Saturday, December 30, 2006
My wife and I went down to Los Angeles to gather with my side of the family for meals and gift giving (okay, and receiving). But before that, we went to see the largest nativity play in the world. It was amazing! Real camels. Real horses. Six angels (they weren’t real, but they soared above the audience). Beautiful singing. And the most brilliant, spectacular ending. Very moving.
On Christmas Eve we went to Disneyland, which turned out to be the best time to go because the lines were extremely short. 15 minutes for Space Mountain?!?!? My favorite moment came when we spotted an actor playing Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. My wife is a Johnny Depp freak, so I wanted to get a picture of her with the look-a-like. At first, she didn’t want to waste valuable ride-time standing in line (the guy was taking a long time with each person). But he was doing an amazing impersonation and we couldn’t stop watching him. Of course, when it was our turn…and even though it wasn’t really Johnny…my wife started blushing. After chatting with him and posing for the camera, JoanMarie said, “That was so fun!” At that, I rolled my eyes. It’s not like it was a Scarlett Johansson look-a-like or anything.
With time for one or two more rides, we hopped on Astro Blasters, a new ride we’d never heard of. Basically, it’s a Buzz Lightyear shooting gallery. The car moves through different rooms and you shoot as many targets as possible, competing with the person sitting next to you. When the ride was over, my wife and I were close to tied (I was up just a tad) so we went on one more time. Did I mention JoanMarie is extremely competitive and I don’t have a competitive bone in my body? As you can tell from the photo taken during the ride, she definitely got the hang of things the second time around.
So what was my favorite gift? A baseball cap from my parents with the logo of my new publisher.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
It’s me, Luke! I hope this letter finds you happy, healthy, knee deep in chocolate and surrounded by puppies and hot dogs.
We had a really fun Christmas this year. I got a red dinosaur, a green dinosaur, a dinosaur puzzle, a robot T-rex, and some socks. What’d you get? Mommy got a nice new coat (even though it’s weird that she won’t stop wearing it, even on top of her pajamas) and some new slippers (even though I announced what they were right before she opened the box). She also got a beautiful mermaid ornament and when she opened it she and Daddy kept giggling and saying stuff about it looking anatomically correct and I’m not sure what that means—I’m only four years old for heavens sake—but I think it means she can exchange it if she has a receipt. Right?
Daddy got a hat and some socks and he kept talking about resentments and utter disappointment. Again, I think he’s okay with a gift receipt.
For our family gift, we all went to Mexico! I spent all my waking hours in the pool and Mommy kept complaining about not having any time to write. I think it had to do with all those pink drinks and her excessive napping, if you ask me. (But don’t tell her I said that! She’s been getting a little defensive about her writing lately, so you have to handle her carefully. What usually works is a big, toothy grin then some kissies and huggies and generally saying any word with a ‘ie’ on the end. She thinks that’s adorable. So it’s all good.)
Anyways, it was a big year in our house. Daddy bought an old classic Mercedes and now he sticks fried wontons in the engine to make it run. Smells good, even though I think he should switch to French fries. Maybe put some ketchup in the exhaust.
This year Mommy got something called “an agent” but I think they have medicine for that. And if it tastes like cherries…well, all the better.
When Daddy’s not running out the door to “pick up some more oil” and Mommy’s not running out the door to “finish her next chapter” we usually spend good quality family time together at home. We like to sit back, relax, and discuss the spiritual/political hidden messages embedded in the dialogue of our favorite Sponge Bob episodes. But doesn’t everyone?
Happy holidays! I hope your next year is full of dinosaurs and anatomically correct mermaids and gift receipts.
(who is only four years old, for heavens sake, and in no way endorses this letter)
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
O.k., I'm a little nervous, but here goes - Since Eve's always way too busy to send holiday cards/letters, here's my idea of what her 2006 letter should say:
Hi ________(insert your name here) !
2006 was a very exciting year! Here are some highlights:
We rang in the New Year by banging pots and pans, then yelling at the neighborhood kids for setting off fireworks past our bed-time. The next morning, instead of enjoying football and jotting down our resolutions, we had to sweep the street to get rid of the detritus the hooligans left behind Anyway, it was an auspicious beginning to 2006.
In February, after several years of dedicated work, our two dogs won awards in their obedience classes! Marley was voted "Most Likely to Bust Into a Neighbor's House and Steal Food Without Getting Caught", while Brandy captured a new award they titled, "I Failed To Learn Anything In Obedience Class, But I'm So Freaking Cute That No One Cares." We were so proud and sure that this was a sign of things to come, we got her an agent, and we're hoping that Purina commercial comes through real soon.
Speaking of agents, I got one, too! She is the best thing to happen to my writing career since Jay, Robin and I started this blog. Seriously, I love her and she is so supportive of my work, I know great things are coming in 2007.
Aside from amassing awards and agents, I spent 2006 much the same way as 2005, 2004, and 2003... I sleep until the crack 'o noon, get up and caffeinate (at least eight shots of espresso), check my e-mails and wipe the kitchen counter, all while still in my jammies. Sometimes I go out of the house to run errands or meet Jay and/or Robin for lunch, but never before 3:00 p.m. I've kept up on all the best reality shows (Bo Bice got robbed, I tell you!), and have not missed a People magazine in months.
I also traveled a ton this year. Pre-liquid-bomb-scare, I never worried about what I packed. I could fly anywhere in the country with my favorite lip gloss and perfume on hand. Now, however, apparently Comptoir Sud Pacifique- Vanilla-Apricot perfume and Dior Super Shine lip gloss are serious threats to airline security. Traveling is so stressful, I tell you! (Especially without shiny lips!)
To cap off the year, we flew to Florida to visit my very favorite (only) sister and her (loud and obnoxious) family for Christmas. She was the most gracious hostess (even though she ran out of coffee) and made our stay as wonderful as if we were staying at five-star hotel (in some no-longer-existent Soviet country). It was a busy and exhilarating (exhausting) week. (My family wouldn't let me sleep in and forced me to exercise.) I can't wait for all the fun family trips we have planned for 2007! (Serenity, NOW!!)
(Okay, so Amy has a point. And though I'd like to say she was making fun of me, I can't deny that it's almost all true (except for the last paragraph of course), and that's pretty much how my holiday letter would go. Here's to me getting a life in 2007! Woo-Hoo!!)
Monday, December 25, 2006
THE TWELVE FORM REJECTIONS
(inspired by The Twelve Days of Christmas)
In my twelfth form rejection, the letter said to me:
regarding (CAPS & BOLDFACE TITLE),
thanks for your submission,
we're so glad you thought of our house,
we're proud of ev'ry book we publish,
see Writer's Market for our guidelines,
due to the number of submissions,
we can't give personal suggestions,
though we strive for quick responses,
after careful consideration,
good luck in the future,
but this story doesn't fit our current needs.
So I cried for just a minute, and then
(surging with ambition)
tucked a self-addressed-stamped-envelope
into my next submission.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
After staying up way too late every night for the past several weeks working on my revisions, my edits are finally done. How do I know they're done? Cuz my lovely editor told me so.
Our phone call had been scheduled for the past few days and I couldn't wait to hear what she thought of my revisions. Still, part of me was a little worried. What if she said, "No. No, no, no! This is all wrong. Christmas? Bah! You're spending the weekend revising...again." But that's not how it happened.
We spent about 90 minutes going over every change that I made to the manuscript based on her recommendations. She was happy with about 85% of the changes, we further tweaked about 10% of the changes, and about 5% of her suggestions that I didn't take originally, I ended up making after being convinced as to why she was right (which she's very good at doing).
And then, while we were on the phone, she e-mailed me the cover art. What can I say? I love it! I spent the rest of the day with chills because...well...I really really love it! I could tell my editor was afraid to show it to me because she hedged a bit before sending it. The artist didn't do what either of us originally thought would make a great cover. But I guess that's why he works the magic on the cover while we work the magic between the covers (there's a bumper sticker for ya!).
I'll post the cover art in a week or so and I'll tell you then why I love it so much. But until then, here's the cool new way my title will be written on the cover:
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Our emails tend to fall into one of six categories. So I thought I’d share with you a taste of our tasteless emails we send back and forth to each other, all in the name of “work.” (The emails that follow are only ones written by me, as I was unable to get permission from my fellow Disco Mermaids to post theirs. Oh, that’s not true. I can’t post their emails because they cuss like frickin’ sailors!)
