Thursday, December 31, 2009

plastiki expedition update

Happy New Years Eve, everyone!

The Plastiki is setting sail soon! Remember me posting about this back in June? The Plastiki is a 60-foot catamaran made out of 12,500 plastic bottles and recycled waste products, that is setting sail from San Francisco, California and traveling 10,000 nautical miles to Sydney, Australia.

In line at the grocery store last weekend, I spotted the Dec 2009 issue of Outside magazine , featuring a picture and article on David de Rothschild, head of Adventure Ecology - and the mastermind behind the Plastiki - which kicked a reminder into me to post an update on this impending adventure.

Here's a little model of the boat. It was built in a warehouse on Pier 31 in San Francisco, CA. The crew consists of a handful of people, who will be sharing some tight quarters over the next three months, while they set a course through places of environmental concern. This mission is quite an undertaking; not only is de Rothschild and crew attempting to "galvanize change" by making more of us aware of the damaging effects waste has on our environment, but their journey may be quite arduous, as the catamaran is essentially an experimental boat. Can you imagine: Sailing along in the big bad blue for a little over three months, in a boat that could potentially encounter some serious problems? The crew isn't going to be able to take many personal items with them, they'll be bunking in small beds in shifts, and they'll be eating dehydrated food and hanging out with each other in a close proximity for a quarter of a year!

This got me thinking - you've got to be a person really passionate and serious about creating change to attempt a feat such as this. How many of us would be able to give up the majority of our daily comforts and sail in an experimental boat to state a cause - waste - which if humankind listens and sets new rules, will eventually do us all some good? I'm guessing not many.... Not to mention, you've got to really like the people you're traveling with, considering you're stuck with them on a 60-foot boat. What essentials would you bring with you if you could only take a couple of things on a journey like this? I would pack sunscreen and lip balm, no doubt. I wonder what the crew will bring?

Here's just a section of the thousands of water bottles used, which are filled with a special reinforcement, and placed inside the pontoons. I read that the design was inspired by the pomegranate fruit. Design inspired by nature was a big factor in building the Plastiki.

Visit the website, to follow the crew's adventure. I'll also be posting updates occasionally...

Bon voyage and best of luck, Plastiki!

(pictures borrowed from The Plastiki Expedition page on Facebook).

Friday, December 25, 2009

happy holidays

Happy, Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas ~

Spread the cheer, smile and have fun!

(Art by Junzo Terada.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

my crystal ball

What a year it's been. What a decade! At times it felt like it went by painfully, bitterly slow, but really, geez, it went by fast! didn't it? Whoosh! In a few days it'll be the year 2010. 2010, people! Remember the film Back to the Future Part II , with Michael J. Fox? That film took place in 2015! There were hover boards, robot dog-walking leashes, dehydrated food and wall screens.... We're not so far off from that technology, I mean, we already have Skype, which I have yet to try and use, among other things...

So instead of looking backwards at the first decade of the 21st century, and bringing up all of the chaos and some truly horrible events that took place, let's focus on how we can make the world better and humankind happier going forward. Shhh, just close your eyes and try. Self-fulfilling prophecy, right?

Here's what I'd like to see over the next 10 years (no matter how implausible and in no particular order):

1) Hover boards. Yes, I am obsessed with hover boards! And they would not only be for skateboard-like devices, but for cars, too. Which would help end our dependency on oil and gas. I just finished reading Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy, and three cheers for hover boards!
2) Space-age clothing. Sleek new designs made out of recycled, eco-friendly fabrics in metallics and other cool prints and colors, that help keep a body warm in cold weather, and cool in hot weather. Wouldn't it be nice to stay warm in 0 degree F temps? You know what I'm talking about, Chicago!
3) Organic everything! NO more food grown with pesticides and other nasty things. If we all only knew the crap that we put into our bodies which can cause cancer and other diseases, perhaps everyone would wake up and stop!?
4) On that note, end the inhumane treatment of animals. I'm not a vegetarian, but I probably should be. Perhaps everyone should start consuming less meat over the course of the next 10 years?
5) Litter-free, clean world. People who throw their trash on the ground like it's a trash can (many incidents I 've witnessed on the NYC Subway, people, you know who you are!), stop already! Let's become more cognizant of this, come on, it's fun.
6) Space travel! Fly me to the moon...totally!
7) Free health care for everyone. (if we take #'s 3, 4, 8 and 9 seriously, society's overall health would improve).
8) Decreased work week and fair pay for everyone. Why are most of us killing ourselves with 50 or 60-hour workweeks? And most likely for something we don't even like to do?! If humankind were happier and well-rested, I am convinced that the world would be a more harmonious place.
9) Respect the elderly. Here's where we should go back in time to the days when people respected their elders. Let's not be scared of the elderly. Yes, getting old is no fun as my Grandma Betty used to say- so why not at least try and enjoy aging and accept wrinkles! Older generations can teach us a thing or two, we can learn from our past. And this coincides with the need for stronger family units. If we had stronger support systems for each other life wouldn't be so hard or so lonely. Everyone could use a hand, am I right?
10) And finally, No more crime. No more war. Ever. Why do we kill our own kind? This I will never understand and deeply saddens me.

