Friday, March 30, 2007
Quick!: The next issue of the Class of 2k7 quarterly eZine is almost ready for delivery. Subscribe now to find out about some upcoming middle-grade and YA debuts that'll be flying off the shelves very soon.
QUICK!: Check back this Sunday for an April Fools Day salute to monsters. (Actually, this QUICK! is more for us...in the hopes that we get it ready in time.)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Anyway, my new BFF homeboy, Alan Lawrence Sitomer sent me an ARC of Homeboyz, which will be released on April 1st (my birthday…very few shopping days left for you guys…just sayin'). And I am thrilled! Not only is Mr. Alan (as his students call him) an amazingly talented, witty, brilliant writer for teens, but he is also California's 2007 Teacher Of The Year! Not to mention an incredibly nice dude. I discovered him a year ago when I read The Hoopster and Hip Hop High School, and was blown away by how much our writing had in common in terms of subject and themes. We began e-mailing back and forth and he has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me ever since. His enthusiasm for teaching and literacy stimulated me to return to the schools this year to tutor in reading and writing, which has been a blast! Thanks, Alan!!
After reading his books and learning what he's done for his students and community, I can't help but mention him on our blog and insist that you go out and buy, rent, borrow, or steal his books right now! The thing I love most about his writing is that it's authentic, fast-paced, funny, and extremely kid friendly. Meaning, it's exactly what I would have picked up as a kid. The issues he tackles are tough and important, and too often neglected in Kid Lit. There are only a handful of authors today writing about contemporary inner city kids and their struggles. Alan Lawrence Sitomer is a shining star among them, and I sincerely hope to join him one day.
Evie's review of Homeboyz to follow soon!
Monday, March 26, 2007
It was an eventful day for me, because not only was I learning how to set my goals as a writer, I was meeting my agent in person for the first time! (And yes, I checked my teeth...twice. Fine, four times.)
Erin’s workshop was wonderful and I started thinking about the process of becoming “an author” in much deeper ways. I suppose the easiest part for me was writing about what my perfect writing life would look like…
• Write every morning from nine till noon.
• Go running on an isolated trail overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
• Meet Jay and Eve for coffee.
• Rush back home to thank my housekeeper for all the hard work.
So maybe my perfect writing life hasn’t happened yet, but at least I’m meeting Jay and Eve for coffee on a regular basis!
After the workshop, I got to hang out with Erin in downtown Santa Barbara (very lovely, but, man, it was cold!). We discussed my career and what I’d like to do in the future. Then I spent about 30 minutes stumbling through my words trying to explain my idea for my next book. She listened patiently while I rambled on, then she sat back in her seat, let out a big sigh, and said, “I absolutely love it!”
Whew! That was all I needed to hear to make it a perfect day. But it got even better because I went out to dinner with Erin, Alexis O’Neill (our regional advisor), Val Hobbs, and two other clients of Erin’s, Mary Hershey and Robin LaFevers.
I acted very lady-like, didn’t use any foul language, and watched them eat lovely salads and salmon dishes while I scarfed down a cheeseburger. Actually, Val scarfed one down, too, so she’s my new BFF. (Sorry Jay and Eve.)
Oh! And I was so glad to meet Cynthia Jaynes Omololu, another client of Erin’s, who came down from San Francisco. Utterly…cool…chick! And she’s almost as tall as I am, so we’ll get along just fine.
And Greg Trine was in the house. Hi, Greg!
A big thanks to my Super Agent for making it a lovely day and for being a totally lovely person. I know she’ll lead me in the right direction and make this process all the much sweeter.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Mermaid 1 and Mermaid 2 are always bickering about something. But Mermaids 2 and 3? Never! Or so we thought. But then…it happened.
Of course, we knew we had to share it with you!
As you're aware, writing is a very personal experience. When you’re not feeling confident about your writing, even the tiniest sideways comment can be taken…you know…personally. And that’s what Mermaid 2 did to Mermaid 3 regarding something written on this blog. Then Mermaid 3 snapped at Mermaid 2. Late night e-mails went flying back and forth until they both logged off and went to bed in a tizzy.
The next day, Mermaid 1 innocently answered a phone call from Mermaid 3...who wanted to discuss Mermaid 2. Mermaid 1 responded that maybe Mermaid 3 should apologize for snapping. At that moment, Mermaid 3 received an e-mail from Mermaid 2...apologizing for pushing Mermaid 3’s buttons. And Mermaid 3 apologized right back.
Mermaid 1 breathed a sigh of relief. Mermaid 3 commented on how easy it was to snap at Mermaid 2, probably because we all share the same dream and understand each other at such a deep level.
Mermaid 1: It’s like we’re a married couple.
