Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Detective Day (and a dreadful dream)

This morning, I woke up from one of those wretched dreams where it's almost the end of the semester and I haven't been to class. The math is always impossible to make up, and in this one I also had to write a very long, detailed paper analyzing Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which I hadn't read. Those are some of the few mornings when I'm glad to wake up!

Then I took the kids to a library event for beginning readers. It was advertised as a dectective book party for ages 6-8, focusing mainly on Nate the Great and Young Cam Jansen. My 7-year-old, Ryan, loves Nate the Great & Cam Jansen, and my 5-year-old, Kyle, is an early reader himself, so I took them both. I was surprised that out of 18 kids in attendance, all of whose parents chose to bring them to a detective-themed reading event, Ryan was one of only 2 kids who was familiar with Nate the Great, & one of only two kids familiar with Cam Jansen. These are fun books, people--check them out! Anyway, the Cam Jansen girl knew all about Cam Jansen, but the other Nate the Great boy had only read one book about him for school. So Ryan ended up answering more than half of the questions about detectives and the characters, even though he's normally shy enough he couldn't bring himself to share his favorite food at the beginning of the meeting. Kyle also answered a few! Then, they had a secret code to solve and said the first to solve it would get a prize. Ryan was first, except for one girl who had done it before the kids were told to, so he got the prize, though they later gave prizes to everyone who figured it out. (Once I showed Kyle how to get started, he eventually got it, too.) They did some reading & singing (the singing could have gone over better than it did...), & talked about mind-mapping for ideas. At the end, the librarians made pancakes for the kids from the pancake recipe in a Nate the Great book. My kids love pancakes & got to help stir the batter, so it was a really nice event for them! Kyle even behaved until it was time to go. (Then, he very much didn't.)

Blog Entry Update: I'm sitting on my bed with the laptop, and Ryan just brought me a tiny, intricately folded piece of paper, that is "To: Mom" and "From: R and K," addressed to me at "Mom's bed, Last house, (Our) Road." I unfolded it to find this message: "Need help building time portal." Under that are a picture of an envelope in a circle, and the words "mini envelopes inc." He told me that last part was the name and logo of the company that made the message. This is a glimpse of life in my house! (But sadly, I have no idea how to build a time portal! No worries--he and his brother will surely figure it out.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Since I last blogged...

  • We took our kids to the County Fair. It was pretty fun, though wildly expensive. A highlight was the racing pigs (see them on video!). So now I've seen racing pigs and swimming pigs (back in the day...).

  • In the evening, when we had babysitting, my husband & I returned to the fair sans kids and rode some big rides. The best was, I think, called the Spin-Out. Was it worth $5 a pop? I'm not sure, but I think everyone should occasionally have that experience of being whipped through the air at crazy speeds, seeing bright lights and hearing carnival sounds all around, not knowing if you're right side up or upside down, and not having a care in the world. (The other ride we rode, though, gave me plenty of cares, as I would have sworn I was about to be hurled at great speed into a Winnebago. Or at least, that something would get hurled... It just wasn't fun!) Despite my belief that rickety carnival rides are disasters waiting to happen, there were some truly magical moments there. (I also had a new appreciation for the dunk tank guy after reading David Lubar's novel Dunk!)

  • I saw two magic shows. The first was at the fair with my husband. My favorite trick was when he set the inside of a pan on fire, closed the lid, then removed the lid and a (non-burnt) ferret came out. The second magic show was one for kids this morning at the library. Note that the two magicians used at least 4 or 5 of the same jokes! Magicians of the world, please learn some new jokes. Naturally, out of 60 or 70 kids in the audience, my 5-yr-old monster was the only child acting up. I had to wrangle him twice & hold him on my lap as he struggled to escape. Fun.

  • I read the latest Newbery winner, Criss Cross. I wrote up a lot of thoughts on it for an online book discussion earlier, and made a copy of those thoughts here.

  • I read about 2/3 of the friendship book, which is very insightful, and all of the photo book by teenagers with cameras. What surprised me most about that was how little the teenagers seemed to be learning or doing in school--the classes seemed to be mostly busywork or note-taking with little interaction, so they were falling asleep in class instead of having lively discussions. Sad! I was also surprised so many of them were talking on cell phones, using iPods, etc., even during school.

