Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I made a sale today! Last week I queried the SCBWI Bulletin to see if they'd be interested in a short article about my "Wienerbookmobile" experience. After getting a go-ahead, I emailed my article to them yesterday, and they said yes! Hooray! (And remember how I once had an article in ByLine about how much of my writing has been inspired by fast food? I had to chuckle to myself thinking of how the Wienermobile is the ultimate fast food...a hot dog going 65 mph!)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I can proudly say that I have now ridden in a large rolling hot dog. It was an absolute blast, we gave away nearly 300 books, and the jingle "Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener," which both of my kids had the opportunity to belt out over the loudspeaker, will probably be in my head forever! While they're still online, check out these sausage...I mean, links:

Austin American-Statesman article
Suburban newspaper article (we made the front page of this one!)Short article/transcript from local TV news station

Friday, October 08, 2004

What a day, what a week! And what a day it will be tomorrow. This celebrity lifestyle is so tiring. By celebrity, of course, I mean my moment of local fame as a winner of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile for a day. First off, I found out there was a press release about me on the Austin library's web site today. And this morning the local Fox news channel, KTBC, and the Wienermobile came to my house by 6:15 am so they could tape a segment on my win for their live morning broadcast. I survived it! My kids even got on TV, and my kindergartener had a good excuse as to why he was late for school! But tomorrow, instead of just relaxing until the Wienermobile picks us up at 9:30, I have to drive to the NBC station, KXAN, around 7:00 am or earlier to be there for an early morning interview on their morning news. Then it's off for a full day of riding in a chauffered Wienermobile and distributing books, with more news stations and newspapers slated to attend. (Who knew?!) We have about 300 books for our book giveaways, everything from board books to young adult novels, and I hope it's enough... If it ends up being way more than enough, we'll find someplace good to donate the rest. I have spent much of the week shopping for books, taking price tags off, boxing them up, etc. But now, after 2 nights in a row of about 4 hours sleep, I must get some rest before having to get up early again!

Oh, and speaking of the Wienermobile chauffers, they are actually called "hotdoggers" and are basically goodwill ambassadors for Oscar Mayer, which means they have to be very friendly and personable, and to enjoy making wiener puns such as "Have a bunderful day." Since our hotdogger team was going to be here all weekend, we offered to take them to dinner tonight at The Oasis, an Austin restaurant legendary for its view. We did all meet for dinner there and had nice food and conversation, but one of our kids started feeling sick and the other turned into a maniac by the end of dinner, so I hope our hotdoggers aren't scared to be stuck with us all day tomorrow!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

So much to report! Where to start? Hmm...

Writing: I got my copies of The First Line with my story in it, and was very impressed with the whole publication! I felt honored to be included.

Reading: In a strange turn of events for me, I've been reading some fiction written for adults instead of kids. I read The Nanny Diaries last weekend and greatly enjoyed it--laughed out loud a lot, but also cried at the end. (As pure fiction it wouldn't have moved me so much, but I assumed much of it was a fictionalized composite of real experiences, and in that light it made me sad for the children whose eventual therapy will scarcely be able to undo their fear of forming attachments.) Right now I'm reading something completely different--Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which Salon described as "Harry Potter meets Jane Austen." I'm 317 pages into it and still less than halfway through! It has 782 pages of fairly small type. I'm finding it quite delightful, though, and haven't had trouble staying engaged with it (in fact, I'm anxious to get back to it right now). Oh, and on the subject of fiction for kids, Austin writer Greg Leitich Smith's novel, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo, mentioned earlier in this journal, just won the Teddy Children's Book Award for Long Works from the Writers' League of Texas. Congrats, Greg, and for everyone else, check it out if you haven't read it yet!

Music: Speaking of winning, my husband recently won concert tickets to a Sting/Annie Lennox concert, including passes for a meet & greet with Sting before the show. We went to the concert in Dallas this past Sunday night. I had always thought that if I met someone really famous they would just seem like an ordinary person, but Sting really did seem like a rock star to me! (He was nice, though.) It was the first "big" concert my husband and I had ever been to together, so it was a fun way to celebrate our (gasp) 13th anniversary last week!