Mermaid 3: Right. Except there’s three of us.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog post.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
In a word, we had TonsOfFun! It was opening night, so the nervousness was palpable (a word that I’ve always thought sounded snooty, but is a lot of fun to say). By the end of Act I, it was easy to tell where each actor’s family was sitting. “Shh! Here comes Andrew.”
For me, it was quite a nostalgia trip. We sat in the back row, right in front of the window to the sound booth. That’s where, for two plays when I was a freshman, I missed way too many sound cues. For Robin, it was an eye-opener. At her high school, the whole town seemed to come out for the plays. Here, it’s mostly family and friends…and YA novelists.
But this play was just the beginning. In April, the Disco Mermaids are planning to attend the high school Mock Rock competition. In May, we’ll wander the halls during Open House. And if we can, we’d like to chaperone the prom. If we can’t, I’ll probably just buy corsages for Eve and Robin, take them out to a nice fancy dinner, and promise their spouses to have them home by dawn.
“All for one, and one for all!”
BONUS POST: Check out the very, very, veeeeeeeeeeeeeeery end of this article in the latest Publishers Weekly.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
While diving deep into my revisions for Kidz In The Wood, I've been MIA lately, unable to be reached by phone or e-mail. Robin finally had to break into my house to find me! After neglecting my dogs, my taxes and American Idol for days upon days, I'm still not satisfied. It's been 3.8 YEARS, and it's still not perfect.
During yesterday's hour long run (I'm allowed out of the chair for one hour per day), I conversed with myself:
What is your goal? To write an original, exciting, poignant story that kids will want to re-read over and over.
Have you done that? Sadly, NO.
What is the main idea? Young, tough gang kids from L.A. leave their element and learn to have fun in the mountains. It has adventure, drama and comedy…it's an “Addromedy.”
What do you like about your book? The dialogue, the premise, LOVE the characters
What don't you like? The plot is cliché, unoriginal, uninspiring.
It suddenly hit me that I can keep the dialogue and characters, but amp up the story by focusing on one thing. The kids sort of form their own “gang” without realizing it. I didn't even realize it until now. I've always defended gangs because, from a psychological perspective, they make perfect sense to me. Street gangs were originally created to meet the basic primal needs that all humans share. Safety and security, love and belonging, confidence and respect, basic food and water. Gangs provide all these things, just like a family, tribe or church. Yes, some gangs deal drugs, burglarize and hurt people. But that's not what they were founded on, and I'm convinced that most gang members don't engage in this stuff.
I think I've figured out a way to have my story evolve much in the same way that contemporary Los Angeles street gangs evolved in the late 1960's (the history of which I find fascinating!). I'm taking these kids with no hope and nothing to lose, and throwing them into a situation where their basic needs can be met through bonding with others, and uniting for a common goal. The heart of the story develops from the human truth that commitment and loyalty to a group always comes at a price.
Hope I've finally figured it all out, 'cause I'd really like to join the real world again someday soon. Wish me luck!
Monday, March 19, 2007
Hubby and I have not gone out to dinner, alone, in over 5 months. I was ready to eat anything not made of imitation vegetable chicken nugget meat, or smothered in cheese.
It was all planned out. We’d drop our 4-year old off at the gym for their kids' party from 5 to 9. Cool. We had four hours. We’d have dinner at a fancy-pants restaurant then cruise on over for our 7 p.m. reservation at the hot tubs at Sycamore Mineral Springs. Lovely.
We arrived at the sushi restaurant by 5:30 (the same sushi restaurant where my hubby procures his vegetable oil for his car, so it felt only fitting to eat the same oil we were freely driving around on). But there was a line out the door. We wouldn't make our hot tub reservation! So we hightailed it to a café just around the corner from the hot springs.
The $4 beer? Good. The food? Not so good. (Why did I pay $13 for something I could've gotten at Carl's Jr.?) Just as we were finishing our not-so-good meal, our cell phones started ringing. My husband answered his.
Hubby: Hello? What!? My son has had an accident?
(Oh-my-god...my stomach did flips, I almost hurled my Carl's Jr.-ish food back onto my plate. Had my boy chopped his arm off? Was it dangling by a tendon?)
Hubby: Oh. He pissed his pants. That's...just...great. Yes, we'll be there right away.
I pictured my little boy sobbing in the corner because of his wet pants, and wishing he had parents who would go through life more prepared. It was 6:30. It would've taken us almost an hour to go home, get clothes, and get them back to the gym.
So we went shopping at Mervyn's. We looked at each other over the clearance items for Osh Kosh jeans and said, "Is this romantic? Are ya feeling it, honey?" We spent $22 on pants, new underwear, and socks.
We hightailed it back to the gym, fully expecting our boy to be balled up in a corner, mortified. Nope. He was fine. Just put on a diaper and kept on playing. He looked at his new clothes and sighed, as if putting these things on were going to slow him down. I told him we could take him home if he wanted. Nope. He wanted to stay.
