Thursday, February 28, 2008

Funky 15

The ever-talented and prolific Cynthia Leitich Smith tagged me, along with several other Austin writers, to list "15 weird, random things, facts, habits, or goals" about myself.

Since it's hard to think of 15 things I haven't already blogged about, I've decided to use Cynthia's own list for inspiration. So here is my list of "15 weird, random things, facts, habits, or goals about me, all inspired by Cynthia's 15 things."

1) Although I never read superhero comics growing up, as Cynthia did, I did read comics--mainly Archie but also things like Mickey Mouse, Casper, Little Lulu, and other kiddie characters. I even drew my own comic once about a girl who loved reading Little Lulu. Part of this was inspired by readng my mother's old comics from the 1940s and 50s (which she recently found!). I also read MAD Magazine, which wasn't a common choice among other little girls I knew. I'm not sure if it helped form my offbeat sense of humor, or if I read it because I already had an offbeat sense of humor!

2) I wrote my own little comics, like a recurring one called Robin Lee, and once served as the cartoonist for my elementary school paper. I also wrote my own magazines, made greeting cards from a company I named The Creation Box, and oddly, I often created fake homework assignments as done by characters I invented, then switched to teacher mode to correct it as their teachers would. I'd also draw things like, "Jenny as drawn by Sara," and then "Jenny as she really looks," and then a few years later I'd go back and redo them when I thought my drawing skills had improved! (And I did take a cartooning class once as a kid, but I still don't have good drawing skills!)

3) Now that Cynthia mentioned subscribing to 100 comics a month, I don't have to feel too weird for subscribing to so many magazines! I have subscribed to as many as 25 magazines at a time. I love them. I have no idea how many I'm subscribed to now since it's hard to keep up with the subscriptions, but I know I've let a lot lapse... I'm sure we get at least 12 or 14 now, but there are more I mean to renew. I used to excuse the expense by saying, "This is my entertainment budget; we don't have cable TV." But now we've had cable for years so, oops!

4) I saw The Empire Strikes Back 5 times in the theater when it came out, which I think still stands as the most I've ever seen any one movie in the theater (yeah, pathetic next to Cynthia's 350 for Star Wars!). As I've mentioned before, I spent my 14th birthday seeing it alone after my "boyfriend" of one week (one week ending that day!) stood me up for a Six Flags date. I also had a large collection of The Empire Strikes Back trading cards, but I came across some recently and apparently, the only ones I kept are the ones with Han Solo on them! {Blush} I used to listen to Han & Leia's theme over & over & over on my record player.... (Also, while I don't do a Kermit the Frog impression like Cynthia, my 7-year-old does an amusing Yoda. Here he is last summer at age 6, saying "Read you will" and "A Jedi master we need.")

5) When I was a child, I wrote letters to Judy Blume and Madeleine L'Engle to let them know how much I loved their books. Unfortunately, I never mailed the letter to Madeleine L'Engle and now it's too late. (Though I did get to meet another childhood favorite author, Paula Danziger, while she was still alive.) But Judy Blume wrote back. I felt guilty because my friend and I both wrote to her at the same time, and she sent my friend a brochure with her autograph on it, but she wrote several sentences on my brochure! I have no idea where it is now. I am very, very glad, however, that I never mailed the really embarrassing letter I found that I once wrote to Mork and Mindy....

6) My first car was a navy blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, which I totaled on the way home from work late at night, only 7 weeks after getting it. I had already finished my freshman year of college at this point, but had to wait until I finished my sophomore year before getting another car! (By the way, I just realized I was wearing a shirt decorated with Mickey Mouse comic panels in the photo below of me with my first car.)

7) The job I was on the way home from when I totaled the car was at a movie theater. Like Cynthia, I served a lot of popcorn in my job, but I worked only at the concession stand, not at the ticket booth or as an usher. The concession stand was a different company than the theater! (And paid 15 cents more per hour, ha.) Some other odd things about the job: I never popped any popcorn (it was only popped once a week!), we weren't really supposed to chat with the theater employees (as if), we didn't have cash registers and had to do all the math in our heads (yes, it caused problems), we only had three kinds of drinks (I would dream all night about endlessly telling customers, "No, we don't have __X__, we only have Coke, Sprite, and Diet Coke"), and we didn't get to see free movies! Even theater employees didn't get free movies, unless they were Employee of the Week, though I did see lots of 15-minute portions of movies on my breaks. I also won a black and white TV from that job, and I still love popcorn.

8) I still have my polyester uniform from the movie theater job. I have no idea why, except that, "I thought I might need it for a costume someday." Even weirder... the shirt that was part of my uniform during my second summer in that job is hanging up in my laundry room right now. My husband came across it recently, apparently thought it was a shirt I currently wear, and washed it and hung it up! (Yes, my husband does laundry!! More than I do, in fact.)

9) Seeing the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which Cynthia mentioned, was the wild way I partied down with my friends on the night of my high school graduation. ;-) Hey, it might have even been a midnight showing! (On a semi-related note, I find it pretty weird in retrospect that I went off to college 200 miles from home, at a university of 50,000 students, less than a month after turning 17. As a parent, it would freak me out to let my kid do that!)