Well, there ya go. What I'm saying is not original, I know, and like I said, it's not all plausible, but why can't it be? Humans have proven that we have big imaginations and we have taken some of our seemingly impossible ideas to unimaginable places. So what are some of your ideas?

Let's all push ourselves to be better. Let's take the 2010's to a new and happier place!

Happy holidays everyone and cheers to a peaceful New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

real-life carolers

Last night I heard singing coming from down the street. Joyous, loud singing. I opened my door to see what was going on, and lo and behold there were carolers sitting on hay in the back of an old pick-up truck, singing! I've never seen real-life carolers before. (I don't think I've ever said lo and behold, either....but there ya' go).City people don't do my knowledge. Actually, I thought only people in movies did that? But I was wrong! Here, in this little wine town where I currently reside, people weave in and out of the streets singing Christmas songs, spreading the cheer....and I like it! I wish I'd had a camera, because I know my old city friends' eyes would be as big as mine last night. Maybe they'll come by again later this week....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

laugh and be merry

English Poet Laureate John Masefield (b. June 1, 1878 - May 12, 1967)

Here is a nice poem that made me think of this holiday season, from one of my great-grandfather's old books called Poems of To-Day: An Anthology (London: Published for the English Association by Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd., 1917):

Laugh And Be Merry

Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song.
Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong.
Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span.
Laugh, and be proud to belong to the old proud pageant of man.

Laugh and be merry : remember, in olden time,
God made Heaven and Earth for joy He took in a rhyme,
Made them, and filled them full with the strong red wine of His mirth,
The splendid joy of the stars : the joy of the earth.

So we must laugh and drink from the deep blue cup of the sky,
Join the jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by,
Laugh, and battle, and work, and drink of the wine outpoured
In the dear green earth, the sign of the joy of the Lord.

Laugh and be merry together, like brothers akin,
Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn,
Glad till the dancing stops, and the lilt of the music ends.
Laugh till the game is played : and be you merry, my friends.

John Masefield

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

rainy day art tour

On a rainy day, sometimes there's nothing I'd rather do than stroll through a museum or an art gallery. I like going by myself, or with a friend who loves art as much as me, and I like picking out my favorite piece - the one I'd like to own, or the one which inspires me the most - and afterwards discuss it over a warm drink.

I do so dearly miss some of my old art haunts in New York City, so if I were there today, here's what I'd go see:

Untitled (Picasso Woman) 1980-1990

Tim Burton at NY MoMA, will be up through April 26, 2010. More than 500 of Burton's photographs, paintings, doodles, storyboards, sculptures, stories, and sketches have been collected and displayed for an "out-of-body experience."

The Green Man (1996-1998)

Many of the works on display have nothing to do with Burton's films and some aren't even done on canvas, but rather, on notebook paper or cocktail napkins. His films are also being shown at the exhibit.

Since I missed the show this summer in San Francisco at SFMOMA, the next stop on my rainy day art tour would take me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see Robert Frank's The Americans. Frank traveled around America for two years starting in 1955, and shot 28,000 pictures of which 83 were chosen for his book, The Americans, first published in 1958. Frank met writer Jack Kerouac at a party, where he agreed to contribute to the introduction of the second edition of the book, published in 1959. Frank was also a lifelong friend of poet Allen Ginsberg and documented the beat subculture through his lens. The exhibit at the Met celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the book, and is up through January 3, 2010.

Sounds like a good day, right? Now take a load off and have a warm drink.

