Monday, October 27, 2008

Big day for little book (and candy) lovers

After we took our little monkey to his preschool festival yesterday...

I took my bigger monkeys kids to BookPeople in downtown Austin to attend PJ Hoover's book release party for her middle grade adventure novel, The Emerald Tablet. Here they are with PJ as she signed our copy of the book.

On the right, my 10-year-old is holding (upside down) a guide to the Lemurian alphabet from PJ's book. He did a project on all types of hieroglyphics last year, so this should be right up his alley. On the left, my 7-year-old is holding the cool pumpkin bucket his big brother won for correctly remembering PJ's job before she was a writer (designing computer chips; and since I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up as an electrical engineer himself someday, I'm not surprised he remembered that!).

The bucket contained an Emerald Tablet t-shirt, a couple of glow sticks to stay up reading it, a laminated bookmark, a pencil, and a cool eye-shaped spiral notebook. There may have been more, but I'm not sure because it was buried under the candy my kids grabbed from PJ's generous bucket of candy for the kids! Both kids also got miniature pumpkin or cauldron buckets adorned with laminated Emerald Tablet keytags and filled with candy corn. What a haul! (These kids were spoiled to bits yesterday, between that and the preschool festival, where candy was also plentiful, my 10-year-old ate two slices of pie, and my 7-year-old kept playing a 25-cent game that gave stuffed animals as prizes every time, eek!)

PJ also has a detailed account of the event on her blog--she says over 150 people showed up! It was quite a crowd, and her presentation was great.

Though best, of course, was getting a copy of The Emerald Tablet. We were lucky enough to get one of the last couple of copies before they all sold out...before the event even started! I knew my kids would want to read it right away, and sure enough, Ryan started reading it on the way home and we had to take it out of his hands at dinnertime, because he didn't want to give it up to eat! Good job, PJ. :-) With luck, I will get to read it someday, too!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Writers, writers everywhere

This week my 2nd grader brought home a book from school--Cork & Fuzz: Good Sports by Dori Chaconas. I got all excited, and said, "I know her! She sent us a toy Wienermobile!" My son was slightly amused and interested to remember the toy Wienermobile & other books we'd read by her, but then added that he had just picked it because it looked like a good book. :-) I realized I do this all the time and must sound odd to other people walking past us at the library, bookstore, or school book fairs: "Hey, I know her!" "I know him!" "We already have a signed copy of that at home!" And I know my kids have told their teachers their mom is a writer (who somehow has no books). They probably all think I'm crazy...!

Speaking of writers I know, last week I went to a great Austin Youth Lit social at the fabulous home of Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. It was fun to mingle with everyone and to meet The Gollywhopper Games author Jody Feldman, who was visiting Austin from St. Louis. Cynthia blogged about the evening...and yes, I'm the one in the vampire cape and bunny ears while the majority of guests were dressed normally! (Just to make it clear, that's not how I normally dress. ;-) )  (P.S. Apologies to Shana Burg for not trying her hard-won caramel apples!)

I also joined JacketFlap yesterday, if any other writers there want to friend me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Busy week

Friday we had a date night (hooray), and saw Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, our first movie to see in a theater together since our 20-month-old was a tiny sleeping thing in a carrier, and our first without kids since before he was born. Even though I write YA, and liked Nick & Norah pretty well, I have to admit it made me feel old, because I was viewing a lot of it from a parental perspective, wondering where these kids' parents were while they were staying out all night long in New York City, and worrying about them enabling their drunk friend, putting themselves and other people in danger (esp. with their driving), etc.! Now technically, I did stay out until 4 or 5 am all the time even when I was just 17 and 18, and I found myself in stupid and potentially dangerous situations on more than one occasion, but I was in college at the time and these were supposed to be high schoolers, so I often found myself feeling concerned for them more than I was rooting for them. I think I have just entered old fogeydom. (Also, I always like Michael Cera, many movies or TV shows really need the same character? He wasn't playing the Nick character from the book, he was himself as we've always seen him.)

Saturday, as the world should know, the Texas Longhorns beat Oklahoma in football, and are now ranked the #1 college team...Hook 'em Horns! Not that I saw much of it--I spent most of my time shopping for necessities, and my son went to a birthday party, and my poor husband had to record the game and watch it spread out over about 6 hours.