10) My dad spent a semester of grad school in Paris when I was 11 years old, and my whole family went. We lived in an apartment in the Latin Quarter, also close to the Luxembourg Gardens as Cynthia's summer dorm was. I didn't have to go to school while we were there, but it was a really cool place to live for a while (we thought we'd be there a year, but ran out of money), and I spent a lovely Christmas Day playing soccer with my then-3-year-old brother at Luxembourg Gardens. I still miss the Kinder Surprise Eggs I regularly bought when we lived there... you can't buy them in the US because it's apparently illegal to sell food (it's chocolate) with toys inside here, as though someone would really eat a plastic capsule. Sigh. I haven't returned to Paris since, though I did visit Lyon in 1993.

11) Unlike Cynthia, I have had very few jobs. My only paid jobs have been: movie concession stand worker, office temp, and technical writer. I was an office temp in Austin, then an office temp in Dallas/Fort Worth, then a technical writer in Dallas/Fort Worth, then a technical writer in Austin. I also spent 6 weeks as an unpaid video production intern (doing very little myself), and have earned a very small bit of money from freelance writing in recent years. I currently write a monthly column for a garden retailing magazine, and my editor there is the same person who referred me to the office temp agency I worked for in Austin, 19 years ago!

12) My wedding cake was fine, but nothing to blog about. ;-) I had to go way out of my way to find a traditional cake topper with a bride & groom statue I liked, and then I actually painted the bride's hair so it wasn't lighter than the groom's! The groom's cake, a chocolate cake with a basket-weave design and chocolate-dipped strawberries on top, was a much bigger hit than the wedding cake. I took a cake decorating class a few years ago, and the best cake I've decorated was probably a castle cake for my oldest son's 6th birthday, but now that shows like Ace of Cakes are raising the bar for everyone (and I know someone who practically outdoes them...), I've pretty much given up decorating my own cakes!

13) Speaking of cakes, I spent my 21st birthday in England with some friends who were there for an University of Texas summer program at Oxford. (I was just visiting.) My friends went to a bakery and bought me a cake. They asked if the bakery could write my name on it, and the perplexed bakery worker responded, "That'll take a week!" Obviously, British bakeries do things differently than US ones. The cake had a hard white icing--not exactly fondant but more like the outside of a Ding Dong, if it was white--and there was a small toy bear on top clutching some toy balloons, and a ribbon wrapped around the outside of the cake (not getting messy, since the icing was hard). One strange thing about turning 21 in England was that I could already legally drink there as soon as I arrived 3 days earlier, so that part was anti-climactic!

14) My main fears are cockroaches (esp. palmetto bugs, eeeeeek) and snakes, and I'm also quite wary of dogs I'm not familiar with. For some reason, I've never been that scared of heights and have even wanted to skydive. But Cynthia is absolutely right to be frightened of children under 3! (Though technically, she should amend that to "children 3 and under." My older kids had "terrible threes," not "terrible twos"! And do not worry about dropping my 1-year-old; you have more to fear from him than he has to fear from you!)

15) The only very famous person I've met outside of the field of children's writing is Sting. My husband won tickets to his 2004 concert, which included a quick meet and greet with Sting. I've mentioned this before, but this time I'm sharing the photo.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

3 Things for Groundhog Day

1) One thing I resolved for 2008 was to finish one of my outstanding writing projects. In the back of my mind, I thought that following the resolution would also mean not starting anything new until I had done so. Or at least, not starting any new book-length projects. So I'm kind of annoyed to have this idea bombarding me lately for a light time travel novel.

I've decided that, although I don't plan to actively work on the idea anytime soon, I do want to start reading books and watching movies on the themes of time travel, or suddenly finding oneself a different age, or even body swaps (mine wouldn't be a body swap story, but they have similar surprising transformations)--including books I've read before and movies I've seen before--to see how they handle the changes. I know that in some of them, like 13 Going on 30, they never seem to explain the mechanism much, and I'd like it to be something like that if I can get away with it! It'd be more like magic than science. One confusing aspect is I wanted two people to go back in time, but one of them to regress in age and the other not to regress, so it seems like I would almost need two mechanisms... Anyway, so that's my homework for the year, while I'm writing other things. If you have a good one to suggest, let me know. Some I was thinking of were Debra Garfinkle's Stuck in the 70s, Freaky Friday, Big, Sue Corbett's 12 Again, etc.

Come to think of it, the topical movie for today, Groundhog Day, is a little like that, too, and that one never does explain how Bill Murray repeats the same day over and over. He just does. I love that movie anyway.

2) My own groundhogs--one from Build-A-Bear Workshop (Morris), and one who was technically due on Groundhog Day last year, though he made his appearance 9 days too early!

3) What do I want to write? I think I need to finish my midgrade novel. I'm at least 2/3 into it already. But I've also been thinking I need to seriously work on one of my picture book ideas. The more picture books I see, the more I'm convinced my favorite one would sell if I could only do it justice. The problem is, it needs much more of a plot arc than it currently has, and I've been stuck about that for years! But I need to brainstorm about that when I have spare minutes, and work on the novel when I have larger chunks of time.