Thursday, April 28, 2005

Typical bloggy stuff:

Mood: Frustrated...can't make any progress today on Purple Panic manuscript. Even chewing purple gum (Juicy Fruit grapermelon) didn't help. Brainstormed ideas for the next plot direction but couldn't wrap my head around it.

Song in head:"I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" by X, oddly battling it out with "Down in the Lowlands" by Charlie Peacock. That's how confused my mind is right now!

Last person I spoke to: My 4-year-old

Last person I wrote an online message to: Jen, who just found out her forthcoming YA book Golden was mentioned as an exciting debut novel in the UK publication The Bookseller--wow!

Immediate plans: To take the kids to IHOP for dinner, so I won't have to hear them ask about it 7,342 more times in the next week. Don't ask me how IHOP became the most exciting restaurant in the world to them, but apparently it is. I guess they've never gotten over the time we all hopped to IHOP in Galveston, TX!

Last movie I saw: Holes on DVD two nights ago--my husband hadn't seen it yet

Next movie I will see: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which we're planning to see on opening night tomorrow. The advance reviews are only so-so (54% positive at the moment on Rotten Tomatoes, which they consider more rotten than fresh), so they probably ruined the story, but I still love the book too much not to see the movie.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I've already shared this elsewhere, but I just love this picture of my 4-year-old decked out for Crazy Hair Day at his preschool yesterday. We happened to have this book at home (we seem to have books for every occasion), so he took it to school and his teacher read it to the class. So what do you think--is he ready to join a band? Actually, I'm not sure the world is ready for him yet!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Does it count as a brush with fame if my brother is on TV? He does background extra parts all the time, but tomorrow, April 25, is the night he's a featured extra on NBC's Las Vegas (9pm/8pm central), and throws a wad of $100 bills with his picture on them to create a distraction. I don't think he has any lines, but he does have a character name (Vic "Vid Kid" Kenner), so that's cool! Note that it is rated TV-14 (parents strongly cautioned).

In other news, I got a wonderfully helpful critique on my YA novel from a published author this week. I've been stymied on revisions for it for 2+ years now. Lately I'd been thinking it might be dead in the water, or would at least require a complete overhaul to make it into a very different book. But this critiquer gave me some insights that were truly eye-opening, and now I have hope for the book again! I kind of expected her to tell me it was a nice try but not interesting enough to spend more time on, but to my surprise she volunteered that she thought it was a story worth telling, and her understanding of the heart of the story actually clarified it for me! Now I'm thinking that it doesn't need to be completely ripped to shreds, but rather strengthened and chiseled into shape throughout, and the critique gave me some great ideas for improving it. Considering that I'm 2/3 done with my midgrade novel, I'm thrilled to think that I may be able to have both of these novels completed by the end of the year!

And naturally, we went to Dairy Queen for Shakespeare's birthday yesterday (see the last part of my April 10 entry). I got a yummy banana split Blizzard, but the code on my cup didn't get me an instant win in their online scratch & win game, and horror of horrors, we didn't think to read any poetry.

Monday, April 18, 2005

According to my web visit counter, someone found my site today by searching for the phrase "bunnies are terrible pets." How odd! What they found was my article "Rabbit Fever," but I don't think my rabbit Pablo (the tan lump between the boys) would agree that bunnies are terrible pets.
I can't sleep lately. I keep staying up until 3 am. I aim to stop doing that, but meanwhile I blog.

An old friend sent me a link to a dryer lint page, saying he thought I'd appreciate it. Hmm...what does that say about me?! (Not that I don't enjoy removing the dryer lint from the lint screen, because I do.)

I thought of another favorite song, which I considered my theme song in the early 90s, while working at a brain-sucking data entry job and wishing to be a writer instead. At the time, I wrote, "She tried taking her notebook to work, but the ink curdled up on the page and ran off, spilling to the ground like so many teardrops." A little melodramatic, perhaps, but The Innocence Mission song "Notebook" captured my feelings perfectly. (You'll have to scroll down or search on that page to find it--and the lyrics are wrong there, but less wrong than on the other sites that purport to list them.) Coolly, I got to thank singer/songwriter Karen Peris for it in person when I saw the band play in Dallas once.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A few of the many favorites that didn't make it into my Blogger profile:

TV Show: The Adventures of Pete & Pete - it's a kid/teen show from the mid-90s, though I didn't see it until 2002 or 2003. It's surreal, brilliant, & hilarious. It also had some amazing guest stars. I was thrilled to discover today that they're finally releasing the first season on DVD next month. Another good Pete & Pete site is here.

Song: I can rarely name a favorite song, but the Flaming Lips song "Do You Realize?" stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it, and was the first song I downloaded from iTunes (even if it did later become part of a car commercial!). The first songs I downloaded were a rather odd, mostly moody collection...see a screenshot. Since then I've mainly been relying on my husband to convert our CDs to digital files.

Play: I already cheated and listed my favorite play (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead) under books. It's intelligent, witty, and shows Hamlet from a different perspective. My high school made it to the state one-act play competition with it my senior year. Unfortunately, I was only an alternate, but did get to play Ophelia in one performance, & got to go on all the trips as a crew member.

Musical: Merrily We Roll Along, a Sondheim musical that apparently bombed badly on Broadway, but blew me away when I saw it at UT in about 1988. The UT production had been brought back for a second run due to popular demand. I'm not sure it would resonate as much for people without theatre backgrounds, but the way it traveled backwards in time, with reprises occurring before the original songs and the characters growing less jaded and more hopeful as they got younger, amazed me, and the female lead did a particularly outstanding job. My favorite musical to perform in (a joke, since I can't sing!) has been Free to Be...You and Me, which I did in a repertory group as a teen and got to do again with some of the same people in 2004. (In the teeny tiny black & white picture on the lower ride side of this page, I'm the teeny tiny person seated at the bottom right.)