I met my husband in the lobby. It was 7:20. We missed our hot tub reservation and we only had $5 left. So we ended up at Foster's Freeze sharing an Oreo Twister while we waited for our boy to be done with his night out.
So what are you all doing Friday night? Anyone want to babysit?
Saturday, March 17, 2007
October 18, 2007...the book!
October 23, 2007...the audiobook!
It's official. Listening Library will be publishing the audiobook of Thirteen Reasons Why, and I am absolutely beyond thrilled. When I first came up with the concept for this book (check out my page at the Class of 2k7 for a brief description), I knew it would make a unique audio project . In fact, there are a few lines in the book that I added purely because I wanted to hear them come out of an actor's mouth.
There will be two narrators, one male and one female, telling the stories of Clay and Hannah. Hannah's voice will be altered slightly to sound like it's coming through the headphones of a cassette player. While most audiobooks don't have sound effects, they will be used very sparingly here...such as when Clay mentions he hears a car approaching on Hannah's tape.
Here is a brief excerpt from the beginning of Cassette 2: Side B, with Hannah's recorded voice in italics. Clay is sitting in a busy coffee shop as he listens to the tape.
Her voice, it’s a whisper.
Shh!…in a movie theater or church.
I listen closer.
Sometimes there’s no one around to tell you to be quiet…to be very, very quiet. Sometimes you need to be quiet when you’re all alone. Like me, right now.
At the crowded tables that fill the rest of the room, people talk. But the only words I understand are Hannah’s. The other words become a muffled background noise occasionally tipped by a sharp laugh.
For example, you’d better be quiet—-extremely quiet—-if you’re going to be...
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Noticing the smell of sea spray.
Noticing the sunbeams streaming through the eucalyptus trees.
Noticing all the cat hair on my jacket.
Why am I noticing things all of a sudden? Because I’m done with my YA novel! It’s printed and paper clipped and pushed off on my critique group so they can work their magic.
It’s been ten months and I’ve finally lifted my head from the eerie glow of my computer screen to see what the world has to offer! And it’s…slow.
More like SLO. We live in the small, quaint town of San Luis Obispo and all the locals like to refer to themselves as folks “living the SLO life.” Yes, we’re even quaint with our sayings.
In SLO, we don’t honk horns unless we’re waving to our neighbor. We chit-chat with the cashier person in the grocery store. We write letters to the editor. We do everything…SLOwly.
Our livestock takes it slow…
Our melting ice cream is slow…
Even our Mardi Gras celebrations are...well…lame.
(Photos by The Tribune/Jayson Mellom) So while I take it slow for the next couple of weeks waiting for my critique group to finish, I’m going to take up a new hobby to fill my spare time. But it has to end in two weeks when the critiques are in and I’m back to staring at my computer screen. Here are some of my ideas so far…
• Drinking green St. Patrick’s Day beer for 14 nights straight.
I was going to stop there because that one sounds brilliant to me, but Jay and Eve are always reminding me not to stick with my very first idea, cuz the first idea is usually cliché, so here’s one more.
• Drinking regular beer for 14 nights straight.
(Thanks, hubby, for the pics!)
Monday, March 12, 2007
Peacemakers that we are, the Disco Mermaids have come up with a solution to the controversy surrounding the 2007 Newbery Awards. Librarians who feel nervous about children finding scrotums in unexpected places can now freely express their opinions using this sticker...without needing to remove any books from their shelves.
from The Higher Power of Lucky
by Susan Patron
Sammy told of the day when he had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked ’62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
The plan: Eve and I were to meet at Robin’s for a night of brainstorming through the story and characters of my second novel.
What happened: I went with Robin to pick up her son at pre-school. Upon returning to Robin’s house, my wife called from our house. “You just got a package from Penguin!” I told her to open it, which she did immediately. Then she started screaming and almost hyperventilating and I told her to calm down because I wasn't fluent in Dolphin. The Advance Reading Copies of Thirteen Reasons Why had arrived! Then my wife turned to the dedication page and started crying (which made her even harder to understand). Even though our house was forty-five minutes away, she really wanted us to see them immediately so she drove on up and we all became ARC-ologists.
Right now, even though I’m not a fan of clichés, I honestly feel like a sponge. I’m making sure to soak up every emotion a first time novelist is allowed to experience. And Razorbill did such a cool job designing the front and back covers, the spine, and the chapter headings that I…well…my sponge overfloweth with emotions.