Wieners: Speaking even more of winning, Oscar Mayer recently held an "Oh, I Wish" essay contest, in which 50 people nationwide would win a day in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, based on what they said they would do with it. I said that as an aspiring children's writer, I have a passion for literacy and would like to use it as a bookmobile, to pass out free books to kids. And I won!! On Saturday, October 9th, my family and I will be riding around town in the Wienermobile! I'm nervous about the publicity, but I adore the Wienermobile (that's for you, Jason) so I'll deal with it! As plans currently stand, we'll visit two local libraries to donate new children's books both to the libraries and to kids in the parking lots, though it's still possible we could end up going to other locations. I'm also hoping to get some of my writing/SCBWI friends involved. If you are near the Austin area, stay tuned for more info & turn out to support the causes of wiener vehicles and literacy! ;-)

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Good news, bad news, and randomness--> Good: My 3-year-old survived his dental surgery today and seemed back to his normal self by bedtime (can't be too out of sorts if he's jumping on the bed, huh?!), and Once Upon A Time is going to publish another of my articles. Hooray! Bad: I got a rejection today on a manuscript I had high hopes for. (But Good: the editor complimented my writing and said she'd be happy to look at my next manuscript.) Random: I won an iPod! I wanted one really badly, so I'm thrilled.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Another sale! And oddly, it's a short story for adults again, which isn't something I write very often. That makes two this summer! A few months back, I saw a blurb about a literary journal called The First Line. They provide an opening sentence for each issue, and writers must submit stories that all begin with that sentence. That sounded like a fascinating writing exercise (as well as a cool read!), especially because the sentence for this fall's issue was so specific and interesting: "I was born Rosa Carlotta Silvana Grisanti, but in the mid-Eighties I legally changed my name to Eve." I wrote a story beginning with that line, submitted it shortly before the August 1 deadline, and got an acceptance on August 13! Wow. The editor also emailed me today to ask if I'd like to submit my young adult novel for consideration by a new publishing company they are starting. That is very intriguing, of course, and I will probably take him up on it. I am admittedly not sure how I'd feel about being published by a brand new press...but it's certainly nice to be asked!

I survived my son's birthday party and we've gotten through the first week of kindergarten, my other son's first dental appointment (but he needs dental surgery--eek!), and even a call for federal jury duty this week (I wasn't assigned to a jury, but it was a wild case involving multiple bank robberies!). I'm happy to say that my son's castle cake turned out very well, which is good since I was up until 3:30 am the morning of the party, working on the cake!

Friday, August 06, 2004

I have a new manuscript and I'm not even sure what it is--picture book or magazine story--though I'm hoping it could be a picture book. And I have no idea what to do with it. I went to the bookstore last night and spent at least an hour looking through the picture books, but found it all pretty disheartening. I couldn't find many that were similar to my picture book manuscripts at all, and also couldn't find many books by the particular publishers I was interested in, other than some classics and a few other books that were completely different from mine in tone and style. The ones that appealed to me most were mostly from publishers that don't take unsolicited submissions. And I didn't see any books from my local or online writer friends who have published picture books. Yet there are, quite frankly, a great many books on the shelves that I'd have no interest in buying for my own young kids. I did find one that cracked me up, Alison McGhee's Countdown to Kindergarten (maybe I just liked the author's name, LOL!), and got that for my son who's starting kindergarten in 11 days. Most books for soon-to-be-kindergarteners don't apply well to a child who has been in preschool for years, can already read & do math, etc., but this hilarious story of a girl who is panicked because she can't tie her shoes seemed like a good match for him. (He cracked up about the line "shoes are not canoes," and I find the art by Harry Bliss to be hysterical!) Anyway, maybe I should just stick to longer fiction, but I have these stories that come to me, so I'd like to do something with them!