The first type of email we write is the typical MECHANICS FAILURE kind in which I can’t get Blogger to work…
Since we've changed to the new beta thing, do we need to go in and block our cookies!!?? I saw we had a bunch of hits from SLO with an sbcglobal address. Is that me? I can't figure out how to block myself! (Don't be nasty.)
Then we have your basic CALL ME email…
I have no idea if you're online tonight, but I just had some thoughts. If you've got nothing better to do, give me a call tonight, before 10, then I'm asleep.
If not, don't ever call me again.
We also have the type of email in which we give INSTRUCTIONS FOR EDITING MY STUFF…
So here's what I have written so far (minus the chapter I'm in the middle of right now). The first three chapters should be pretty polished so be very critical of those. For the rest, just see if you like it and the voice and make sure it's not totally cheesy and sucky. You know the drill.
Take your time with this. You have two hours...and...go!
Every once in a while we throw in an I’M A BAD MOTHER email (and by “we” I mean “me,” but you knew that)…
I'm such a bad mother. I've been so wrapped up in Jay's life this week that when I went to pick Luke up from school today he said, "It's okay, mommy, I don't want to go to my soccer practice." (In a thick British accent!) CRAP! What's wrong with me!? Soccer mom...forgetting soccer practice!? Am I evil? So I bought him a cookie. Much better.
And of course there’s always the HA, HA! I’M BETTER THAN YOU email (which I just sent to Jay and Eve last night and I’m still so proud of myself!)…
Two more pages...done.
Did anyone else write TWO whole pages today? Huh? Didja? Didja?
Uh-huh, uh-huh (running man dance with a little churning the butter going on).
And finally, there’s the ONCE IN A LIFETIME email. The one that you send to your best friend the day after he sold his first book and all of his dreams have come true…
I feel like we're completely different people today. Like our old selves died yesterday and now we're reborn as “an author and the two girls who want to be him” (minus the genitalia issue)
Here's what else I think...
1. The flowers you gave me were, seriously, the most beautiful flowers I've ever gotten. No joke. They are perfect.
2. I've had so much fun telling this story to everyone I come across. I had lunch with a couple of reporters from The Tribune today and they don't even know you, but they love you!
3. Your next book is going to be just as great. I know it, and we won't let you do any less. That's our job.
4. This could not have happened to a better person. You deserve EVERYTHING that comes to you. You know that, right?
I'm sorry if this is sappy. I'd like to say that it's over and now I'll go back to making fun of you. But I'm not. I'm going to keep being sappy and cry happy tears and then hug on you so hard that your guts pop out.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
That said, the irony is that I'm terrible at coming up with titles for my books. And now I'm under the gun to come up with a title for my second still-in-progress book. My wonderful agent (hee-hee…saying “My agent” still sounds so funny and all professional and grown-up like) and I had lunch the other day and I nervously pitched the synopsis of my new YA book. She loved the idea, and said it is timely, commercial and compelling…love, love, LOVE her!
“So when can you have it done?” she asked. “Um…done?” I asked. “Yes, done,” she said. “Let's see, it took four YEARS to write my first book. Um, let's say…four MONTHS for this one,” I said (half joking). “Perfect,” she said. “Um…what??” I said. “What's the title?” she asked. “The what??” I said.
Girlfriend is so on the ball that I could see her wheels spinning immediately. She was already coming up with a list of potential editors in her head. Because I've got the outline in my head and am so in love with writing this book, I really believe I can crank out a respectable draft in four months. Problem is, I need a compelling title. So, I'm turning to the readers in Blogland for help!
I will send a very special prize to anyone out there brave enough to throw some potential titles my way. Please! I need help!! Post ideas in the “comments” section or e-mail me privately at: email@example.com THANKS!
Here's my elevator pitch: Seventeen-year-old Cali has one year to live. She plans to spend her last 365 days fearlessly completing a list of adventurous tasks that she was previously too cautious to consider, while also keeping her friends happily in the dark about her predicament. Cali's meticulous plan is thrown for a loop when she meets and falls uncontrollably in love with a brilliant and free-spirited surfer who challenges her core beliefs about living and dying.
It's kind of “Road Trip” meets “Love Story” in that it combines fun and adventure with a heartbreakingly doomed love affair. There are also a lot of scenes/references to the ocean, fear of the unknown, and the tension of a ticking clock.
Thanks for the help, readers! Don't steal my idea!
Sunday, December 17, 2006
And I’m loving it!
Here’s the e-mail I sent Eve and Robin the night (or morning) I finished that first stretch of revising:
It's amazing to think that the changes I'm doing now are the final details that'll end up in a book that's going to be sold in bookstores around the country. Seriously, it's a mindtrip. And all the changes are pretty small, but they are making a difference. A lot of them (and I'm glad she did this) are the little turns of phrases that I thought were so cute but actually probably took the reader out of the story. So I'm just yankin' them out. I'd say about 20% of her suggestions I'm not taking. But 80% is pretty amazing for a book that's been gone over so many times. It's almost 1 o'clock now and I've gotta get up soon, but I am having so much fun.Right now, the only person I love more than my editor is my wife. I apologized to her yesterday for not doing my part around the house. “You’ve been doing all the cooking and cleaning and everything,” I said, “while I’ve been upstairs having fun editing my book.”
I can't wait for you two to experience this...which you will!
She smiled and said, “See, you’re doing your part.”
And that’s reason #27 why this book is dedicated to her.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
This past year hubby purchased a 1983 Mercedes diesel sedan and converted the fuel tank to run on used vegetable oil that he siphons out of a barrel from the back alley of our local sushi restaurant. Kid…you…not.
When he first presented the idea to me, I thought, “Sure, honey. You start your cute little hobby. I’ll just be over here in the corner typing out silly little stories. What’s the harm, right!?”
What I didn’t realize was that within a few months, we would have a stockpile of over 400 gallons of used soybean oil and a garage that resembled what I assume a meth lab looks like.
Hubbie got way, WAY into his “little hobby.” He joined list serves and purchased equipment from specialty aquarium stores (because how else is he going to heat the oil to transfer it through the filters and blah, blah, blah?). He got to know all the local people who run on veggie (one of our local high school principals!) and I think I noticed him giving secret handshakes to members of his underground veggie network. Weirdness everywhere.
I decided that the moment he came to me and said he planned on attending the national veggie car conference and was planning on dressing up in drag in order to win the costume contest…that would be it. Hobby over.
But I found myself reading the emails from other local veggie people, and thinking about what an utterly cool thing he is doing. Not just for the environment or for our wallet (it’s free gas!) but for our little boy. At night, I peek my head out of the door and look into the meth lab/veggie production area, and see the silhouettes of my son and his father in front of an old lamp teetering on the edge of a barrel and I listen to them talk about the oil…where it comes from and what it’s used for. And my boy turns to me and says, “Mommy, look! I’m pumping oil for Daddy’s car! A Mercedes…a classic!” (Again…kid…you…not. My husband has trained him to say “Mercedes…a classic” every time he mentions the car).
Not only am I excited that my son will learn so much about fuel (I like to tell my husband, “We’re putting the FUN back in fuel!”) but it’s also fodder for good storytelling. What I thought was a bizarre hobby (that sometimes involves me saying, “Eeeeww, honey! What IS that?” after he hugs me), is now an interesting slice of life that will definitely make it into my next book.
I’m already thinking of a title. How about…VEGGIE TALES. (A classic!)
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Two years ago at the SCBWI L.A. conference I had a “Joe Pesci-Off” with a couple of very funny dudes who we met at the after-hours party. Maybe it was the all those pink drinks Robin and Jay kept forcing on me, but I brought my A-game that night and I was on fuego, baby! Of course I won the contest and I remember thinking that I'm definitely the right person to be writing funny children's books…since I'm so dang funny and all.