  • My family tried to watch the first Harry Potter movie last night, which was my kids' first direct exposure to the HP stories (but my oldest has often been told he looks like Harry so we figured he should at least know who that was). However, the DVD of it we got from the library was in such horrible shape, we could not get it to play certain parts even after stopping to clean it and trying all kinds of fast-forwarding, backing up, etc. The sound kept going out, too. We had to skip a few short parts and rely on my poor memory to let the kids know what had happened. Finally, when Harry was supposed to get his invisibility cloak but we absolutely could not get the scene to play, we gave up. That's too good of a part to miss! We'll have to try a video store tonight.

  • I gave up on trying to revise my novel by today to submit it to Carolrhoda Books (today was the deadline in their call for submissions). But I'm still glad they called for submissions, because it got me over a hurdle with the manuscript and I'm getting stuff done!

  • My kids started Spring Break. Somebody save me from Spring Break! I doubt I'll get much writing done this week.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Friends and the library

Hello, my name is Alison and I blog too much. I’ve long said that writing begets writing, and now I see that blogging begets blogging. The more I blog, the more aware I become of more things to blog about. And you’re stuck with the result.

Anyway, I went to the library tonight, with my laptop. I freaked out a little because the YA section of this library says, "This section is for teens only after school & on weekends." Uhh...does that mean no aspiring YA writer with a regular day job can check out a YA book?!!? I don’t have a day job, so I can work around this, but it doesn't seem fair. And will they bar me in the summer? I snuck in anyway, furtively, and grabbed a copy of the Newbery winner, Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins. I thought Newberys were nearly always midgrade. Odd.

I rarely get books from the adult section, but today I got 3, all with sub-titles:
  • My So-Called Digital Life: 2,000 Teenagers, 300 Cameras, and 30 Days to Document Their World (obviously for my YA research!)

  • Sudden Fiction (Continued): 60 New Short-Short Stories (I have the first Sudden Fiction anthology & thought these would be quick reads & expand my fiction horizons a little)

  • Connecting: The Enduring Power of Female Friendships
That last choice is an odd one for me, especially since I don’t particularly have any close female friendships at the moment, but I’m just curious about the nature of friendship (female or otherwise), and wanted to research it for my YA. It seems to me that friendship--in particular, how we choose our friends and whom we develop rapport with--involves a kind of chemistry not completely unlike that in romantic relationships. I mean, people don’t usually become friends with just anyone, and I don’t think life stage alone is enough to base a relationship on. People often expect that moms with kids in preschool will make friends with other moms from the same preschool, but just being at the same place in life isn’t enough, really. If it were, everyone in a high school class might be friends with each other, and that’s not how it is. Nor is it just about hobbies or shared interests... even though we may have a natural affinity for others with the same interests or goals (like my general affinity for other writers), we still became closer to some people than others, even if we like them all. One would also think it had to do with outlook on life, and there’s definitely something to that, but it’s not as simple as sharing the same views. What particularly interests me is that some of the people I’ve hit it off with the best are people who, on the surface, are nothing like me. I may disagree with them vehemently on some core issues, and still feel some sort of bond with them that I don’t feel with everyone else in the same group. My theory is that it has something to do with personality type, but surprisingly, I can find very little written on the subject of how and why people become friends.

While countless books, magazine articles, and websites dissect and theorize about what attracts people to one another romantically, the "chemistry of friendship" seems almost completely overlooked. But I think it’s important, and interesting, and it’s something I’d like to understand more for my YA. Why does my character feel so little ability to fit in with those around her, and what is it that draws her to the people she is drawn to? Can she learn to change how she feels about the people around her? This was something I struggled with in my late teens, and I wasn’t sure where or how to find like-minded people, or what a like-minded person might look like. Like minds don’t always look alike to other people. So, if anyone has any books or other resources to recommend on this subject, let me know! I’ve already scouted out everything the local libraries and Amazon have to offer, and so far I’m coming up pretty short. (I did order one out-of-print book that seems to address this subject, but that’s about it.)