When I finally left Robin’s at 11:30pm, I was so ecstatic that even getting pulled over by the police couldn’t bring me down.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
My friend KT (Hi, KT!!) reminded me not to count on hearing back from editors within a few weeks (like Jay), but instead suggested I realistically plan on waiting several months, and if I did hear sooner I'd be pleasantly surprised. Bah! I blew it off because I knew better. As soon as those editors feasted their eyeballs on my brilliant work, they'd be calling within days to offer me that seven figure deal and invites to P. Diddy's yacht party just like my horoscope said! As usual, KT was right, and it's been four months. I've collected a handful of “very good” rejections, where editors congratulated me on the original voice, entertaining characters, powerful and important ideas, great writing, etc, etc... But so far, no one has fallen in love with the story itself.
I promised my agent I'd quickly make major revisions so that the central problem would provide a bigger “hook” for today's competitive market. In hindsight, the plot did need to be intensified to fit the underlying themes and backgrounds of my characters.
Problem is, it took two whole weeks to really switch my mind gears from the lovey-dovey Southern California beach scene (where my YA romance takes place) back to the gritty and harrowing world of Los Angeles inner city gang kids. Don't get me wrong, I loved being in the world of my first novel (Kidz In the Wood…a MG about troubled inner city kids at a college-run summer camp, peppered with humor, adventure, and Darwinian themes), but it's a completely different planet than my YA book.
So, I've gone back to TiVo-ing prison documentaries, changed my “Evie's favorites” iPod lineup back to gangsta rap, and spend my evenings with my BFF's Alan Lawrence Sitomer, Walter Dean Myers, and Mark Salzman. (Well, with their books, anyway.) Like a method-actor, I feel like I'm morphing from one role to the next. It's no wonder so many novelists end up going insane, a la Johnny Depp in Secret Window!
Sunday, March 04, 2007
I’ve visited almost every National Park (even Wind Cave in South Dakota!) and I always do the same thing at each one: Head straight to the visitor's center and check out the children’s book section.
While I stood looking at Sequoia’s children’s books, I overheard a couple of park rangers talking to other visitors. Now, I love national park rangers just as much as the next person. And that’s mainly due to the fact that no matter where you are, they all look exactly the same: young and attractive with that hip, crunchy-granola look that consists of tan and green uniforms, tangled hair, and very expensive shoe wear.
These park rangers were no different. They explained to the visitors how the Giant Sequoia is the largest living thing on Earth and how majestic it is and a thing of beauty to be respected by all. As soon as the visitors walked away, here’s what they said:
Crunchy-granola ranger #1: So anyways, did you hear that they buried Anna Nicole’s body?
Crunchy-granola ranger #2: Dude, no way! Where’d they bury her?
Crunchy-granola ranger #1: Hold on, let me check my Yahoo news…oh, somewhere, like, in the Bahamas.
Crunchy-granola ranger #2: Sweeeeeet.
Well, at that point, I started laughing…but not at the rangers (I was already up on my latest Anna Nicole news). I was laughing because I came across a kids’ book. Apparently, there are Who Pooped in the Park? books for every National Park. Who knew!? And by the way, I may have visited a lot of National Parks, but I have never pooped in the parks. Just near them.
After that, I decided to get my family’s help with revising my young adult novel. I mean, we were in an isolated section of a snow-covered mountain, what better way to spend our time? Um, apparently, my son had his own plans…
The nuh-uh, no way, you are in big trouble if you throw that at me reaction from the target…
Yes, I was attacked with the largest snowball on the face of the Earth. The Giant Sequoia would have been proud. Needless to say, I pooped in the park.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
For you authors who haven't met your editors in person yet, let me set you at ease. I went out to dinner with my editor last Saturday and not once did she correct my grammar, tell me to flesh out my personality, or ask me to hurry up and get to the point.
Kristen was speaking at the SCBWI Asilomar conference and since I was "in the neighborhood," I asked if she'd like to grab a bite to eat. As Robin can confirm (since I called her ten minutes before picking up Kristen), I was extremely nervous. I imagined Kristen flying back to NYC and saying, "We can not let this guy appear in public." Did I actually think I'd say something horrendously stupid? Let me transcribe part of the phone conversation I had with Kristen a couple hours before we met...
KRISTEN: I can't wait to finally meet you in person!
ME: Here, too.
Here, too? See, that's why I need an editor.
I'd made reservations at Joe Rombi's. The food was delicious and the conversation was (to my relief) wonderful! We discussed everything from Space Mountain to Brokeback Mountain. And in the valley between those mountains, we discussed children's literature. Everything from the Newbery scrotum debate to the Printz committee's ballsy selections. We discussed books she'd worked on (from Pop! to R.L. Stine's Fear Street series) as well as my inspiration for Thirteen Reasons Why.
In the end, I'm thrilled that my first novel is a Kristen Pettit novel. Not only does she "get" my book...she "gets" me.
And get this! Both times that I opened the passenger door and closed it behind her, she leaned across the console and opened my door for me. What a gal!
*Ms. Watson is both my Sister-in-Agent and Sister-in-Editor