Problem is, it's really freaking hard to write funny, and keep it up for an entire book. I've only read a handful that can really make me laugh out loud. Captain Underpants, Absolutely Positively Not..., The Day My Butt Went Psycho, and Millicent Min, Girl Genius are some that come to mind. But there's not a ton of funny stuff out there for kids and there should be!
I always wanted to be known as a “lighthearted humor writer,” but the deeper I get into my second book the more I realize that I don't write funny. Not even a little bit. My first novel started out funny, but quickly took on a somber tone once I got to know my characters better. This second book is sooo not funny it's really making me wonder. Did I lose my sense of humor somewhere or is it just terribly challenging to write a funny book?
I think I'm funny. Robin thinks I'm funny. Jay thinks I'm funny. Although, my friend K.T. who's known me since college recently laughed at me…not because he thinks I'm funny, but because he thinks it's funny that I think I'm so funny. Maybe I'm not as funny as I think I am. I guess acknowledgment of the problem is the first step. Who knew I was destined to write serious books? Crazy! But I can still do a mean Joe Pesci imitation…so I got that going for me! HA!
Monday, December 11, 2006
Like I said...small town.
The interview was a lot of fun, partly because the reporter herself was a writer (not that writing for a newspaper doesn't count as...oh, you know what I mean). So I didn't have to tell her that, "No, I didn't do my own illustrations" or "No, I'm not able to quit my day job" or "No, I have no plans to write real books for adults." And I’m glad my first interview was with a small newspaper because, during my answers, I often found myself thinking, “Is there any way to say that and sound even stupider? No, probably not.” But, thanks to some fancy editing on the part of the reporter, I think it turned out fairly well. I'd love to hear what you think:
The Adobe Press
(And yes, once again, I’m wearing my Disco Mermaids t-shirt.)
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Awesome Agent...my hero!
Luckily, a couple of my stories sparked the interest of some publishers who are now reading it. Awesome agent strikes again. Yahoo! And all I have to do is...wait.
But now I find myself becoming an email junkie. I used to be a mailbox junkie.
(mailbox- n. a receptacle that sits at the end of the driveway where a nice man or woman pays a visit every day and drops in packages, cable bills and literature on why exactly your septic tank is causing all those cute migratory birds to die.)
Since Awesome Agent swooped into my life, my whole world has changed! No more SASE’s. No more need to waste my time checking that silly little receptacle!
Now all my updates regarding my manuscript come from my email. And so I find that I just leave my email up all day and hit the refresh button over and over and over...then call up Eve and Jay every five minutes and say, “I got nothin'. How 'bout you?”
So while I spend every free moment pushing that little circular arrow button, my husband keeps mumbling something about the cable getting cut off and that all the cute migratory birds are dying. Like I have time to deal with these little details!
I’m living life in the INBOX, baby!
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The question I posed to them today was this:
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU KNEW YOU HAD A YEAR TO LIVE? Specifically, a year to live relatively healthy before a degenerative disease quickly takes over your body and mind. (It is the central problem in my new YA book…don't steal my idea!)
The answers were funny, insightful, scary and surprising. The Creative Writing teacher allowed me to work with two different periods of his class (Thanks, Mr. Huttle!!) so I got about 40 different answers and some lively discussion. Initially, almost every student said he/she would be adventurous, take major risks (including breaking the law), and do things he/she had never dreamed of before. Most also agreed that they would quit school and spend lots of time with friends. However, the
majority also said that they would not tell friends or boyfriends/ girlfriends about this predicament for fear of becoming a “charity case”.
The first answers ranged from “robbing a bank” to “stealing a Ferrari” to “seeking revenge on everyone who has done me wrong” and “eating human flesh”. (I swear I did not make that up!) As reality set in, and the deviant behavior impulses simmered down, they started realizing that they didn't want to waste time in jail or hating or hurting other people. Answers mellowed to things like “taking lots of mushrooms or other hallucinogenic drugs”, “road tripping with buddies”, “changing everything about myself…how I dress, how I act” and “reaching out to people I wouldn't normally talk to”.
As the discussions wound down, different ideas started popping up. One student mentioned that his goal is to be remembered…to make a mark. Several others said they would love to volunteer with homeless or sick kids. Eventually, almost everyone agreed that quitting school would also mean losing important social networks. Toward the end, answers
started getting more thoughtful and profound. Only then, after more than an hour of reflection and discussion, did students really contemplate and convey what's REALLY important to them.
As students left the room, I got several short summaries of what they concluded life is really about…spending time with family (which had previously not come up once), praying/finding religion, touching the lives of others, doing random good deeds.
Ahh…I feel much better now. My Ferrari's safe. My flesh is safe.
All is right with the youth of today!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
It was one whole year ago today
Robin, Jay, and Eve said “I know, hey!”
We’ll start a blog about children’s lit.
From three authors, we’d never seen it
So then we introduced to you
The blog you’ve read for one whole year
We hope you have enjoyed our blog
Are there no cool words that rhyme with blog?
(Now you know why we don't write rhyming books.)
One year ago, when we started this blog, we had four main goals:
1. To have fun and keep ourselves inspired.
2. To help us stay in touch with friends and to make new friends in the children's lit. world.
3. To try to be a little "different" and see how many interesting things we can get into before selling a book.
4. To entertain.
1. We've had way more fun than we ever imagined. We've each written more than ever. And truly, we've grown closer as friends because of this shared project.
2. At conferences, we've had the chance to meet our readers in person and formed true friendships because of it.
3. Holy cow! Beyond belief. Nine months after starting the blog, we were speaking at the SCBWI national conference as guests of Lisa Yee because of our blog. We were featured on Tomie dePaola's website because of our blog. And Jay got a mighty big head because of our blog.
4. Hopefully you found us a little entertaining.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Each person brings a wrapped children's book, new or lightly used. One at a time, we pick one out of the pile, open it, and the next person can either steal that book or open their own. It can all get pretty nasty and evil, but it's always fun.
This year's get-together is extra noteworthy for the Disco Mermaids. It's an anniversary, of sorts. In Eve's car last year, after the grub and merriment, the three of us put our heads together and came up with the idea for this three-person blog.
And a couple days later...we went live!
But more on that in a couple days.
So, what children's book are you hoping to receive (or steal) this holiday season?
Friday, December 01, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
So what did we talk about during dinner? My life as a children’s book writer. Not welfare or photos or designing pages for photos or God or hair. Just me. Maybe the fact that I pouted in the corner with my arms folded and shouted, “ME! ME! I want to talk about ME!” had something to do with it. Not sure.
Events like these sometimes turn into what I like to call “a case of Rowling-itis.” Where well meaning people say such things as, “Wow, you’re going to be all famous…like that Harry Potter lady!”
“Why, yes,” I say. “Right after I dethrone the queen and then dethrone Miss Hawaii.” Hopefully she has one of those VERY stretchy bathing suits. The queen that is, not Miss Hawaii. (Oh! She went there!)
Little do these lovely people know that I’d be happy with $3.50 and a bookmarker, if they’d just sell my book! No, that’s really not true. I need enough money to buy a Nintendo Wii, or else I’ll never write again. Honest.
But then I think, “Hey! I deserve to be as successful as that Harry Potter lady! I’m tall…and blonde…and write in coffee shops! It’s time to dethrone someone!”
Okay, fine. My plan is to dethrone the night manager at the local Radio Shack and then tackle the Snow Queen during the Christmas parade. But I’m on my way!
I have a feeling the conversation around the table during Thanksgiving next year will be much different. “God bless this Nintendo Wii. Let’s eat cake!”
Monday, November 27, 2006
- It was taken at Linnaea’s Café.
- On any day of the week, you can walk into Linnaea’s and find at least one Disco Mermaid diligently writing.
- My book party was held at Linnaea’s.
- Linnaea is in the photo.
- The other lady in the photo (Marianne - the new owner) helped me set up for the party.
- Perfectly framed between the ladies, inside the window, is me.
- If you look closely, you can see a colorful design on my t-shirt. It’s the Disco Mermaid logo (a gift from Robin and Eve).
- You can sort of see my laptop, upon which I am diligently revising 13 Reasons Why.
- This proves to my editor that I am diligently revising 13 Reasons Why.
- At this point, two hours in, I still look calm and focused.
- Four hours later, when I called it a night, I still felt relatively calm (though a little less focused).