Now, drumroll, please. Rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-tat: Ta-da! While at the library, I made some changes to the actual text of my novel! I only got to write about a paragraph before the library closed, but I started this revision! And started making notes about the current structure, scene by scene, and realized that one minor character might be more important to the story than I'd thought. I was really moving along and then the library had to close. But I may go back in the morning while the kids are in school. It's easier to concentrate there. (Too bad next week is Spring Break & I won't have any time to myself then!)

Moving forward

I still haven’t changed a word of my YA novel this year. (Well, okay, I did fix one typo.) But…I am still making progress for the first time in ages!

Yesterday I sat down with the manuscript file and stared at the first few pages in confusion for a while. As usual, I had no idea what to do with it or where to start. I decided I needed to understand the point of the book once & for all. I needed to make it really, really clear in my own mind what my character, Lydia, wants, and why. I opened a new document & started making notes.

The more notes I made, the more I understood Lydia. The more I understood that she does have a story, a real story that is actually worth writing. I understood more clearly why the events in the book are a big deal to her, and why she reacts as she does. I finally figured out at least a little more about her relationship with her mother, which isn’t explored much in the current draft. And I understood how people could care about her even when she seems not to care much about anything. I realized to my amazement that this tiny spark of an idea I had, initially just something vague about a girl not liking her neighbor, could grow into something complex that delves into childhood hurts, family relationships, and fragile emotions, and makes statements about life and friendship. Something that has three-dimensional characters I can see and hear and care about. Something I might even be able to be proud of writing! I am excited by all the things I discovered in my story, many of which I didn’t even put there on purpose! It mostly came out of my subconscious, and even after I wrote it, and even after my first critiques, I still didn’t see it all. I still didn’t see where it was going or why it mattered, or if it could matter or not make everyone yawn. And now, after a critique that opened my eyes, I see so much more to it. Stuff I’ve still got to chip away at or build up to show to the reader--but stuff that I now know is waiting to come out!

One good thing is that I realized most of my trouble with this manuscript is chronological. Changing the order in which I tell things, or even the order in which things happen, may fix quite a few of the problems it has now. I'm also mulling over how to make something seem less coincidental. At any rate, I'm thrilled with my new insights into the story. And when I ever get a chunk of time to myself again, I'll see what I can do with it!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

So Much to Say

S is the Sound of the Day
After typing the rest of this post, I realized all my headings, including the title, started with S. Which is appropriate, because S is the letter of the week at my son's preschool, & he had to bring snacks with an S theme today. (We took cinnamon sticks & string cheese--they just called them sticks & strings.)

Sons & School
On the bright side, my older son got his first report card from his new school today. It's quite complicated as report cards go--lots of codes and legends to decipher, etc. Anyway, he got all A's in the subjects that have letter grades, and satisfactory or outstanding in everything else. He also got a report about some testing he did on a computer that put his math level as 4th grade & his reading level as the end of 4th grade, so that's pretty good considering he's in 1st grade! On the not-so-bright side, I found out my younger son is having social trouble at preschool. His friends aren't playing with him much anymore, and I think that's part of why he's been in such a rotten mood lately, though I'm not sure what to do about it.

Scrubbing Bubbles
A month or so ago, on a whim, I sent a photo of our shower into an online cleanest & dirtiest shower contest from Scrubbing Bubbles (in the cleanest category, thank you very much!). The showers rated cleanest & dirtiest each day by web site visitors would win automatic shower cleaners. I forgot about it after that, but I must have been rated cleanest one day because I found a huge box on my porch today containing an automatic shower cleaner! It's some kind of thing where you push a button & it sprays bubbles everywhere to clean the shower without your doing anything. It's supposed to be worth $40, so that's pretty cool. I've always loved the Scrubbing Bubbles anyway--I even have a toy one!

My "baby" brother is currently in flight on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Zurich, Switzerland! Wow, wish it were me! He apparently has a travel agent friend who finds these last-minute deals every now & then, so a few of them decided to go.... I hope he at least sends me cheese. (Also wishful thinking. But chocolate would melt in my mailbox!)

We have a creek near our house, & I just saw what I think is a water moccasin in it! Although it moves fast, which this site says is more common in a nonvenomous water snake, it definitely swims on top of the water with its head up, like a water moccasin. Scary. I really hope my kids don't fall in the creek. In general, the area around our house has so many wildlife noises it makes me nervous. Most of it seems to be lizards (they are noisy when scurrying in bushes) & squirrels, but something larger (I hope just raccoons) keeps knocking over our trashcan, & now I'm worried about snakes. I was reading that water moccasins may even zoom out of the water to attack someone on the bank!