And speaking of longer fiction, I also had a new idea for a novel while lying in bed the other night trying to fall asleep. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like getting up to write down the great opening lines I came up with (I normally keep paper and a light-up pen on my nightstand, but alas, they were not to be found...), and the lines are gone now. I recall the title and the vague idea for the novel, but I think I'd developed it a bit further in my head and now I don't have much to go on. I'll have to brainstorm some more, as I think it could be kind of powerful, but it would be more experimental and difficult than most of the novels I've tried writing! It's not like I need another novel idea when I already have about 8 on the back burner waiting to be written (or completed), but there it is. Maybe I'll save it for National Novel Writing Month this November, assuming I'll be able to participate this year!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Patience certainly helps in the writing business.... I've had a novel out to a publisher for more than 6 months now, a short story out to a magazine for more than 3 months, and a picture book out for just under 3 months (not to mention the story I sent to a magazine a year ago & have given up hearing back about!). I try to keep busy writing other things while I'm waiting, but still can't help but check the calendar occasionally!

I got quite a bit done yesterday. I spent way too long dealing with printer problems, but finally got the invitations and envelopes printed for my son's upcoming 6th birthday party, and got those mailed out. The theme is "Knights, Princesses, and Bouncy Castles!" I designed the invitations on the computer to save money, but ended up spending tons of time on them, and just as much money (with the inkjet greeting card paper and all the ink I must have used for the many failed printing attempts) as I would have spent to buy professionally printed ones! At any rate, I also wrote a bio for the Tall Tales Press anthology and sent that off, and finished polishing a story I'm submitting to a small literary magazine, and submitted that in the evening, along with another bio I had to write for that one. Then later at night, I started making some revisions on a children's story I've never been able to find a market for, but soon decided it was a lost cause--I decided I didn't even like it much! I still may rework the idea, but I'd want to start nearly from scratch. And last of all, I submitted an entry in a contest to win a day in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile! The Wienermobile has to be one of the coolest vehicles ever. I said I'd like to use it as a bookmobile, to distribute free books to kids.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Finally some good news! My quirky story "Falling Through the Quacks" received an honorable mention in the Hidden Talents short story contest from Tall Tales Press (a Canadian contest, though I'm not Canadian), and will be published in their Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol. II anthology this September! I really like the story and it had gotten notice in a contest before, but I wondered how I'd find a home for it, considering that it's a romantic humor story involving a dancing duck! It's about adults, not kids, but is appropriate for a general audience. This will be my second fiction publication, so it's a nice confidence booster for my fiction writing!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Bummer. I had sent a short story to Seventeen magazine, hoping they might still publish occasional fiction (as mentioned in Writer's Market), even though I hadn't seen it in their pages recently. I just got a phone call from a very nice woman there, thanking me for my submission but letting me know they don't publish fiction anymore. A rejection by phone was a new one on me, but it actually seemed much friendlier than getting one by mail. Which I also got this week...my midgrade story came back to me so fast I can hardly believe they had time to read it! I don't think I'll be going out of my way to write more short stories soon, as there are so few markets for them anymore. I have no idea what to do with the midgrade story now, since even the newly edited version is too long for most relevant markets. Too bad, as I still like it!

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Someone just told me about freecycle.org, where you can link up with other people in your area to give away useful items you no longer want or get items other people no longer want. We have a ton of stuff we no longer need, like baby furniture, an old couch, etc., so I'm thrilled to find a way to ensure it can get to just the person who actually wants or needs it, without them having to pay for it! I already signed up.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hooray, I finally have that midgrade short story revised to my satisfaction! It involved throwing out pretty much all of the new stuff I'd added a couple of weeks ago, even though I'd thought that stuff strengthened the story at the time. But I do think this new version works better and just seems to have more purpose to it than the older versions. I'm submitting it to a magazine tomorrow, and also submitting it and a YA story to ByLine's Juvenile Short Story Contest.