Friday, December 11, 2009

todd oldham: enabler of arts and crafts

It took me a second to recognize designer, artist, author Todd Oldham (above), with this long beard, but that's him all right in the November 30th issue of New York Magazine. Remember Oldham from MTV's House of Style, which he co-hosed with model Cindy Crawford? I loved that show! Or maybe you've seen him more recently in Bravo's Top Design, where he was a mentor to designers. I remember falling in love with his fun, colorful designs back in the 1990's, and I'm happy to see that he's incorporated his artistic, crafty talents into books. "Books have always been a great passion of mine since I was very little," he says, in the NY Magazine article. "They kind of ruled my life. And now it's my favorite thing that I do."

Kid Made Modern (Ammo Books, 2009), is Oldham's newest book for kids who are interested in art and creating art. There are 52 simple-to-make, inexpensive craft projects, and a list of design-icons including Alexander Calder, Alvin Lustig and Alexander Girard, among others, which he's pulled inspiration from. If you have a kid or know one who is into art, this would be the perfect holiday gift.

And, the other book I was happy to see is Oldham's "love letter" to artist/illustrator Charley Harper, who I've posted about before. Oldham remembered Harper's illustrations from textbooks he'd read as a kid, but didn't know who the illustrator was until he was an adult and came across Harper's work while shopping in a thrift store. He contacted Harper, and from 2002 to 2007 Oldham worked on restoring and archiving Harper's works. Harper died just days after Oldham presented the complete monograph to him. Ammo Books published Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life in October 2009 for $49.95. This is a book definitely on my wish-list!

But what I personally like best about Todd Oldham, besides his artistic ability and love of books, is that he is reportedly not an art snob. You know how much I dislike rude people, and unfortunately the art world can sometimes be full of them, so it's nice to hear that Oldham is working to make art accessible for all, without pretentiousness.

(Read more about Todd Oldham in New York Magazine, Nov. 30, 2009 issue. The Pied Piper of Craft: Todd Oldham is Creating Art Nerds, One Kid at a Time, by Amy Larocca).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

animals, gotta love em'!

My sister says that I may die alone for posting these, but I don't care, these photos are fun and too cute not to share!

Over Thanksgiving, my friend's baby's socks were just sitting there all alone on the couch, so I thought it would be funny to see if they fit Sadie. Yep, they sure did, almost too well... it's not my fault if they go missing one day.

Sadie and her cousin, Happy, with the white face, just hanging out.

And introducing, Mols Netter. Mols Netter lives in Chicago and likes to stare at people when they sleep. She also likes to sit on top of suitcases and swipe at certain people's feet when they're dangling off the side of a bed. I know this because I visited her in Chicago once. Oh, and she also likes to sit in the shower - without the water running, of course.

Monday, December 7, 2009

is your story worth telling?

That was one of the questions posed at this weekend's SCBWI workshop taught by children's book writer Deborah Davis, author of Not Like You (Clarion, 2007) . It was also a question that really made me think, and to answer it, yes, I think my magical-realism book, Trevelyn's Shimmer, is worth telling, and here's why:

Ever since I was a kid, I've disliked coming up against mean, nasty people - who doesn't, right? But I mean, I really, really don't like it, and I don't see why some people feel it necessary to be purposefully rude - I hate that. So that is the feeling I've loaned to the protagonist in my book, Marie, to tell. She dislikes when people fight and she wants the world to be a better place and the people living in it to be happy. But she's not finding happiness in her fifth-grade class or with any of the kids in her small town, especially Landon, a boy for whom she has mixed feelings. So when she finds a large balloon attached to a swing, locked away in her garage, Marie suddenly dreams of a world where everybody is always happy and smiling - a world which she knows she can find with the help of the balloon.

After I scribbled down my thoughts from above in class on Saturday, Mrs. Davis posed another question: maybe what your character originally thought she wanted turns out to be something else?

This, of course, made me think some more, and I realized that she was right. Marie's initial intentions are to find a better world with kinder people where she can live, but really what she wants is to just fit in - something that can be extremely difficult when you're 11-years-old and trying to figure out who you are.

The workshop was filled with other helpful tips as well, like how to overcome writer's fatigue and angst. I especially liked her name for that nagging voice in your head which tries to convince you that you're no good - the "itty bitty shitty committee." Writer or not, everybody has that voice, and her advice was to bargain with it. Ask it what you need to do to make it stop, but listen to it as well because it is a part of you and has its own wisdom to give, no matter how annoying.