A few days ago I downloaded the old Donovan song "Sunshine Superman" from iTunes. I'd been wanting it for a while, but wasn't sure which version to pick since they had a bunch and they were all very different lengths. I finally just picked one from a 60s hits compilation. Today I got around to playing it, only to find out it wasn't the original version! I mean, it wasn't even Donovan!! Even though he was listed as the artist! Can they do that?! I went to iTunes & found several user reviews complaining that the compilation did not use the original artists. Bizarre. That reminds me of when I ordered a double-album set of disco hits from TV as a kid, only to find out that even though the original artists were named in the commercial, the songs on the records were actually performed by "The Homestead Singers." Eek! (Though I kind of wish I still had that album now...!) Anyway, I paid another 99 cents to download an actual Donovan version of the song. Then after I played "Sunshine Superman," the next song my iTunes picked to play, in random shuffle mode, was "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down! Spooky... (Which reminds me, I was just listening to Sufjan Stevens' song "Casimir Pulaski Day," but now I guess I should switch to his song, "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts.")

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Remedial revision

Yesterday I read over the last critique I got on my YA novel. It is truly an excellent critique (2½ single-spaced pages), and cuts right to the heart of things. When I first got it, I felt like I finally had something to work with--somewhere clear to start in rewriting. But then I still didn't manage to do it.

Reading the critique again, I was amazed by all the positive comments in it. For instance: "interesting characters," "I'm rooting for her," "very touching," "readable and engaging," and the wonderful "well worth writing and well worth reading." It still needs an overhaul, especially in structure and depth, but after reading all that I realized I really do owe it to myself, and this manuscript, to stick with it and not give up now as I've halfway done.

But...taking the critique yesterday morning and sitting down with my manuscript, I still had no idea what to do. I feel like I need a remedial course in revising. I want someone experienced to sit with me and show me, practically and physically, where they would put the cursor in my document (or even in a new, blank document) and what they would do from there! I have substantially revised a bunch of short stories & feel I've got a decent idea how to do that, but novels seem like a different creature. Even if I break it into smaller chunks like another wrier suggested, taking out one peg seems to knock down the whole structure, & I don't know how to rebuild it without cramming some pegs back in where they don't belong.

I know I just need to experiment with it and be open to where that may lead, but I feel like I'm trying to perform a play when I don't know my lines, or where to go on the stage. Of course the entire novel is just improvised in the first place, so the answer is to improvise, but now I feel like there's something there to screw up! So, I wish I had a hands-on course in Revision 101, but in any case, I have renewed enthusiasm now for trying to salvage the thing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Nothing in moderation

Well, almost nothing in moderation, I'm afraid. I do eat & drink in moderation, except for Dr Pepper, which I have an unseemly addiction to. But in general, I am SUCH an all-or-nothing, feast-or-famine type of person. Much of the problem is I'm terrible at transitions. It's hard for me to start anything, & it's hard for me to stop anything. I write nothing for long stretches, or I write a 60,000-word novel in 17 days, while simultaneously writing an article and 12,000 words on another novel. I don't blog for a week or two, or I post 4 times in one day. When I read a book, I nearly always read it straight through in one sitting, which is probably one reason I prefer children's & YA novels to adult ones! (If I have to leave a book sitting for a while, chances are good I will never get back to it.) Even when I'm reading to my kids for bedtime, I have a hard time stopping until I've read the whole book aloud...even if it's an 80-page chapter book and it's nearly 10:00 at night! And my ideal vision for my house is something so perfect & so organized that even the toilet paper roll would be perfectly centered on the dispenser, with no rips or uneven edges on the first piece. Not being able to manage that regularly, I tend to give up & just block out the clutter piling up around me or the dishes in the sink, and step over stuff on the floor without really noticing it.