- There are three scenes in 13 Reasons Why set at Linnaea’s (though in my book it’s called Monet’s).
- In one scene, my main male character sits at a table near the window overlooking the garden patio.
Freaky? Yes, I know!
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Just sitting in his office with the inspirational posters, silly coffee mugs and massive windows facing the quad brought me back to my high school days. Not that I spent any of my school days in the principal's office. (Robin did! But that's another story.) I felt like a 16-year-old again as we talked about our favorite YA books and 80's bands. As the period bell rang, and we watched 2000 kids scurrying to their next classes while laughing, tripping and smacking each other, I suddenly felt really old. They looked like 8-year-olds compared to me (and I was even wearing my cool wrap-around dress and leggings!). Then I realized that the principal, who I had assumed was much older because he's a respected man of authority, was probably my age!
A few days later Robin, Jay and I took a trip down memory lane while having coffee with Robin's adorable mother, who's visiting from Georgia. She told a hilarious story about the worst thing Robin ever did in high school (it involves a blinking T-shirt and vomit...but you don't want to hear it, do you?). Also, when her mom was the Vice Principal, Robin got busted for writing swear words in place of real words while transcribing her favorite song.
Then Jay chimed in with his story about getting in trouble for creating an underground newspaper (full of false slanderous gossip about everyone in school), and how he had to read it out loud and apologize to every student, teacher, and janitor mentioned in it! I read a copy of his underground newspaper yesterday and it is sick and twisted and disgusting and evil and freaking hilarious!!
I was a model student as a teen, so I had no stories to add. I think the worst thing I ever did was help the teachers unload their picket signs when they went on strike, and the principal was mad at me. Seriously! I was a freakishly boring child.
After listening to the local principal's stories about things he's had to deal with in the last ten years (shootings, drugs, etc...) and comparing them to stories of our teen years, I got a little freaked out. Were we really more innocent back then? Are teens today crazier and scarier than we were? Or maybe every generation squawks about “those disrespectful youngsters...” and really nothing's changed except our perception of how innocent we were as teens. Maybe we just forget how crazy and disrespectful we were. But on second thought, no one at my school was toting a gun or making bombs.
Remember when...the worst thing anyone did at school was write some swear words on paper or create an underground newspaper?? Ahh, those were the days! What's the worst thing you ever did in high school? C'mon...you know you want to tell us. (I need it for “research.” Thanks!)
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The other day I went into our hangout coffee shop, Linnaea’s, to meet with Jay and talk writing. As you may have noticed, Linnaea’s is like our own version of the bar in St. Elmo’s Fire (only with less beer and no one named Demi Moore or Rob Lowe…which is a shame, really).
Jay had been working furiously on his rewrites and his eyeballs were dashing back and forth, so I figured he needed a break. “Hey, I know! Let’s talk about MY book!” I said.
“Okay. What’s happening next in your story?” he asked with focused eyeballs. (So sweet!)
“Well, it’s going to get more exciting, and more, you know…well, it will have a climax and stuff, and then she’ll learn something, and then it will wrap up nicely and everyone will be happy.”
“Seriously, Robin. What’s going to happen next?”
I flopped my head on the small square table. “I don’t know! You caught me! Are you happy!?”
I went on and said some other things and Jay said it’s really not nice to call people names.
Once we got past the awkward silence, we were able to come up with some really great ways to finish my book. It was amazing. We talked and brainstormed literally for hours (I know because I got a parking ticket). What we came up with was nothing short of miraculous and now I know exactly what will happen next and exactly how it’s all going to wrap up! What a gift!
If there had been a fly on the wall during our conversation at Linnaea’s (or if Demi Moore had been on the wall, which would make this story a lot more exciting) here are some snippets of what that fly, or beautiful woman, would have heard:
- No, too cliché.
- Make sure she solves her own problem.
- Yeah, it’s funny but that’s something you would do.
- Again, too cliché.
- Would you stop eating my peanut butter cookie?
- Take out the part about the helicopter and the cliff rescue and the Channel 12 News crew, plus all the cliché parts, and you’re on to something!
- Wow! You took a long time in the bathroom. Is everything okay?
- No, overusing references to great literary works will not win you awards. Or readers.
- Seriously, you should put some money in the meter.
- Of course you can kill your main character. (Kidding. Right, Jay? You were kidding, right?)
- Is that Demi Moore on the wall?
Just then, Eve walked in and we told her how I never put money in the meter and how my car is probably being towed as we speak and how we spent the last few hours coming up with wonderful ideas for my book.
The girl didn’t miss a beat. “Great! My turn!”
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I’m adding scenes, rotating scenes, fleshing out characters, deleting scenes, and twisting the end. All the while, in the back of my head, a voice keeps screaming, “Don’t screw it up!”
And it's fascinating. It’s a puzzle I can totally lose myself in. If I add Scene A, I have to move Scene B into the next chapter. And if I do that, that chapter’s going to start a little slower which might make it lose some momentum (not good for a suspense novel). So maybe I can twist that scene a little, shorten it up, and make it move faster. And to flesh out Character A, I can change his relationship to Character B by adding this line of dialogue which will also make the last chapter, still 83 pages away, so much more intense. Oh, and remember, “Don’t screw it up!”
Between my critique group, my agent, and the people at Penguin, maybe a dozen people have read this manuscript in its entirety. But only a handful of them know the changes I’m putting into it. And only I know how it’s coming along. Which means only I know if I’m screwing it up…which is exciting and scary at the same time.
And I’m lovin’ it!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Last night while Jay and I clacked away at our computers at our little table by the window in Linnaea’s…our local downtown coffee haunt where we write all our books…a celebrity was spotted! Actually, two celebs. No, three. At our very own Linnaea’s!
After several silent hours of intense mind spinning and typing (Jay’s deadline for his first edits of 13 REASONS WHY is in one week!) our eerily quiet writing session was pleasantly interrupted by a pretty, young, red-haired gal who I had previously noticed cruising by a few times.
She slowly approached us and said, “Um, hi. Are you, by chance…well, are you the writer, Jay Asher?”
JAY (in a slow, deep voice several octaves lower than his usual one): Why, yes. Yes I am.
PRG (Pretty Red-Haired Gal): You’re in the Class of 2K7! I’m in the Class of 2K7!! I’ve read all about you. And your struggles, and your agent, and your auction. I’m Autumn Cornwell. I live in L.A. and I have a book coming out, too.
JAY: Of course I’ll sign an autograph. My book isn’t out yet…and I’m sure you’ll buy several copies when it comes out. But here’s a Linnaea’s napkin with my John Hancock on it. Run along now. I must continue writing. And no pictures, please.
AUTUMN (aforementioned PRG): Um, thanks. But I just wanted to introduce myself and…Oh My God! (looks at Eve) Are you…one of the MERMAIDS??
EVE (in a slow deep voice to match Jay’s): Why, yes. Yes I am. I have no book coming out yet. But would you like an autograph anyway? Or a picture? How ‘bout a picture? (Eve whips out a camera) Or my used coffee cup? Would you like to take home my used coffee cup? You can keep it!
AUTUMN: Um, K. Thanks.
AUTUMN: Well, I’ve got to be going now. We were just passing through on our way home. My husband’s waiting for me. Um…bye. (Autumn goes out to the garden area to retrieve her husband and it’s COLIN FERRELL! OMG!!! They exit.)
And it’s all true! Okay, the beginning part is true. We really did meet AUTUMN CORNWELL in the coffee shop, and she really is in the Class of 2k7. And you really should check out her website and debut book coming out in September 2007! Coolest title ever…CARPE DIEM. It’s an adventure story set in Southeast Asia involving backpacking and squat toilets! I LOVE squat toilets!!
Great meeting you, Autumn. It was so much fun chatting. We must hang out again sometime when you’re not busy with your baby or your writing or traveling or hanging out with Colin Ferrell! Carpe Diem!!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I just love it. Every time I listen to it I feel so revived. It makes me smile and want to dance. But it also makes me yearn for things I can never have, which is a terrible feeling, but a very human one.