And finally, this statement struck a chord: "Ideas are always ready to come as long as you're willing to write them down." I think this rings true for all aspects of life, whether you're trying to start your own business, looking for a new job, or searching for a plot to a new novel, write your thoughts down - you never know when something might become useful!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

my dad the photographer

It's been awhile since I posted some of my father's photographs. And seeing as Father Winter is finally on his way, here are some photos to say a fond farewell to autumn, my most favorite season:

Of this group, I like this photo the best. The dark, eerie trees put me in the mood to read a Gothic novel - Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Bronte is my favorite. My dad gave me my great-grandfather's copy of this book, it is the second edition. I think my great-grandfather was friends with a famous writer, who's name I can't remember, I'll have to get back to you on that (UPDATE below). I read my great-grandfather's copy once but the binding is too weak to do that again. I love the old-fashioned canvas book covers from the 19th Century. It seems weird now that there once was a time when book covers didn't have fancy, color illustrations. Makes me wonder what will happen if/when paper books don't exist one day - when everything has turned electronic...?

My dad took this one in New York State. This is the Ausable River on a beautiful autumn day.

This is a view of Spud Mountain in Colorado.

Moon rising in Colorado.

An old mine in Colorado. Look at the bands of colors on the trees.

Under a group of trees in Colorado.

Thanks again to my dad, Rick Hagar, for sharing more of his beautiful photos. I hope the cold weather that's on its way brings pictures of snow!
12-16-09 UPDATE: Robert Frost was the author/poet my great-grandfather was friends with. He lived in Middlebury, Vermont for some time - where Frost was teaching - and while there he made friends with the writer. My grandfather (his son), known endearingly as Grumpy, wrote stories about his life before he passed away, and in one of them he recalled visiting Robert Frost's house as a child and playing with the poet's dogs, which my grandfather would ride like ponies because they were so big. Oh, if only I'd been alive then....

(All photos property of Richard Hagar. Any unauthorized use is prohibited and illegal).

Monday, November 30, 2009

zeus the dog park bully

Sadie and I had a pretty good/fairly drama-free Thanksgiving holiday. We hung out with some old friends, ate our share of food (I don't think I stopped eating for three days), Sadie got chased around by my friend's toddler Isabella, I got caught up on new movies and old movies - Footloose (1984) and Willow (1988), remember Val Kilmer as Madmartigan! And to end the weekend I took Sadie to the dog park to play with her friend Kate, another adorable Norwich terrier.

The dog park was quiet when we got there, but after awhile a woman with five dogs - yes, five - arrived and the chaos began. Chaos being a dog named Zeus - a medium-sized, black dog with an attitude problem. The first thing Zeus did upon spotting Sadie and Kate was charge across the dog park at full-speed, stopping directly in front of Sadie, where he barked like his head was gonna spin off. Sadie hardly knew what had hit her before Zeus bolted (sorry, couldn't help it) away to torment some other dogs and people. Everyone was in an uproar. This Zeus dog was like a big bully entering a classroom at art-time and stealing all of the little kids' crayons. But Sadie wasn't having it. So, maybe it was from holding in all of her aggression over the weekend from being chased by Isabella, or maybe she was just determined not to let her perfect Sunday in the dog park go to waste, but the next time Zeus charged and barked, Sadie stood her ground. She put her mouth right up to his and barked even louder, and wouldn't ya’ know it, Zeus ran away and didn't bother us again.

This got me thinking; isn’t it funny what animals can teach us about life? Haven't we all encountered a Zeus or two before, or maybe dozens? I know I’ve certainly met my share, especially when living, working and riding the Subway in New York City. So I'm proud of my little dog for standing up for herself. And I’ll keep this weekend’s dog park episode in the back of my mind for the next time I come face-to-face with a Zeus.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

gobble gobble...gulp!


Eat lots of yummy food, drink lots of yummy drinks, and take a nice cat-nap once the tryptophan kicks in!

(Art by Junzo Terada, Chronicle Books. San Francisco, 2009)

Monday, November 23, 2009

flipside featured artist - quentin blake

Quentin Blake

In lieu of the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is coming out soon and based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl, this week's ffa is author/illustrator/children's laureate, Quentin Blake (b.1932). Blake illustrated 18 of Dahl’s books including, The BFG (1982), and Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970), among others.