The other day I got some software that's supposed to help you learn to sing (yeah, the one they advertise on TV, that has the microphone & lets you track your pitch in real time...I'm a sucker, although I bought it from Amazon, not TV). It starts with a series of 20 lessons, and then you can do freeform exercises or singing practice. I thought I'd spend a few minutes setting it up & then get back to it later, but after I set it up, I sat there singing for hours until I'd finished all 20 lessons! (The singing itself was both encouraging and frustrating. I was shocked I didn't completely bomb all the sections, and in fact aced most of them quickly. Then I moved to the freeform part and it all fell apart. But the fact I could hit any notes accurately at all was a happy shock after years of singing shame!) And then there's Tetris, which grabbed me back for a while last week after a several-year hiatus...thank goodness I'm back out of Tetris obsession mode right now.

So, writing ideas are no exception. I'm bursting with ideas. More than I've managed to even write down or remember. But it's hard to stop the flow of new ideas long enough to choose one of them and block the others out. I've got a list of 9 novels I feel pretty committed to writing (including the 1 that I already have a whole draft of). Then I have an idea for a midgrade series, and 5 other vague novel idea possibilities. Now, I have come up with yet another idea! When I come up with an idea I like, I go through the novels I already have listed to see if I can plug my idea into an existing project idea. This time, it might work. Except, I have at least two ideas on my list that this idea might fit into! And those ideas are completely different, so I'm not sure where I'd want to use it. It might also work for my series idea. Meanwhile, I can see Lydia from my main YA novel rolling her eyes & wishing I'd just get back to her story so it can be over & done with. Then I might actually be able to justify thinking about another idea! Hang on, Lydia, I'm getting there!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Books, books, books

Last night I read Fly on the Wall, the new YA book by E. Lockhart about a girl who turns into a fly to spy on the boys. As with The Boyfriend List, I thought the author did a great job conveying the main character's humorous thought processes. I also took her "What's Your Fly Style?" quiz online, which said I'm a nosy fly. Well, sure, I'm a writer, I have to be a bit nosy about how other people live and think...but I'm really not a gossip! (Plus, if I change one answer to another I almost picked, I come out as a do-gooder fly.) Minor spoiler alert: I found it interesting that the book never explains the mechanism by which the girl becomes a fly. She wishes to be a fly on the wall, and she is. I once wrote a story about a girl who turned into a pig just by wishing it, and got taken to task for not explaining why/how her wish was granted. Apparently, Delacorte Press does not find this sort of explanation necessary. So there.

In other booky news, I finally got my voter registration certificate on Thursday, so I could finally get a library card here! (I needed some kind of ID showing I was a permanent resident, and there have been some hang-ups trying to get our cars registered or get driver's licenses...) I ran out immediately that day to get a card and check out a bunch of stuff. The library here has a rather odd automated check-out system, but I'm amazed you can check most items out for 3 weeks (we're used to 2), and that you check out up to 5 of each type of audio-visual item! Our old library had a limit of 2 total audio-visual items at a time, but this library has a much larger collection of them. I'm still getting used to the fact that Florida does nearly everything on a county basis, but I think that works well for libraries. We once had an Austin address but lived outside of the city limits, so we had no library available to us for free, and had to pay $54 per year for an Austin library card! Here, the library systems encompass whole counties so it doesn't matter if you're in the city limits or not. I think our closest library here is a pretty nice one, too. I'm not sure I like the children's section quite as well as at my old one, but the YA section seems much larger.

Then there's my own book. Or, there's not my own book. I haven't done a thing about my revision, except for printing out the critique I want to refer to. So, it's unlikely I'll have it revised in 8 days, but I may do something on it today. We'll see. I'm not quite ready to commit to it! (Also, I'm petrified to tackle it.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Return to Sendak

Today we went to the Tampa Museum of Art to see an exhibit called WILD THINGS: The Art of Maurice Sendak. I thought it was really fascinating. Unfortunately, my own 5-year-old wild thing made all kinds of mischief, so our time there was tense and we had to cut it short. He stomped around, threw himself to the floor, and kept demanding to leave. (If only I could have sent him across the sea to hang with the real Wild Things for a while!) I could have easily stayed another hour, but had to rush through it all in 15 or 20 minutes & didn't get to read most of the information. The exhibit included original sketches, artwork, & even some early manuscript drafts from many of Sendak's books, as well as a few large 3-D reproductions of his work, like a giant Wild Thing. There was a "Max's reading room" section where kids could relax to read Sendak's books, but my son would have nothing to do with it, despite being familiar with many of the stories and liking them. There was some video of his Really Rosie animated movie (I've mentioned before that we love the Carole King songs from this...many are available on the Where the Wild Things Are animated DVD), video of a Where the Wild Things Are stage musical, and some dioramas & soft sculptures of his Brundibar book & opera. All of this was accompanied by placards explaining Sendak's background and influences, and giving some insights into how his various projects developed. It was all very interesting and I wish I lived closer so I could return & see more! I did get a poster from In the Night Kitchen, which was one of my favorite books when I was little.