A few weeks ago, my husband left an old pair of sneakers on the porch after wearing them to mow the lawn, and a toad took up residence in one of them. He was there most of the day for about a week and a half, and we grew rather attached to seeing him there. We named him, not surprisingly, Schubert, since he lived in a shoe. (There was an old toad who lived in a shoe...) Anyway, this week he disappeared. For 4 or 5 days in a row, there was no sign of him, and we assumed he'd just moved on. But this afternoon, there he was in the shoe again! The kids were thrilled and we hope he decides to hang around this time, though it does meaning leaving old shoes on the porch!

Saturday, June 26, 2004

2,758 total words today on my novel, which isn't too shabby, even if it's not as many as I'd hoped for. Too bad they seem rather disjointed at the moment, but, as I have to keep reminding myself, that's what revisions are for.

And speaking of revisions, I also did a revision on that midgrade short story, but ended up adding 500 words to it! Which makes it at least 180 words too long for my target market, and up to 800 words too long for many other markets! Yikes. I'm not sure there will ever be a final and definitive version of this story!
I've had so little writing time lately that my goal for today was to hole up in our excuse for an office and write for 10 hours. My husband found ways to keep the kids busy, taking them out for haircuts and ice cream, etc., but I had a hard time getting started. I didn't manage to get into the office until 2:00 pm, and didn't write a word of my midgrade novel unil 4:00! However, I've made pretty good progress since, adding another 2,000 words to the novel so far. That brings the total word count up to nearly 13,000. It's hardly the finished product I had hoped to have by this point in the year, but at least it's going somewhere! And something just happened in it that I wasn't expecting, so we'll see where that leads.

Also on my "to write" list is yet another revision of the midgrade short story I just revised earlier this month! It needs a change of focus to fit the market I hope to send it to soon, though I'm not sure yet how that might work. And on my "to read" list are 2 novels I just bought from Amazon.com: The City of Ember by Jeanne duPrau, and Winchell Mink: The Misadventure Begins by Steve Young. They both look fantastic in completely different ways.

Monday, June 14, 2004

My poem "High Dive" is up at Guideposts for Kids now--it was actually one of their two featured cover stories last week!

This past weekend, I went to a novel writing workshop led by D. Anne Love, author of The Puppeteer's Apprentice and many other novels. I got a lot out of it! Much of it was about plotting, which is probably my weakest point as a writer. I was worried that learning yet another plotting technique would only confuse me more, as I've already got too much conflicting information about plotting swimming around in my head, but was thrilled to discover that the "Writer's Journey" plot structure she outlined (based on a book by Christopher Vogler) fits the middle-grade novel I'm writing very well. Comparing the ideas I have for the novel now against that structure, I was able to figure out more of how the novel should develop. The young adult novel I have submitted, on the other hand, can't fit into that structure by a long stretch, as far as I can see...which would be fine with me, except that I wish it had some plot structure! ;-) Seriously, I'm realizing more & more how plot-deprived it is, but want to wait for feedback on it before I start rethinking it too much.

I also had a couple of really good writing-related conversations with other writers this week, one over lunch and one at the novel writing workshop. As my writer friends shared their own struggles and asked some really good, pointed questions about my work, they helped me clarify my writing priorities and to think of ways I can deepen and strengthen the projects I'm working on. Between those conversations and the workshop, I have pages full of new notes about my writing projects, and I'm feeling pumped!

Other than that, it's been so busy around here lately! Besides my writing workshop this weekend, my kids had 2 birthday parties to attend (one of which I also attended), we had a reunion of a graduate student reading group we were involved with in the mid-to-late 90s, and I'm currently taking a cake decorating class and also being dragged into scrapbooking by a couple of my writer friends. (I'm still iffy on the scrapbooking, but I like the company!) And as usual, the kids' summer activities (gymnastics, swimming, Vacation Bible School, etc.) are taking up lots of time and energy, as is the library's summer reading club. But it's all good!

