But from the very first moments sitting at the breakfast table before the conference, when I unknowingly sat next to Karen Cator, the Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the US Dept. of Education, I became fascinated by just how many different people are out there trying to develop the right content for kids. Just how many parents, teachers, principals, game designers, publishing companies, toy companies, even President Obama telling us our education system is broken, that we are in a national crisis-- all of these people are, literally, worrying themselves sick over how to connect with kids in a meaningful way while they are so plugged in.
And there I am, trying to figure out what that means for preschoolers, the little ones I write content for at work. And what that means for me, as I try to write for a teen audience and connect with them through the pages of a book or an e-reader, or maybe it'll have to be an app, or a microchip that I install in their brain the day they are born that will automatically download my novel into their subconcious at the exact moment they are developmentally able to handle what I have to say.
I determined that we're all sending more and more information their way at such a rapid and challenging pace, and expecting them to process it faster and better than any generation before it, in a way that allows them to change the world.
I mean, talk about pressure.
And I don't mean, for us. I mean, for them.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things I learned at this conference is that children are craving more time to play. That play is this elusive thing, just out of reach. That it is overscheduled, overanalyzed, that it must be safe and indoors where parents can keep track of it and monitor it, that it must squeeze it's way between everything else we are throwing at them on a daily basis.
And this makes me sad.
I was the kid who woke up and went outside and did not go back indoors until my mother called for me at 9pm. I was the kid who biked in thunderstorms. Who came home green-stained, thirsty, and hungry, whining, while my mother attempted to untangle my hair with a comb.
And, so, like everybody else, I am worried. I am not going to lie.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
For those of you who have done serious research and are about to query, I know that you have polished your manuscript until it is the best it can be. I know that you have cut and re-written and re-arranged and spell-checked. I know you've had beta readers and crit partners pick it apart and destroy it and help you put it back together again. I know that you've put in serious editing time and worked weeks, months, and, perhaps, years getting your manuscript to be perfect.
I'm not being facetious. I read your blogs. I e-mail and chat and tweet with you. You're doing everything you're supposed to do and agents are not going to know what hit them when they get your query in their inboxes.
I did all of this. I went through six (I said SIX) major edits of my novel. I had friends, lovers, and countrymen read and critique it. I took most, if not all, of their advice (if it worked for my novel) and then when I thought I was finished, I edited it again. I did everything I was supposed to do.
Except one teeny little thing:
I lied to myself.
I lied to myself about one very important aspect of my novel. The beginning was too slow. I knew this. I made lots of superficial fixes to get around this because I did not know how to fix it. I need everything in those pages, I told myself. There is nothing I can cut. And that was partly true. But it doesn't help that it was slow.
And so...I began querying...
Because I had done everything I was supposed to do. I went through the checklist and marked everything off. Workshops, endless critiques, beta readers, Edit 1, Edit 2, and so on and so on and so on.
So I sent out my queries and received several requests in those first few weeks, to which I sent out my lovely little manuscript knowing I'd done everything I could. Well, almost everything. No, no, no, I mean...EVERYTHING. And then I received some very interesting news...
"I didn't connect with the material as much as I had hoped. The beginning was much too slow..."
But I knew that.
And you know it too.
So I'm here to make sure you add one more thing to your list of 'Before I Query' and that is:
Be honest with yourself.
If there's something gnawing at you about your novel. Something you've buried really deep inside of you and you're about to hit 'send' on that query. Just stop.
I know you're antsy and impatient to get out there. I know you're ready. Because you've done everything. Everything you're supposed to do. But just give yourself that last honesty check. It will save you time later.