On the way out, we made an overly quick tour through the Classical World exhibit, with more than 400 objects from ancient Greece & Rome on display. I could have stayed there an hour, too, and that was my 7-year-old's favorite part of the museum. Unfortunately, my husband had to take our wild thing outside before he started a wild rumpus and/or knocked over an ancient statue, so my 7-year-old and I had to rush through that in just a few minutes. Argh. After the museum, we were happy to have a chance to eat at Jason's Deli. I met my husband at a Jason's Deli (we were dining with mutual friends), and our kids could eat gallons of their broccoli cheese soup. Unfortunately, there isn't one where we live now, but this one was maybe an hour away. So, at least we can go there for our 17th anniversary of meeting in June! Anyway, the 5-year-old decided to behave better at this point because he thought good behavior would make a fortune-telling fish we had work better for him...um, whatever works.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Leapin' Leprechauns!

Top o' the mornin' to you! Or top o' the afternoon or evening or whatever it is for you.

My sons decided to make a leprechaun trap last night! It was the 7-year-old's idea, but the 5-year-old was all for it. First, they left a note at the bottom of the door: "To an important leprechaun: GOLD INSIDE!" Then they left a message on the wall inside directing the leprechaun to the bathtub. (And just in case the greedy leprechaun decided to raid the silverware drawer looking for silver, they put a copy of the same note inside the silverware drawer!) On the bathtub, they left a note directing him to the TV. This note, as written by my 7-year-old and printed out in green, says: "Now on from the bathtub and on to the TV, a place you watch shows till you're crazy like me." (Isn't that cute?! He even added a clipart pot of gold.) And in front of the TV, they left an upside-down shoebox labeled with a sign saying Gold. Inside of that they left an imitation gold coin from our recent pirate cruise as bait (my older son wouldn't use chocolate coins, saying "Everybody knows they're fake!"). The shoebox had a door & 2 tiny windows cut out in front (windows just big enough for the leprechaun to see the bait), but the door only opened from the top, and then would close, and was covered at the bottom in front so it couldn't be pushed back open. This was intended to keep the leprechaun trapped inside.

What they actually found when they opened the box in the morning was a note saying: "I was here but now I'm gone. You just can't catch a leprechaun!" There were also gold and silver-wrapped chocolate coins, some St. Patrick's Day magnets, & 2 green lollipops. The leprechaun left messages like "Sorry lads, you can't trick a leprechaun!" or "Ha! Ha! Can't catch me!" on the notes they had left, and left a few gold-wrapped chocolate coins by the notes in the silverware drawer & on the bathtub. Despite all the goodies, my older son was somewhat crestfallen not to have an actual leprechaun in his trap. (?! I can't figure out if he really expected a leprechaun to be in there or not!) He finally took some comfort in the chocolate.

This afternoon I have to bring snacks to his first grade class, so I'm taking shamrock cookies, more gold-wrapped chocolate coins (a different variety), & probably some green Kool-Aid. In the evening, we'll have our annual green dinner. This year, similar to most years, it's going to be spinach fettucine with pesto sauce and/or green-dyed Alfredo sauce, broccoli cheese casserole, and some green-dyed applesauce, with green-dyed Sprite to drink & lime popsicles for dessert. We thought we might try Key Lime Pie this year, having moved to Florida, but all the Key Lime Pie we could find was off-white, not green!