Sunday morning, I participated in a 5-mile walk/run. I was planning to walk the whole thing, not being a runner. My main goal was not to come in last, and I was really hoping to beat 1 hour and 12 minutes, which was the time of the 200th finisher in the last results I could find online for this race. But even though that was a very modest goal, I'd never actually gone that fast before, nor had I ever gone even 4 miles at once in my life before race day. The previous night, I only got 3-4 hours of sleep, and I was having something like sinus trouble or allergies, and had only walked once the week of the race! So I wasn't too prepared, BUT adrenaline and unexpected competitiveness got me to run for probably at least a half mile of it, and I ended up coming in number 217 out of 239 people, with a time of 1:08:22, which was better than I thought I could do, so I was happy. :-) I even found myself thinking, "Hey, if that was 5 miles, a 5K would be even easier!" and looking into 5Ks... However, the knee I fell and twisted a week before the race is in pain now and I've been having to wear an Ace bandage some, so I can't get too into that idea right now.

Later on Sunday, I took my 10-year-old and 7-year-old to see the City of Ember movie. (And wow, is it ever expensive to see a movie these days! Even for a matinee, to get 3 tickets, a popcorn, a candy, and 3 drinks was $38.50!) We liked it. The City of Ember is my older son's favorite book, and he said he'd rate the movie 3.5 stars out of 5, but would rate the book a 5. The poor kid had to have painful dental work today and couldn't go back to school, so he used the day to re-read the book. My younger son also says he wants to read it now, though I kind of doubt he can/will. I haven't read it myself for 4 years. From what I remember, I thought the book was better than the movie, but both were good. The city in the movie looked very much like I pictured it when reading.  I'm shocked the movie only got 45% positive reviews (as aggregated by the Rotten Tomatoes site), but then, I can't imagine what it would be like to see it without having read the book. It could be that much of what I liked about it came from my prior knowledge of it and the fuller story. I did think it wasn't quite as exciting as it should be and that the ending came too easily--my son said the movie left out some of the most exciting parts of the book, and neither of us thought the new additions made it any better. I don't have much patience with the reviews that question the whole idea of a dystopian movie aimed at children (and really, it's about overcoming that, isn't it?), but I agree with the ones that said the movie seemed to lack urgency.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Zoo-ming thoughts

We went to the Austin Zoo this weekend, a small zoo & animal sanctuary. It immediately sent a lot of potential poem or picture book lines scurrying through my head, where they've been trotting around for a couple of days (apparently a hereditary trait, as my 10-year-old son has been making up haikus about everything lately; he made up several about the magic club meeting we went to last night). I'm pretty sure I don't need new picture book ideas until I finish other projects, but it reminded me I should get back to my languishing zoo-themed picture book manuscript. I started it years ago and got positive comments from critiquers, but it remains a bunch of good lines in search of a story arc. I'm trying to think, think, think on that one right now!

As we were leaving the zoo, I was thinking about several things at once and managed to fall off a porch I hadn't noticed was roped off! Unfortunately, my digital camera was in my hand with the lens open at the time, and it broke. I do have an older camera that still works, but can't believe I broke my good one. But at least I didn't break my leg or something. I did twist my knee slightly, so I hope that doesn't affect me in the 5-mile walk/run I'm signed up for this weekend!

Also, see if you can tell which of these photos was taken at the zoo, and which was taken at home. Is my 1-year-old a little monkey or what?


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thankful Thursday

1) I am thankful we are still alive and, at least for today, have a little money in the bank.

2) I am thankful that an agent requested my manuscript. :)

3) I am thankful that my oldest son, a 4th grader, maxed out the reading level test at school, reading at the level expected for a high school graduate!

4) I am thankful that my middle son, a 2nd grader, has been writing up a storm just for fun, and designed some adorable bookmarks about reading for a bookmark contest at school...even though he claims not to like reading himself.

5) I am thankful my 1-year-old daredevil is still alive and adorable even though he already sets up and performs wild jumping stunts for himself and tries to lie down in parking lots...and that he touches his index finger to mine in a loving gesture nearly every time I say "I love you," even if he's half-asleep.

6) I am thankful I got my garden article turned in earlier this week.

7) I am thankful I managed to walk 3.5 miles today, even though it was so hot I thought I wasn't going to make it.

8) I am thankful I had delicious bean tacos today, even though they probably had the fat content of a small whale.

9) I am thankful my computer is working fine again, after being almost unusable earlier in the week (we made some software changes and deleted some stuff, so the hard drive is no longer basically full).

10) I am thankful that, after writing 9 other things I'm thankful for, I realized I might as well stop now because I'm thankful for so many things I could go on all day.