I’m not really sure what my life’s soundtrack was before the GARDEN STATE thing. I suppose I wandered around life singing verses from CARELESS WHISPER by George Michael. Surely, I’m not alone on that one! (“I’m never gonna dance again…guilty feet have got no rhythm.”) Oh, man. It just don’t get any better than that!
Since my own life has its soundtrack, I decided my character in my current book needed one too. Which I don’t think is a totally weird thing to do since I read somewhere that David Levithan and Rachel Cohn listened to certain types of music to get them in the mood to write NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST. It worked for them. I figured I’d do the same.
I first thought of listening to the type of music my character likes to listen to in the book, which is a combination of Bob Marley and The Sex Pistols.
I tried it. Didn’t get me in the mood. Too much of a love/hate thing. Which is what I love about my character, but it wasn’t getting me in the mood to write. (And Jay, please notice I made it all the way through that paragraph without even once mentioning the word ‘ganja.’ Oh, wait. DOH!)
Then I came across a song that speaks so much more to her experience, rather than her tastes. It’s the song MAD WORLD, by Gary Jules (it’s from the soundtrack to the movie Donnie Darko—a weird and amazing movie; it’s also a remake of an original by Tears for Fears, another band that was the backdrop of my 80’s life; and it’s also that song in the new xbox 360 commercial.) I made a document that sits on my desktop with the lyrics to that song, and when I play it I get chills and it brings me to tears…which is when I know I’m ready to write her story.
So what about everyone else? Do you have a theme song? What song would be playing during the closing credits of the movie of your life? If it’s VALLEY GIRL, that’s fine. It was mine before the whole CARELESS WHISPER phase.
Anyways, let me know what your theme song is! (Or your character’s theme song!) Just wondering. That’s what I do.
Oh, and Mom? Surely SOMETHING has come out since the soundtrack to OUT OF AFRICA!? Maybe I’m wrong…
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
(my mom - me - my wife)
The Stand-Up DISCOmedy Show
I wrote a good portion of 13 Reasons Why while sipping coffee at Linnaea’s Café. It’s our town’s artsy-vibe coffee shop. A few scenes in my book are even set there. So that’s where we celebrated the sale of my first book.
The turn-out was awesome. Every time a new person arrived, my arms uncontrollably flew open...I just couldn’t stop the huggin’. The librarian delegation was in full-force, as was the local children’s lit. community (including Elizabeth Spurr, Stephanie Roth, and Emily Jiang--last year’s SCBWI Sue Alexander Award Winner!). For me, a highlight was having my college Children's Lit. Appreciation teacher in attendance...the whole reason I got into this mess to begin with.
The first thing I planned to do when I stepped on stage was to eloquently announce that my first book would be dedicated to my wife. But it was hard to speak eloquently with a clenched throat and tears warping my vision (thankfully, no one called me a wussy). Then my wife, my mom, and I did a full-cast reading of the first 13 pages. My critique group, S.L.O.W. for Children (San Luis Obispo Writers for Children), presented me with an amazing set of bookends adorned with--what else--mermaids. Robin and Eve jumped on stage and had everyone busting up with their hilarious list titled 13 Reasons Why 13 Reasons Why will be an Award-Winning Bestseller. Then came even more tears (I was so dehydrated by the time this thing was over) as I thanked those in attendance that will be featured on my acknowledgements page (followed later in the evening by more tears when I realized I forgot to mention my mom, my dad, and my brother...D’oh!).
Of course, there won’t be any more First Book parties for me. But I’m sure the Disco Mermaids, as a group, will be throwing a couple more in the very near future.
13 Reasons Why 13 Reasons Why will be an Award-Winning Bestseller
1. The voice in this book is so authentic. Probably because Jay himself was a depressed teenage girl growing up.
2. Eve and Robin have already signed on to star in the movie!
3. Jay got such a big advance, he could use all that money to buy bunches of copies to ensure that it will be on the bestseller list.
4. In the movie, Robin is going to play the role of the sweet, loving middle aged high school counselor. Eve will play the part of 17-year old Hannah!
5. In the book there is a beautiful poem written by his wife. And there’s an actual recording of the poem as a song...sung by his wife, not by Jay!
6. In the movie, the role of Clay will be played by Colin Ferrell and he and Eve will have a big make-out scene. Only they’ll have to shoot the scene again and again to get it just right.
7. Jay wrote almost the entire book at a coffee shop…at THIS coffee shop, Linnaea’s, not at a Starbucks!
8. So, in the movie when Colin Ferrell and Eve make out, the film will get stolen and end up on the internet and then later in video stores for only $49.99! (But Jay will get 15%)
9. Jay worked so hard on this book, he stayed up late many nights revising and pulling his hair out!
10. In the movie, the ending will be changed from the book’s ending and Eve will walk up in a gorgeous Armani dress (couture, of course) and Colin Ferrell will burst into the room and Eve will say, “You had me at ‘hello.’” And Colin will say, “I wish I knew how to quit you!” And then there will be a huge explosion and Robin will run in and say, “Run, Forest, run!”
11. This book had better be a bestseller, that way Jay can justify all his time spent lurking in the teen section at Barnes & Noble doing “research.”
12. When Roger Ebert reviews the movie, he’ll say: “The plot? Stunning! The emotion? Stunning! The ending? Stunning! Eve Porinchak as 17-year old Hannah? Not so stunning.
13. And the 13th reason why 13 Reasons Why will be a bestseller…It’s Awesome!! (woo-hoo!)
Sunday, November 12, 2006
The coolest part is that we're having it at Linnea's...the little coffee/pastry/garden/lunch joint that Jay, Robin and I claimed as our official writing spot when we met four years ago. It's our second home; if ever I can't locate Jay or Robin on the phone or e-mail, I check Linnea's...and that's where I find them! Like the other night...I hadn't talked to Jay in about 3 hours (usually I panic if we don't speak every hour). I ran all over downtown yelling his name, asking people if they'd seen him, and was about to call the police and check the hospital when I spotted the little "Linnea's Cafe" sign in the distance. Of course! How could I be so silly? I spotted the back of his head and the blue and green plaid button-down shirt that Robin and I had given him last summer. Were those sweat marks running down his back?
He was in front of his laptop, at his usual little table against the wall, behind resident little schizophrenic-guy who creates squiggles in a notebook 12 hours a day while talking to himself and guarding a jar of sea worms that adorns his table.
"Dude, I gotta edit," is all Jay said. He turned away from me and put his hands back on the sides of his head, resting his elbows on the table.
As I stood there with nothing to do or say, I looked around at our little writing joint. I realized how lucky we are to have our little "Sex And The City-esque" place where we always meet to write, talk, laugh, eat, read, and get away from the responsibilities of home and work. There is a strange cast of local wackos who hang out there, the freaky music always skips, the internet never works, and it's always freezing. But, we love that the coffee is great, there's ever-changing funky art on the wall, and it's not a Starbucks-like pick up joint...so nobody bugs us. We love it!
So, today, Linnea's will be closed just for us, so we can toast Jay and his mega-success, see old friends, eat cake and be merry. Then, after we clean up, Jay, Robin and I will no doubt bust out our laptops, rest our heads in our hands...and WRITE!
PARTY ON, DUDES!!! CHEERS TO JAY!!!
Thursday, November 09, 2006
You may have read in my previous post that I had FOUR agents interested in my manuscript. Basically, they were all willing to work with me, just to varying degrees. I had to go with the one with the most enthusiasm, the best ideas and the biggest love for chocolate.
And I found her! Woohoo! The wonderful (and at times horrifying) part of working with this agent was what I went through before I signed on the line. She read my middle grade book. And liked it! But she wanted more. So I sent her my chapter book. And the YA I’m currently working on. And the other middle grade book I just started. I almost sent her my grade school report card, but then I remembered that ‘C’ I got in my sixth grade grammar class. Mrs. Bullock was a very tough teacher. (But looks at me now, Mrs. Bullock!)
The best part was when she picked up the phone and called me after reading my chapter book. “I just finished reading it and it’s adorable!” my agent said. “I just had to call you!” my agent said. (I’m still shocked that I’m putting the words ‘my’ and ‘agent’ in a sentence… right next to each other! Woohoo!)
By the way, I think people who slip the phrase “my agent” into conversation are snobs. And the flipping of the hair thing doesn’t help either.