Quentin Blake is one of Britain’s best loved and most successful illustrators and children’s authors”, as stated on his website. He has illustrated over 300 books! Wowzers – that’s a lot! And on top of that, he taught at the Royal College of Art for 8 years and he was appointed the first children’s laureate in 1999 - which is a job to promote children’s literature. He also works as an exhibition curator in galleries in London and Paris – busy, busy man!

Mr. Blake lives in South Kensington, and loves to cook fish. He says he spends his free time reading and will have upwards of 7 books on the nightstand near his bed, some of which he never finishes reading.

Blake started drawing at the age of 5, and did illustrations for the magazine Punch when he was 16. His interest in English, education and drawing, naturally progressed to illustrating children’s books, which he started doing in his 20’s. He worked with author Roald Dahl for 15 years.

On how he decides what to draw, Blake says; “If someone is asleep in bed dreaming, you don’t necessarily want to see them in bed, but you might want to look at the dreams. I try to get as close to what the writer intended as possible...

Blake says that he enjoys both illustrating his own books, Clown (1995), and other authors' books like The BFG by Roald Dahl, because they are both interesting in their own way.

All in all, I think Quentin Blake is pretty darn cool and a great contributor to children’s literature. His illustrations just scream childhood and I love their whimsical and airy feel. What is your favorite Quentin Blake or Roald Dahl book?

(all art work by Quentin Blake)

the burping-clam bed

My sister Amanda says that she and her co-workers at Bank of the West like when I post pictures of Sadie (friendly shout out to you all!).

So, with the leaves turning red and falling to the ground, and the weather getting colder here in Northern California, Sadie was in need of a nice, warm bed. I call this her "burping-clam bed", because after she drinks water really, really, really fast, she climbs in and scoots all the way to the back and then burps, and, well, it looks like a's pretty funny and pretty sad how easily entertained I am...

Friday, November 20, 2009

new moon the movie

I'm not gonna lie, I'm excited to see the new Twilight movie!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

a picture book a day for a month

The Picture Book Marathon , created by Jean Reagan and Lora Koehler, is a program dedicated to getting writers to write one picture book a day for a month - allowing for a few rest days in between. I read about this in the Nov/Dec 2009 SCBWI bulletin, and thought it was a great idea! I'm not really a picture-book writer, I've started a few and I have some good ideas ( I think) for others, but I like what Reagan and Koehler have come up with, and I think it's good practice for any writer. I mean, if you think about it, writing a picture book is like writing a really concise, really visual story - 150-800 words max., typically. So that makes for excellent practice for those writers who tend to be "wordy".

If you're interested in joining the picture book marathon, it looks like another one is starting up in February of next year. Visit the website to learn more.

Some of my favorites, below:

You can't really go wrong with Corduroy by Don Freeman (Viking Press, 1968). Being obsessed with teddy bears when I was a kid, I must've read this one a hundred times.

I LOVED this book, Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Suess (Random House, 1940), when I was a kid...and still do. Life lessons are learned here...responsibility, empathy, kindness. I still have this one on my bookshelf.

Ah, and finally, The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese (Viking Press, 1933). This could possibly be the book that made me curious to explore the world!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

innovative editing process

My father pointed out this article online in Colorado Country Life, called In the Pages of Crystal Moon. It's about an innovative sci-fi/fantasy writer named Phillip E. Jones, author of Crystal Moon: World of Grayham, who has re-thought the editing and publishing process of his new book. Jones is inviting readers, mainly from high schools, to help him edit and improve his novel. The third edition of Crystal Moon, due out this month, is said to be even better than the first edition, and that is because Jones has been taking the high-schoolers' comments and using them to rewrite his book. Jones self-published the first edition of his book, printing 1,000 copies, and sold them to book stores. With no writing background, he encouraged suggestions, and in the third edition of his book he used approximately 1,400 of the comments he received from readers.

This sounds like a pretty cool process to me, although maybe not for everyone because I'm guessing the printing expenses were quite hefty. But kudos to Mr. Jones for taking a different approach to getting his words out there. The best part is that he seems to be getting young readers excited and involved in the editing process. The article goes on to say that Scott Boshazy, a composition teacher based in Nevada, bought 176 copies of Crystal Moon for his students, whom he named "Jones' editing team". Being editors to Jones' book has made them excited to read book number two and I can imagine, has given them a new appreciation for writers.