Anyway, I wish you all a lucky day!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Revisions revisited

So there's a call for YA submissions right now at Carolrhoda Books, but they have to be postmarked by March 27. Which is, um...11 days from now. I'm trying to decide if I should try to revise my YA novel by then and submit it. It seems crazy, since it needs a major overhaul & I've theoretically been trying to revise it for three years, but then, I wrote the first draft in 17 days, so it should be technically possible. And I have fantastic critique notes to guide me this time, so I have more idea what I want to do with it now than I have since I wrote it. What it would take is the mindset, and I'm not sure if I'm up for that or not. When I wrote it, it became the only thing on my mind for those 17 days, and most other responsibilities went by the wayside. I don't know if I can do that now--it's not like I have a lot on my plate, but I have a lot to do today & tomorrow, so that already throws me off. But part of me thinks it would be a really good exercise, even if I don't finish in time for this round of submissions, just to make me finally buckle down & work on it in earnest! I don't think I've touched it in a year.

Silly retro musing of the day: Yesterday I heard the Tears for Fears song "Pale Shelter," and I heard a synthesizer noise that I thought sounded just like the one in No Doubt's cover of "It's My Life" by Talk Talk. I played the Talk Talk song to see if it was the same noise, and lo & behold, that noise isn't in it. So, did No Doubt take that noise from the Tears for Fears song? Or am I completely wrong about it being the same sound? I don't have the No Doubt version to check with. Ah well.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Stuff for a Sunday

And now for your reading tedium pleasure, I got these from a random blog I happened upon, and liked them enough to answer them.

1. If you could trade places with one person in your family for a week, who would you choose? And would you want to trade as they are now, or sometime in the past (or future)? I'd probably want to trade with my husband, to see what's going on in his brain! I wouldn't want to be him this week because he's been having a crazily busy week at work. It might be cool to trade with him for a week back when we were dating, or even for a week of his childhood so I could see what that was like. I wouldn't mind trading with one of my kids, either, though that might be scary!

2. What were you doing 1 year ago this month, and are you more or less satisfied with your life today? 1 year ago this month, I went to a picture book workshop with Lisa Wheeler and a talk by A.M. Jenkins, both of which were fantastic. I also got a lot of writing done that month & hung out with writer friends, and 1 year ago today, I found myself in a fascinating 3-hour online chat with author & NPR commentator Daniel Pinkwater (it was just him, me, & one other writer I know). I was living in Texas instead of Florida. Honestly, it was a great month I was a lot more satisfied with my life that month than this one (so far), but considering that my husband was out of work then, and would be for the next 8 months, some things are better now!

3. Do you prefer watching television over surfing the internet? This is such a humongous NO for me! I'm a complete Internet junkie & feel lost without it. I rarely watch TV, & could easily go a long time without it (preferably when Survivor is over for the season...Survivor & The Office are the only things I go out of my way to watch right now, & I record those on the DVR).

4. Outside of the U.S., where would you live and why? I'm not sure! When I was 11 my family lived in Paris for a few months, & that was cool, but I feel too old to start over now in a place where I don't speak the language. I'd probably pick somewhere in the UK just because it's more familiar to me, or Canada because it's closer to home. If I went with the UK I'd probably pick London because I'm a city girl (I went a little nuts when I spent some time in Oxford & everything besides pubs closed up at 6 pm), but my heritage is Scottish & I really love Wales, so I might chance one of those places.

5. When you leave your home, do you ever feel paranoid that you've left something behind? Yes, and I often have! In fact, I somehow managed to fly from Texas to Florida and back without any identification or credit cards just a few months ago, which you can imagine was quite a security hassle at the airports! (And the trip before that, I forgot my cell phone & dress shoes.) I also drove across town this week just to use a coupon, only to find out I'd left the coupon at home.

6. What song or songs would you want played at your own funeral and why? This is just not something I think about! My husband has his funeral music picked out (Fauvre's Requiem, which I believe he describes as a sort of joyful requiem), but I don't so much care what they play after I'm gone. There's a musical version of the 23rd Psalm that I'm partial to...ideally my friend Jeff would attend and play that or one of the minor key, early American hymns he plays so well on the guitar. Otherwise I'd probably choose the song "My Deliverer" by Rich Mullins, which I think is one of the most powerful songs ever written (eerily, written shortly before his untimely death & recorded by other musicians afterwards), though I'm not sure it would make sense to sing that my deliverer "is coming" if I'd already been delivered from this life! ;-) (Leave it to me to be picky about grammar & verb tense after death.)