Color: Cobalt blue, blue violet, or other similar deep, rich shades of blue and purple. It kills me that Crayola retired the violet blue crayon a few years back. I recently ran across an old one and still thought it was gorgeous.

Restaurant: Don Juan's Romantic Mexican Food, a hole-in-the-wall fast food place in Grand Prairie, TX I've been going to since I was 2. Their bean burritos are possibly my favorite food on earth. Also Candlelite Inn in Arlington, TX, another place I've been going to that long. Many people think of it as a Mexican restaurant or steak place, but I mainly go there for spaghetti with meat sauce. (Check out their pralines, too.) I'd prefer either of these places to an upscale gourmet restaurant any day! In Austin, I'm fond of Chuy's and Kerbey Lane Cafe. (And I don't eat a lot of burgers, but the best are at Snuffer's in Dallas.)

Place: One of the best days in my life was a day I spent all alone in Cardiff, Wales in August 1988. The weather was perfect (odd for Wales, I know), the scenery was beautiful, and I didn't have a care in the world. I still want to "stand on some hillside in Wales" with my husband someday. I also love New Mexico. And Six Flags Over Texas! (And, though it's been a while, I also like being on stage, or backstage.)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I've decided to enable commenting in my journal, so people can leave comments, which scares me somewhat! So please play nice, so I don't have to delete comments or turn them off. And please try to keep any posts kid-friendly. Thanks!
Thursday I visited the Texas Library Association (TLA) conference exhibits with a friend who founded the Austin chapter of SCBWI. I bought a great new book on space (right up my older son's alley!) from Austin author Jane Ann Peddicord, and picked up way more publisher catalogs than I could reasonably carry (especially several blocks back to the car), and my hands and arms are still a bit sore from the bags!

It was interesting to see what's coming out from all the publishers this year, though I also found it daunting. Ever since I looked at all those books and started looking at the catalogs, I've been questioning what I write and whether I'm concentrating on the right things. My quirky stuff doesn't seem quirky enough; my realistic stuff doesn't seem edgy enough (nor do I want it to be edgy). I actually started thinking my best chance for a book contract would be a rhyming picture book, even though they're supposedly the hardest books to sell! I have had success with rhyme thus far. I'm not really giving up on my other stuff, though. In fact, I aim to be a prolific writer because there are so many stories I want to tell, so I need to get cracking!

By the way, I edited my second old journal entry from my last post to add a photo I just found that was taken the same week I wrote it, at a mini-party I threw for getting a decent grade. This has inspired me to write a list of Unusual Things I've Thrown Parties For:
    · Getting a B+ when I expected an F
    · Groundhog Day Eve
    · Thanksgiving (not a turkey dinner, just a pre-holiday party)
    · Advent
    · Pre-Columbus Day
    · Oscar the Grouch's Birthday (June 1)
    · My kids' half-birthdays
We also go to Dairy Queen every year on Shakespeare's birthday (April 23). We celebrate both Shakespeare and his contemporary Spenser, whose exact birthdate is unknown and who wrote The Faerie Queene (well, where else would you celebrate a poet whose most famous poem title rhymes with Dairy Queen?!).

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Author Linda Joy Singleton has been including some of her high school journal entries in her blog--from the same day of the year but many years earlier. I thought it was such a fun idea I decided to see if I could find anything of my own to post. I found very little that was actually from April of any year, and most of what I did find was too long-winded (pages long!), too boring, too personal or embarrassing, or some combination of those. But I found one from 22 years ago today that is kind of amusing, and slightly embarrassing but not TOO embarrassing. (I promise I didn't always use that many exclamation points.) The most potentially embarrassing thing about it is that all these years later, I'm currently on an e-mail list with 2 of the people mentioned in the entry! But I assume they'd find it humorous.

It seems like I wrote much more in the fall than I ever did in the spring. So, in light of what I wrote yesterday about autobiographical writing, I thought I'd share this entry I found from October 1985. (I don't believe I ever really wanted to write an autobiography, though! I was probably being slightly facetious.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

I've heard that most first novels are autobiographical. So far, none of mine have been. It would be difficult to find many traces of my life in any of the three novels I've written significant portions of so far, or most of the others I've jotted ideas for. However, the one I've been contemplating lately (the YA that would involve a death) would include incidents inspired by events in my own life. I don't want to write about the actual events from my life, or the actual people I knew, partly because that would be weird and seems dangerous, and partly because the actual events were too bizarre and convoluted to be believed in fiction (Greg Leitich Smith has a great blog entry about this). But it's still a very difficult thing to approach, and it's hard to figure out how much of real life I would need to include, or what the most important elements of the story are. I want to include some things I actually wrote back then, because I don't think I could do a better job now of getting those raw, powerful emotions onto paper, especially in the voice of a teenager. But that makes it tricky, because then the character would have to face situations that are somewhat similar to mine without being the same. I also have to think of an ending to it all, and that's hard, too. So, for now I just have ideas swirling in my head, and am leaving most of the writing until later. I definitely need to finish my midgrade novel first in any case!

I recently wrote a crucial scene for the midgrade, though I'm not too happy with the way it turned out. I'm trying to write the book without major revising, just making notes for future revision as I go along, but in this case I may rewrite the scene before moving on. I'm pleased today, though, because I thought of yet another twist I might add that could tie several loose threads from the story together. If it works, it could solve some of the logistical problems I've been having with the story, as well as adding a bit more quirky fun to the manuscript. Here's hoping it does!