I think this is a great idea for all teachers to pick up and utilize - and a new approach for writers not wanting to join a traditional writing group. It must be so cool for those kids to get their feedback taken seriously and to see their suggestions put into print! And a good marketing tool for Mr. Jones as well, because now I'm curious, as I'm sure are others, to read his books!

(to read the whole article visit Colorado Country Life. You can order Jones' books here.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

reluctant readers

There's a great little article in the Oct. 2009 issue of Kiwi magazine , called Tikes 2 Teens, written by Michelle Carlton and Stephanie Hacker, which goes through kids' health and behavior issues from birth to age 18.

Kids ages 6 thru 8 can be reluctant readers, especially boys. So the article mentions ways to get them to read, such as: let your child choose what they want to read - even if it isn't a book that you would choose for them, let them pick it out themselves; go beyond books- read them anything that can be read, including magazines and street signs to help them build reading and comprehension skills; and most importantly, make it fun! Reading shouldn't be a chore.

There are not enough books for boys! This is something that I hear over and over again. Perhaps that's because people know boys are more resistant to read so writers aren't focusing on them, or maybe it's because there are more female writers publishing who feel more comfortable writing for and about girls? I'm not really sure, but I do know that if you have a good idea for a "boy" story, you should write it!

What are some of your favorite books old or new, written for boys? I of course love anything by Roald Dahl; Jerry Spinnelli's Maniac Magee; Louis Sachar's Holes; and Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Desperaux is one of my favorites! I once saw Ms. DiCamillo do a reading at a bookshop in SF, and there were equal part boy and girl readers in attendance. She was brilliant with the audience and so easy-going and friendly! Has anyone read any of Jeff Kinney's books from the series, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

Friday, November 13, 2009

the stephen king of children's books

Being that today is Friday the 13th, I'd like to dedicate this notorious day to thriller writer, R. L. Stine (Robert Lawrence Stine) - the "Stephen King of children's books". Stine was born in Columbus, Ohio, and started to write when he found a typewriter in his attic at age nine. He got mostly B's in school and was pretty terrible in math (I can relate) and hated gym. In 1965 he moved to New York City to become a writer (ah, the city of dreams). Stine has sold over 300 million books and written many series including; Mostly Ghostly, Rotten School, Goosebumps, Fear Street, and The Nightmare Room. If you haven't read any of his books then you'd better get on it. And if you have kids or know kids who like to feel their hearts racing, this is your author. Actually, Stine has also written books for adults including; Superstitious, The Sitter, and Eye Candy. I've felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end from reading his books - granted, I do get scared easily - but there's no doubt, this man has a natural gift.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

a change of things and cognisance

I love writing magical-realism and sci-fi/fantasy. Magical-realism, if I'm explaining it correctly, is a story based in our world but with magical elements, and sci-fi/fantasy, is well, for simplicity's sake, Harry Potter... You're probably wondering where I'm going with this? Let me tell you...

In my head, are dozens of ideas brewing for stories written in the magical-realism genre, but today I came to the realization that I think I would like my next book to be based on something more ordinary. I don't mean ordinary as in boring, because really what is ordinary? But as I was trying to explain to a friend's mother-in-law the other day, I write mainly magical-realism only because I find it easier for my mind to go to a far out place, rather than regurgitate stories from my childhood. She didn't quite know where I was coming from and thought it was odd that it would be easier for me to create a story from the twisted depths of my mind, rather than what happened to me in 2nd grade. But my response was precisely that, it's not easy to grab a story from youth and turn it into something that will keep readers turning the page. So, maybe it's because I didn't have an ordinary childhood, or maybe because I like to see the quirks in people, but I've decided that my next novel may just have to be a "simple" book based off of my childhood. My mother remarried when I was seven and I had a rough time with it, especially because her new husband (my step-dad) made my sister and I eat jumbo-sized salads for dinner every night instead of the mac-and-cheese we were used to - sounds silly now, but wasn't then. And also because we had to move back and forth between northern and southern California because of his job. These are the events that may seem ordinary in the long run, but when you're 11 or 12 they can almost break know what I mean?