Never underestimate the power of a Slurpee

Two bits of joy:
  • After an ill-advised flirtation with Pepsi Slurpees, the 7-11s around here have brought back Coke Slurpees! Hallelujah, I can slurp again!

  • Today I found a working Windows version of the old Tetris Max video game (Tetris knock-off) that I was extremely addicted to on our Mac in the mid-90s. The game looks tiny on a new XP machine, but playing it again was like visiting an old friend, & more importantly, it has the right music! I'm a little leery about having the game on my computer again (let's hope I don't find myself dreaming about Tetris pieces & subconsciously assigning them personalities again...), but I'm thrilled to have the music! The last Windows version we tried of it didn't have the music, which is haunting & fueled my addiction to the game. I thought I'd never hear it again, so it's giving me the same happy nostalgia thrill as that yummy Coke Slurpee I had last night.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The past lives on at Amazon

Wow, Amazon has a long memory! I got an e-mail today saying that people who bought books from a particular author (DB) whose book I had bought often buy books from another author (SG). So, they thought I might be interested to know SG has a new book coming out. I remembered DB's name, but I knew it had been a very long time since I bought that book. So I looked up my complete order history & found the only time I bought a book from that author... it was my first-ever Amazon purchase, on October 29, 1996! How many order suggestions must they send out if they are combing through data from nearly-10-year-old purchases?!

And speaking of Amazon & things from my past, one of my most recent Amazon purchases was The Best of the Electric Company on DVD. I've been waiting to see this again for a long time (um...about 3 decades!), and it's just as fun as I remembered--or actually, slightly more so, since it hasn't aged as badly as I feared. My 5-year-old is loving it. (He even had to get up & dance about punctuation.) And I've kept laughing out loud myself. I was shocked to find out that over 6 seasons, they made 780 episodes! This DVD set includes 20. Check it out!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ahoy, mateys!

For my husband's birthday yesterday, we finally had that Texas cake I meant to make a few days earlier. It was good enough that I'm about to sneak another piece right now.

In the evening, we celebrated with a sunset pirate cruise. It was a lot of fun, & the kids loved it! The pirates also chose my husband to play the role of "Peg Leg," a mean pirate who came to steal the treasure & ended up getting drenched by kids with water guns. But...do real pirates do the Macarena?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thursday thoughts

  1. Thanks to my husband for letting me sleep in this morning. That is no small thing!

  2. I'm feeling very self-conscious wearing my Chuy's "Texas Proud" t-shirt in Florida, even though I'm home with no one but my son to see me. I put it on because it was the first clean short-sleeved shirt I could find (it's 76 degrees at the moment), and it's Texas Independence Day.

  3. I may change shirts before I go out (maybe into a University of Texas one...), but I dug out a Texas-shaped cake pan I bought before moving, and will probably make a Texas cake for the holiday. Amusingly, I've heard a lot about Texas Independence Day, which celebrates Texas' independence from Mexico in 1836, but I've never heard a word about its statehood day & have no idea when that is!

  4. Speaking of holidays, my husband's company gives employees the day off on March 4th, so they can "march forth" with whatever they'd like to pursue in their personal lives that day. I think it's way cool to have a holiday just because of a play on words. Since March 4th is a Saturday this year, he's off tomorrow instead. Cool! (And Sunday is his birthday.)

  5. I need to work on becoming a better storyteller. I usually like my writing, paragraph by paragaph or page by page, but I'm not sure I have enough stories to tell. Not the kind that rivet you so you have to find out what happens. As a reader, I don't mind stories that are light on plot, when they're interesting as character studies and vignettes, or just have amusing writing, but that's not what's selling. A while back, I read an interview with Jeanne DuPrau, who mentioned studying the Harry Potter books and noticing the characters were always active. She rewrote The City of Ember to make the characters more active, and had a much easier time selling it. I'm trying to take that to heart, though it's not my natural bent!

  6. It really bugs me that putting an ordered list in this blog automatically adds extra blank lines above & below the list, so it doesn't match the formatting of my other blog entries. I've decided to just register my dissatisfaction here instead of spending another hour trying to tweak the formatting like I normally would!