But that’s what I USED to think! Now I know they’re saying it because they’re proud of themselves for getting off the couch and writing something they’ve always wanted to write and had the guts to send it out into the world knowing people would use it for a bird cage liner or fuel for their small campfire, and yet they didn’t care because it’s their passion in life!
(And maybe these people flip their hair because it’s getting in their eyes. That’s all.)
Anyways, I could not have made this decision without the help of my adorable friends, Jay and Eve. While I pondered and grappled and contemplated, they kept refilling my glass. Thanks guys!
And so, just for today, I’m going to flip my hair and stick my nose in the air and tell everyone about MY AGENT!
Because tomorrow it’s back to story plotting, laundry, revising, cleaning up cat puke, and getting rid of the hangover that Jay and Eve forced upon me. But I’ll still have my nose in the air. (Have you ever smelled cat puke?)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
“So, Jay, how’s the editing going? Did your brilliant editor have any more incredible ideas on how to make your book even better?”
“Eve, has your brilliant agent heard from any of the editors yet?”
“Robin, have you decided which agent you’re leaning towards? You know, which is the most brilliant?”
And honestly, it’s been getting kind of stressful. True, even before our run of Disco Mermaid luck all we ever talked about was writing. But lately, it’s been almost too much. Not only do we stress for ourselves, we stress for each other. In fact, Robin’s husband noticed this and told us we should get together, hang out, and not talk shop. That was followed by a three-person chorus of, “Not possible!”
Earlier this week, Robin and I went to Eve’s house to write the third installment of our Fondue Friday series. First, of course, we had to eat. So we barbequed some chicken and sat down for a nice meal where we talked about our families, our childhood dining rituals, music, and politics. But we didn’t talk about books.
Then our attention drifted through the dining room window to the beautiful rock Jacuzzi recently built into Eve’s backyard. Did I mention the waterfall yet? No, I don’t think I did. This thing has a waterfall and a wading pool and is absolutely beautiful. So we took a dip into the bubbling water and talked about things we haven’t talked about in approximately forever. Then we sat around the fire pit (also rock, beautiful, and new!) and laughed while Eve tried to keep the fire burning without getting smoke in her eyes.
Basically, we got reacquainted as friends who also happen to write children’s books. Truly a beautiful evening...spent in a hot tub with two beautiful women!*
*Fine! Robin and Eve are making me say that Eve's husband and Robin's son were also in the Jacuzzi. Geez! No one appreciates creative nonfiction anymore.
Monday, November 06, 2006
My agent will round up ten editors that she deems perfect fits for my manuscript. They’ll be boated into tropical waters, where they have to dive off the boat with only the clothing on their backs and swim out to a deserted island. They’ll build a shelter out of palm leaves and sticks, subsist on coconuts and bugs, and start a fire with rocks and bark.
Every day, members of the “Editio Tribe” (Latin word for ‘publisher’ of course) will spear fish, gather fruit and search for the “Magical Manuscripts” that are hidden somewhere on the small island. Every day they’ll compete in complicated obstacle courses and assorted trivia and endurance challenges. Each challenge winner will receive a clue as to where the “Magical Manuscripts” are hidden.
Since there are only five copies of the “Magical Manuscript” hidden on the island, the five Editios who don’t find them will have their fires snuffed out and will then walk the plank.
The five remaining contestants will be whisked away, via leer jet, to a mansion in Rome, where they’ll spend the week having “dates” with me, discussing how much they love my ms, and convincing me that they love my ms for all the right reasons. I want to make sure my editor is not pretending to love my ms for the fame, money and various People and US Weekly covers that are sure to follow. I want true love, man! Those three who love me (I mean, my ms) the most will continue to the next round.
The remaining three contestants will participate in various photo shoots where they’ll be made over in hair, makeup and clothing and portray famous children’s lit characters, such as The Big Bad Wolf, Holden Caulfield, and Pippi Longstocking. The two with the best photos will continue to the next round, and the one with less-than-convincing photos will have to pack his bags and walk home. And he/she doesn’t even get to keep a copy of the “Magical Manuscript”!!
The final two will helicopter to Trump Tower, where they’ll spend the next two days competing in tasks such as writing a jacket flap summary in less than a minute, creating an eye-catching book cover in less than an hour, and outlining a marketing plan for my ms in less than a day.
The one editor who shows the most promise in all the tasks will receive the final rose at the Final Rose Ceremony! And we’ll live happily ever after. If I’m going to enter into a marriage (contract) with a spouse (editor) to co-parent this baby (manuscript), then what better way to find him/her than on a reality show?? It’s the way of the new millennium!
(**Note: No actual editors were harmed in the making of this reality show. “Who’s Your Daddy” was completely created in Eve’s mind during her procrastination time. Any similarities to actual reality shows are purely coincidental. Eve doesn’t even watch bad reality TV shows that she Tivos all week so she can view them late at night when she should be writing.)
Saturday, November 04, 2006
But when I’m not doing air splits for my friends or shakin’ my tail for the Wolverines, I’m trying to do my part to step out of both Jay AND Eve’s lovely shadows and make a name for myself. So what if that name happens to be Coat Tail Rider #2? It’s a name!!
A few weeks ago I reported that I had a great moment in front of a Denny’s. An agent had read the first few chapters of my manuscript and loved it. She wanted to see it. Right away! I was ecstatic!
Little did I know that I would be having that same in-front-of-Denny’s-feeling again and again in the coming days. Just this past week, I’ve had not ONE, not TWO, not THREE…but FOUR agents interested in my manuscript! Woohoo! Get those pompoms out Disco Mermaids!
It’s been a great feeling to know that other professionals in the field think my work is good. That maybe all those nights shut in my office, writing and giggling may finally pay off.
I’ve decided I only have four requirements of an agent:
1. They must love, love, love my book.
2. They must ignore all the parts they do not love, love, love about my book.
3. They must love getting chocolates as Christmas gifts.
4. They must love giving chocolates as Christmas gifts.
While I’m happy to be courting four agents, I also feel like I’m cheating on a lover…or four lovers! (Which I know nothing about, so how could I possibly even think I’d know what that feels like!) It’s just weird to be interviewing THEM to find the perfect one for me.
But the answer will become clear soon enough…and you’ll be the first to know.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Eve wants the Disco Mermaids to get matching tattoos...maybe one of the art pieces found in our sidebar under Disco Designs. Every time I laugh at her suggestion, she asks if it’s because I’m not committed to the group (read: my peers). But my wife has wanted us to get matching tattoos for years. I can’t possibly say no to my wife and yes to Eve, right? Eve’s response: Why not?
Thankfully, this story has a hero. Earlier this week, an author/illustrator e-mailed the Disco Mermaids to let us know we'll have a cameo in her upcoming picture book. Melanie Hope Greenberg met us at the SCBWI National Conference two years ago when we dressed as mermaids for the after hours Beach Bash. At the time, she'd just started working on a book inspired by the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island. She saw it as a good omen that the three of us won first place in the costume contest that year. Five months later, her book sold to Putnam. The Disco Mermaids will appear atop a float on Surf Avenue. Look for it in Spring 2008!
So Eve, Robin, and I are going to be permanently bound together within the pages of a book. Books hold up a lot longer than tattoos. Books aren't painful to get (read: no blood). And should something unimaginable come between us, books are easy to hide.
Does that satisfy you, Eve?
What's that? You wanna know how the editing of my book's coming along? This week my editor approved the revised outline and I’ve been given the go-ahead to revise the actual manuscript. And I’ve gotta say, her suggestions are going to make 13 Reasons Why ten times more powerful. No...thirteen times more powerful!
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
As I stood in Jay’s shadow, Jay noted out loud that I was, well, standing in his shadow. And as I slowly backed away from him, he said, “You’re finally coming out from my shadow!”
“Yeah,” I said. “Do you think they’ll have those little peanut butter cookie things they had last year...? Oooh, and that chocolate cream pie thing??”
“What?” I blinked.
Robin, Jay, and Cynthia blinked back.