Sorry if I'm rambling, and thanks to you who managed to make it through my midnight scribble, but if I have made a point, it's just that the ordinary is never that. Each of us must go through specific, sometimes trying events in life which get us to where we are today. And it's exactly those events which make us who we are.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

we're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of OZ!

L. Frank Baum (b.1856-1919) was the legendary author of the Oz Series, the most famous of those books being The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first of the series and originally published in 1900. Baum went on to write 13 sequels as well as other various works. The L in L. Frank Baum, stands for Lyman, a family name that Baum disliked and so preferred to go by his middle name, Frank, instead.

Glinda of Oz was the final Oz book and was published a year after Baum's death in 1920. But the Oz series was continued long after his death by other various authors who wrote an additional 19 books.

Baum had many interests, including a fascination with theatre, and wrote plays as well as performed under the stage names, Louis F. Baum, and George Brooks. Once, when Baum was touring with a theatre in Richburg, NY, it caught fire and destroyed not only the theatre, but the only known copies of many of Baum's scripts, including, ironically, Matches, the title of the parlor-drama playing there.

I love these black and white illustrations from a 1956 series of the Oz books, published by The Reilly & Lee Co., in Chicago. For The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum worked with illustrator, W.W. Denslow. When the book came out in 1900, it was the best-selling children's book for two years after its initial publication. After 1904, and for the remainder of the Oz series, Baum worked primarily with illustrator, John R. Neill.

Baum declared that he had written his last Oz book several times during the development of the series, however, by popular demand and insistent letters from children, he was persuaded to return to it time and time again.

These are some of the illustrations from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy Gale looks quite different how she was originally imagined, compared to that of performer Judy Garland in MGM's 1939 movie.

Dorothy confronting the Wizard of Oz, and in a dreadful mess with the cowardly lion and the flying monkeys.

The book Ozma of Oz was mentioned by one of the editors at the conference I was at recently and it inspired me to go back and read some of the books from the Oz series. I remember the evil Wheelers from that book and how they scared me as a kid, and also the lunch boxes hanging from trees which Dorothy picked and ate.
What is your favorite Oz book?

Friday, November 6, 2009

original gossip girls

The original Gossip Girls return, as an article in this week's New York magazine says of Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books. Born in 1892, Lovelace wrote 10 novels following turn-of-the-century best friends, Betsy Ray and Tacy Kelly from age 5 to adulthood. "Think Serena and Blair of Gossip Girl with lower hemlines and smaller budgets."

HarperCollins is reissuing three of the books with forwards written by author Meg Cabot, columnist Anna Quindlen, and crime writer Laura Lippman. Meg Cabot (think Princess Diaries), said in the NY Mag article, "In an age when teenagers openly discuss blow jobs, she found Betsy's concerns about, say, holding hands with boys oddly empowering. Plenty of girls today are freaked out about sex...these books allow them to slip back into a world where it wasn't expected."

I admit, I've yet to read these, I was more into Sweet Valley Twins when I was in junior high and high school, but I especially like any books about young women that are "female empowerment books", as Anne Quindlen says.

Maybe it's a testament to getting older, but I find taking a step back to when things seemed simpler...refreshing. If you ask me, there are too many examples, be it with t.v. shows or current books, in which teens are having sex and drinking. Yes I watch the new 90210 sometimes, and even The Vampire Diaries, which I blogged about recently, but although I find them at times to be entertaining, it bothers me that they show kids hanging out at bars and drinking like they're adults - where is the innocence! When I lived in New York City a couple of years ago, I went to dinner with some friends one night on the Upper East Side, where very obviously underage kids (15, 16) were being served liquor. The waiters were happily bringing pitcher after pitcher of Sangria over to their table, and when my friends and I confronted our waiter about it, he simply turned around and walked away - we didn't get such great service after that...

So yeah, what you see in Gossip Girl obviously really does exist.

As Quindlen points out, "...the mores of the two girls (in Lovelace's books) may be antediluvian, but their goals are modern." The article goes on to say that the Betsy-Tacy books are currently quite popular, but I'm curious to know if the readers are older, nostalgic women who were fans when they were kids, or if actual teens-of-today are reading them? I predict that my two teenage nieces are about to get a package from Amazon...

(Pick up the Nov. 9th, 2009 issue of New York Magazine to read more. "Original Gossip Girls- The Return of Maud Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy Books", written by Alexandra Lange).