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Last weekend I went to another excellent SCBWI event, featuring Simon & Schuster editor Alyssa Eisner, author/writing instructor Kristi Holl, and author April Lurie, in a beautiful lakeside setting. The attendees were all writers, not illustrators, and as an icebreaker, we were asked to bring a sample of our writing, something to illustrate it, a true author bio, and a fake artist bio, with any sort of display we wanted. I went kind of nuts over all the cool paper choices at the craft stores, and ended up displaying my poem "Inside Out House" on a spiral-themed corkboard, with scenes from the switched inside and outside of the house depicted (thanks to what I termed my "gratuitous use of clipart") on either side of a tri-fold card. Everyone voted for their favorite display, and I ended up winning second prize, an autographed copy of Sid Fleischman's autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid. Cool! The event itself was, of course, informative and inspiring. Thanks to the writing exercises Kristi Holl shared, I also created a great new character while there, to go in another novel I want to write someday.

At the event, I bought April Lurie's novel Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn. I started flipping through it the next day, and got so hooked I couldn't put it down until I'd read the whole thing! About the same thing happened to me a few days later, when I picked up Greg Leitich Smith's novel Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo at the bookstore and began to read it. I had to leave the store shortly afterwards, but felt compelled to buy the book so I could keep reading it. They're very different types of books, but both terrific!

Last week I finished a draft of a young adult short story I'd been stuck on for a couple of years--unfortunately, there's almost no market for YA short stories anymore, and this one is odd (as is typical for me...), so now I'm not sure what to do with it. But I guess I'll try sending it out this week. Meanwhile I'm starting to get antsy about the novel manuscript I sent out 3 months ago...& am thinking I need to focus on my midgrade novel again. Lately my kids have made it difficult for me to focus on anything! But I discovered when working on my "art" project for the SCBWI event last weekend that I worked really well in our "office." It's a spare bedroom/junk room that houses a desk but no computer at the moment (our only working computer is my laptop), and I've never actually written in there before (usually my laptop is truly on my lap, as it is while I'm typing this!), but I think I'll see about setting it up as my office. I need some change in perspective!

Sunday, February 08, 2004

There's a photo from our January SCBWI retreat online at author Vivian Vande Velde's website. I'm second from the left in the back row.

I'm currently awaiting a packet of manuscripts from the San Gabriel Writer's League contest, as one of several judges in the children's writing category. This will be my first time to judge a contest. Should be interesting!

Monday, January 19, 2004

The retreat was great! It was indeed the energizing experience I was hoping for, and I'm newly excited about returning to some of my writing projects. The most rewarding moment of the weekend came when several critiquers, including two of the speakers at the retreat, gave me excellent and positive feedback on the midgrade manuscript I'd pretty much given up on after a negative critique at last year's retreat. Now I can't wait to jump back into it...as soon as I get my young adult novel-in-progress off my plate for a while, that is! My next writing goal is to get that novel in shape to submit, and then I'll focus on the midgrade manuscript for a while. At any rate, I enjoyed the retreat so much I've already printed out a registration form for a novel writing workshop in June!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

I've just had a fantastic week and a half participating in a children's theatre production for the first time in about 20 years. I performed in a Creative Arts Theatre & School alumni production of the kids' show Free to Be...You and Me, which was truly a blast, despite a very hectic schedule with one week of rehearsals and three performances, all mixed in around the holidays and family visits out of town. (Kudos to my wonderful husband for playing Mr. Mom much of the time while I did this!) There's even a small picture of me with many other cast members in this week's Dallas Observer.

And now it's time to turn my sights back to "real life" and also to my writing. I think the theatrical experience will prove to rejuvenate my writing, as it got me directly involved in relating stories to kids (the real kids in the audience, including my own kids, who loved it), showed me how much children's theatre really did influence my writing, and also reminded me once again how it felt to be a kid! It also reminded me, at a time when things had begun to dry up for me creatively, how much more to life there can be than the dull daily grind, and gave me a fresh dose of the joy of creativity. Now I'm raring to go! Which is good, because I have a weekend writing conference/retreat coming up in less than 2 weeks! I'll be going to the Austin chapter of SCBWI's "Mind, Body, Pen" retreat, with editors, authors, and illustrators in attendance, and it promises to be another energizing experience (and thanks again to my husband for covering home base while I go!).