“Oh! OH!! NOW I GET IT! Standing in your shadow? Coming out from your shadow?? HA! I totally get it now! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
As you all know, Jay is my mentor, my friend, my hero. (As is Robin, but we’ll deal with her shadow another day.) He’s done this writing thing 3 times as long as I have. Over the years he’s won countless contests, awards, and various accolades from everyone in the business. In the last couple years, I’ve started winning contests, awards, etc. Jay’s had praise from editors. I’ve started getting praise from editors.
And though we are THREE Disco Mermaids, everyone at the Annual Conference seems to know us as “JAY ASHER and those two wild blond chicks.” People often think Robin and I are the same person, unless we’re in the same place at the same time. Not that I’m complaining...she’s HOT!
We’ve been researching agents forever, and we all came up with very short lists of our top picks. Jay signed with a kick-ass agent in September. He sold his first book this month (if you missed it, the announcement in last week’s Publisher’s Weekly is pretty killer!).
And...wait for it...wait for it ...
On Friday at 10:52 a.m. I SIGNED A CONTRACT WITH JAY’S KICK-ASS LITERARY AGENT!!!
She loves my book. I love her. I love Jay. Jay loves her. It’s SO COOL! Although still officially in Jay’s shadow, I’m hoping that when my book sells, I’ll emerge from the cold damp darkness and leap out into the warm sunshine shouting, “I am somebody! I am the wild blond chick who hangs out with Jay Asher...named EVE!”
(**And, NO, Jay’s kick-ass agent did NOT know that I was one of the aforementioned wild blond chicks, and I therefore officially got an agent on my own merits. No nepotism here...just in case you were wondering.)
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Yesterday, Jay, Eve and I went to the SCBWI Writer’s Day in Thousand Oaks. Jay was showered with hugs and kisses from everyone in our region who had heard the good news. And Eve and me? Well, we were showered, too! (Minus a few kisses from the gals.) They knew that Jay’s success was just as special to Eve and me, and that it was special to our whole group of writers. (And writers everywhere for that matter!)
Once we wiped all the lipstick from Jay’s forehead, we were actually able to sit down and concentrate on the speakers. (If you ignore the five minutes that Eve and I came down with an attack of the giggles and we hid our heads in our hands until we could act like the adults we are…or may become someday.)
The editors were great, the authors were great (go GREG TRINE!) and JODY FICKES SHAPIRO—oh my god, if you’ve never heard her speak, you’re life is not complete.
Our regional advisor, ALEXIS O'NEILL, predicted at the beginning that everyone in the room would go away with one new insight into their writing. For me, I realized that my writing cannot be done in a vacuum. I need all of these people to make it happen.
Just to make this lovely day even lovelier, we celebrated with sushi and dear friends. Except I must apologize to Jay for forcing him to take his first sip of sake. (I hope your esophagus is healing nicely!)
During dinner, our friend TINA NICHOLS COURY (who is working on her first picture book with a fabulous editor at Dutton!) reinforced my new insight by saying, “In what other profession could you find such a huge support from people who genuinely care that you succeed!?” I agree! Cheers, Tina! (And don’t I owe you some money?)
On the ride home, Jay, Eve and I decided we would NOT talk about writing. We would just focus on politics and religion and the poor state of health care in our country. I wish I could say that lasted 5 minutes, but it didn’t. We were talking about how much we love this group of writers within 60 seconds.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I admit, I used to hate running into people I haven’t seen in awhile and hearing What's new? or Long time, no see! or What's going on in your neck of the woods? because it was usually followed up with How's that writing thing of yours going?
Writing thing? With that, I knew how seriously they took my particular pursuit of happiness. But now? Now, I love telling them what’s going on. And though it’s only been a week since my last post, my neck of the woods has been extremely exciting.
1. My book deal was reported in the Deals section of the latest Publisher’s Weekly. I was absolutely blown away, honored, and blown away again to find my name listed in a column I've drooled over every single week for years.
2. I joined a writer’s co-op called Class of 2k7. It’s a group of debut middle grade and YA authors with books coming out in 2007 pulling together to promote ourselves as one big mass o’ talent not to be ignored. Check out the website and I think you’ll agree, next year the bookshelves will be hoppin’! The image at the top of this post is my contribution to the 2k7 film project. They’re putting together what is basically a commercial that’ll be sent to book buyers across the country to encourage them to check out the website and buy our books. Each author contributed one image to represent his or her book, to be displayed briefly in the film. That’s my hand holding the audiotape while Eve took the photo. I think Eve took around 50 pictures to get the one shot she wanted. Relax your thumb! Don't tense your pinky, it's making the side of your hand wrinkle up. The dangling tape looks posed...mess it up a bit.
3. I’ve been asked to speak at my first writer’s conference next summer. Actually, that’s not totally accurate. Last summer, the Disco Mermaids spoke as special guests in Lisa Yee’s workshop at the SCBWI National Conference. But this time, I’ll be leading the workshops (though I'd be thrilled to have Lisa as my special guest!). It's two 90-minute workshops on children’s literature at a conference for writers working in all types of literature. Not to sound repetitive, Not to sound repetitive, but I was blown away, honored, and blown away again by this invitation.
So that's how this writing thing of mine is going...
Monday, October 23, 2006
I explained to my unimpressed teacher that I loved enchiladas, just had all my shots, and didn’t know what the hell ‘endomorph’ meant, but it sounded really interesting! She suggested:
V ery Intelligent
I didn’t know what “extraordinary” meant, but she assured me that I was.
I went to a party in Malibu the other day, and let me tell you…if ever a human was to feel inadequate, this was the crowd in which to feel that way. Some of my closest friends were there, and they happen to be some of the most accomplished people on the planet. Let’s see…there was the Mayor, the Pediatric AIDS expert, the Native American rights attorney, the doctor of Zoology/Biology and environmental research expert, the inventor of the cochlear implant, the famous Psychiatrist to the stars, a movie producer, and various other fascinating friends. I usually feel anything but extraordinary around these people.
And you know what I heard all day? “Oh my God, Eve! I heard you finished your book. Tell us about it! And you got an offer from an agent! OMG, details! Details! And three editors have requested it? You’re so cool. I wish I could write a book. Tell us all about it!”
There’s something about writing a whole book that makes people take you seriously…like you must be really smart, or driven, or creative, or some combo of the three. Not that my friends didn’t take me seriously before, but I’ve spent the last five years writing…which often looks like unemployed slacking to normal folk.
You know the drill…an acquaintance or dude you meet in a bar says, “Oh, you’re a writer! What have you written? Can I get it at Barnes and Noble?” Then you tell him you are “Pre-Published”…to which he responds, “So, what do you DO? I mean, like, for WORK?”
It’s bizarre to the outside world that we sit all day and brainstorm, write, re-write, then re-write some more…and don’t get paid. In fact, many days it’s hard for me to take myself seriously. A lot of times Robin and I go, “What are we doing with our lives? This is crazy!” (I’m omitting Jay here because, well, unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you know!)
Now that publishing professionals are taking notice and telling us we’re not complete nutcases and that we actually do have talent, we’re finally certain that we’re doing the right thing with our lives. It’s cool to finally feel like I’m doing something meaningful and interesting with my life…something that I’m extraordinarily passionate about.
Extraordinary: adj. “deserving attention and comment; having a special purpose”
I don’t know if I deserve any attention, but I feel like I’ve definitely found my “special purpose.” (I’m a walking cliché, I know.)
Saturday, October 21, 2006
The other day, I reached into my pantry closet to get something out. Of course, when I reached in I could no longer remember what I reached in there for, so I just stood and stared for a bit. (Nothing unusual about this part, believe me.)
But what I saw after I stared long enough, was pretty eerie. On the shelf, right at my eye level, there was an etched handwritten message. It said this: “Understand me as I grow.”
“Um, honey,” I called out to my husband. “You’d better come here and take a look at this.” He ran into the kitchen holding up his trusty hammer. (He’s so handy.) I proudly showed him my discovery.
“Nothing’s on fire?” he asked.
“No, honey! Don’t you know what this message means?”
“Think about it! We’ve been living in this house for eight years and we’ve probably opened and closed this closet door fifteen times a day (or more when I keep forgetting why I went in there) and TODAY is the first time we’ve ever noticed this message? Something’s going on!”
“Honey, our little boy is crying out to us. He has obviously contacted someone from the other side and is now hiring ghosts to etch parenting advice into our cabinetry!”
While my husband tried to locate the gas leak, I gallivanted around the house looking at shelves and doors and cabinets trying to find any messages that might illuminate this process of raising a child. When I opened my medicine cabinet, I fully expected to find etched into the little shelf, “Give the boy more cookies.” But…nothing.
Then I got to thinking about the message in the pantry. “Understand me as I grow.” Maybe, I thought, my boy is not a soccer player. Maybe there’s a reason he climbs trees while his teammates follow a little ball around on a pretty little field. He is who he is.
And I also got to thinking about my character. Sometimes I think of her as my own daughter, or sister. She’s just one of the family. And I decided I needed to understand her as she grows too. That maybe she doesn’t want to write about the mist settling on the blades of grass while she walks through the meandering roads of her childhood. Maybe her feet just hurt like crap and she’s cold and her nose is running because of all of this stinkin’ mist!
It was actually Eve that reminded me of that. That we don’t have to write a poetic, lyrical description of all of her surroundings. Just write was SHE feels. What SHE would say.
To understand her as she grows.
P.S. No gas leak. Whew!
Friday, October 20, 2006
That was followed by a wonderful weekend.
Then, on Monday, my editor sent me an e-mail which included the words “down to business.” And she meant it. The book is scheduled to come out next fall and I had three assignments to complete throughout the week. One was a brief paragraph describing my novel for their use when talking about my book. The next was a one-page summary of the novel for all of us to use so we don’t lose focus of what we’re trying to accomplish during the editing process. Then I needed to write an outline describing everything that happens in my 261-page manuscript so we can juggle the events for maximum suspense.
What? Juggle the events? You mean, like, change things?
Just kidding. I knew that was coming. But this is going to be a very difficult book to juggle scenes with. It has two first-person narratives running simultaneously. On each page, both narratives weave in and out several times. To move one scene in one narrative requires the other narrative to change in several places throughout the novel.
At lunch today I’m supposed to speak with my editor regarding which scenes to move where. So I’m trying to figure out if it’s better to eat my food before or after that phone call…
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Turns out, it was fabulous! In terms of “research” I mean. You know how you always hear that people change and grow a lot after high school? Well, I’m here to tell you…it ain’t so! Nope. People pretty much don’t change a bit. I mean, yeah, some girls had plastic surgery and some guys were bald, but no one seemed to have done much growing over the years. Beyond physically, I mean.
The partiers were still partiers. The uncool kids were still trying mightily to be cool. The potheads were still potheads. The good-looking, charming drug dealer was still….well, you get the picture. My sister and her girlfriends were still the smart, hot, athletic chicks who are completely untouchable because they’re so perfect. I was still the immature little sister tagging along with the “older” crowd trying desperately to be, um, “older.” Although, now I’m so happy to be younger ‘cause, well, they’re in their late 30’s and I’m, well, YOUNGER!
It was the perfect little “research” experience. As we told story after story about the good old days, I realized that nothing’s changed much with the world in 20 years. I mean, aside from a few hair plugs and some of the girls resembling contestants on “THE SWAN”, our stories were the same as those of teens today. Every teen book and movie still explores the requisite teen angst milestones of first romance, first car, first car crash, alcohol and drug experimentation, maybe sex, maybe not, etc.
To me, there is something so special about the teen experience. It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times. (Best first line of a book, ever! Thanks, Charles Dickens!) And I find that the older I get, the more nostalgic I get for those times. Jay and I recently laughed about the fact that we’re well equipped to write YA books because we have the perfect combination of wisdom and experience of 30-year-olds and the emotional maturity of 16-year-olds. Well, Jay and Robin are about 16. I’m still hovering around 13. If you don’t believe me, just hang out with the three of us for about 5 minutes!!
My friend KT and I (Hi KT!!) recently laughed about the fact that we both suffer from “Peter Pan Syndrome” (Look it up! It’s a real affliction in the DSM-III). I’m immature. There, I said it. But, luckily I’ve found the one job in the world that not only allows me to be immature, but actually CELEBRATES my emotional maturity level. I know you’re looking for a career change, KT…so I suggest you come on over and take a walk on the JUVENILE SIDE!
Monday, October 16, 2006
Eve and I went together and exercised our brains very hard to keep up with her speech. She’s very smart (a characteristic I admire in other people) and she tied her writing to many social issues (the war, trauma, government, more war). In her speech, she often quoted the works of Tennessee Williams and Voltaire. Eve and I sat glossy-eyed.
Finally she quoted David Lynch. “Blue Velvet!” we said to each other. Then Alice made an analogy to Axl Rose. Eve and I flashed each other that universal heavy metal hand signal with our tongues sticking out. It felt nice to participate in her speech! I was about to play air guitar when I turned around and noticed the publisher of the local newspaper sitting behind us. “Um, hi, Robin,” he said and looked away. It’s probably a good thing I quit that job.
My favorite part of Alice’s presentation was when she answered questions from audience members. One man asked her what she thinks makes great storytelling. “Be willing to disappear in your own work,” she said.
In The Lovely Bones, Alice was able to touch on so many themes (death, trauma, revenge, sex, love, heaven, God, or a lack of God). And she, as the author, disappeared from the story seamlessly. Alice said she actually stopped in the middle of writing Bones to write Lucky, the memoir of her childhood rape, so she could get all of that out of the way and not cloud the story.
It made me think of my own novel I’m working on. My main character, a 16-year old girl, discovers her own spiritual nature and finds a love for life…but not in a “the Baptist church saved me” kind of way. Sometimes I wonder what in the world possessed me to write a contemporary novel about a girl finding her spirit. But I think many teens nowadays are ready for a novel on spirituality.
And like Alice, I find I have to take myself out of the story I’m writing and draw on my own experiences, but not make it my own experience.
At the end of her speech, Alice said something that definitely resonated not only with me personally, but also with the character in my book. She said, “We are all going to die. But before we die…we live.”
Friday, October 13, 2006
My phone started vibrating the moment I left the gym. “Robin! You’re home? I thought you were still camping.” “Nope. We’re back.” I needed to tell Robin that night about the book news, but that meant finding a way to get from Point A (the gym) to Point B (Robin’s house) to Point C (my house)...yet my wife needed the car.
The solution, as well as my favorite three-letter palindrome: Eve!
We parked a couple of houses away and snuck around tall bushes so Robin wouldn’t notice us till the last minute. We wanted to capture her surprise on film and knew she’d figure it out the moment she saw us. Why else would two Disco Mermaids surprise the third Disco Mermaid at her house with a bouquet of flowers?
“Hey, guys,” Robin said. “Good to see you. Come in.”
Eve and I looked at each other, shrugged, then followed her inside. Her husband was there, along with her father-in-law, and her four-year-old sun who yelled, “Garter snake!” (I don’t know if that’s important, but it sure was cute.)
I handed Robin the bouquet and Eve lifted the camera up to her eye. Robin said, “You guys are acting weird.” I told her to read the card. Her son yelled, “Velociraptor!” (Isn’t he adorable?)
Robin read the card and…how come it took Robin and Eve so freaking long to figure it out?!?! I wrote the same thing on everyone’s card: Thank you for helping my dreams come true.
Hello! My dreams?
She must have read the card at least a dozen times before it finally…well…check out Photo #1. Then she jumped three feet into the air, which would have looked great on film but the flash wasn’t ready and I thought she might hurt herself if I asked her to do it over again. I explained the details, which had developed even further since I told my wife, Eve, and my parents the night before. While listening, Robin cradled her chin in her hand and slowly shook her head, adding another few tears to this When I Told… series.
Followed by, “Garter snake!” (So cute.)
Then the three Disco Mermaids went downtown to top-off the night with hot coffee and cushy chairs. Robin and Eve worked so hard to get my manuscript into a ready-to-submit form, from brainstorming scenes to moral support to full critiques, that it truly feels like a group project. And I think the same can be said for their manuscripts which I can’t wait for you all to read!
The best quote of the night, though, we didn’t find out about till later. After we left her house, Robin’s father-in-law told her husband, “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen people that happy for each other.”
Okay, ladies…who’s next?