Thursday, April 29, 2010

wrinkle in time goes graphic novel style

Photo credit: photo by J. Culkin on Publisher's Weekly

Publisher's Weekly announced on Monday that Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time is going to be adapted into a graphic novel. Author and cartoonist Hope Larson is the talented, lucky lady who gets to give Wrinkle an edgy overhaul. I wasn't familiar with Larson's work until I read the PW article - I'm not really a graphic novel connoisseur, although I do appreciate the work that goes into them - but I'm very excited to see what Larson comes up with. What will the three Mrs. W's (Who, Whatsit and Which) look like? And the Happy Medium? How about Aunt Beast? one of my favorite characters. And I'm very curious to see what Larson does with IT. Graphic Wrinkle is scheduled to debut in the fall of 2012, in time to coincide with the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle In Time's original pub date.

i'm a mac girl now

Yippee! I'm happy to say that my new MacBook has finally arrived. In fact, this post is coming to you directly from the white keyboard of my beautiful, new purchasesay! I've got a lot to learn. It took me a minute of browsing thru the guidebook to figure out how to use the touchpad -oh, sorry, the trackpad. Now I need to learn how to backspace delete, how to skype my buddies and more importantly, how to transfer my documents and photos over to this fancy new gizmo so I can get my writing on?! In case you were wondering about my old PC, which supported me loyally for the last two years before it decided it'd had enough...the old Notepad did sputter back to life briefly before going into blackout mode again, and now the old gal, seeing her competition, is up and running. But I don't trust her. One bad move and that thing will go black again. Besides, onwards and upwards...I'm a Mac girl now :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

seven reasons why a reader stops reading

There's an interesting article written by Chuck Sambuchino over on the Writer's Digest site titled 7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter. This is interesting for any of you newbie writers hitting road blocks with chapter one (like me).

The first three reasons agents say they stop reading a manuscript are:

1) Generic Beginnings. Agents state that stories which open with the date or the weather do not hold a reader's interest or attention. My writing buddy recently gave me a copy of Donald Maass's The Fire In Fiction (Writer's Digest Books, 2009) where Maass talks about weather as an opener. He says, "Weather openings are common - and dull. At my office, we toss them aside with grunts of impatience." He goes on to say that there are some instances where weather as an opener works and he gives an example. But the only way weather has an affect on readers is "not because it is an outward portent but because it is tied to an inward storm. A lighting flash in the sky is a cliche until it is fused to a bolt of interior tension. Describe the plain old weather and who cares? Provoke anxiety in the readers first and then - brrr- the icy November drizzle gives us a chill."

2) Slow beginnings. Nothing puts the kabosh on chapter one faster than unnecessary backstory (well, except weather, apparently) Maass says backstory is a low-tension trap that keeps the action from movin' along.

3) Trying too hard. Too many big words = classic newbie writer mistake. If you find yourself turning to your thesaurus more often than not, give it a rest. Or I like to say, if you go back and read your story and forget the definition of the big word you used, you might want to omit it. Remember the Friends episode where Joey writes a letter of recommendation to the adoption agency for Monica and Chandler? He changes "hearts" to "aortic pumps."

Hop on over to the Writer's Digest site to read the four other reasons agents stop reading your first chapter. And happy writing ~

homeless man left for dead

This is off the subject of this blog and what I try to focus on, I'm hesitant to even write this, but I feel like I need to comment on the recent story about the homeless man who was left for dead on the sidewalks of NYC after trying to help someone. I hate to say this, but I'm not surprised that no one stopped to help the man, Mr. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax. It's sad that this is forever how his name will be remembered. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

I say that I am not surprised, because I was once hit by an SUV when I was living in New York City, and numerous people walked right on by me before one person (reluctantly) stopped to see if I was okay. I was waiting in a crosswalk on the Upper East Side, directly across from the 77th street subway station (and a hospital) when I heard a woman scream. Traffic was going south so I was looking right, and when I looked to my left where the woman was pointing, all I saw was a big bumper and then wham. I was standing just at the edge of the curb and was knocked a few feet out into the cross street. My purse and my umbrella went flying from my hands. I thought that both of my arms were broken. I was completely in shock and couldn't move. The owner of the SUV, who was illegally parked and had backed up into a pedestrian crosswalk, stopped for a split second, didn't get out, then just drove away. The light turned green and people started crossing the street. One group of 20-somethings passed me laughing and a girl pointed behind her saying "There's a hospital right there." Several other people walked by and all of them just stared. No one stopped the SUV from driving away. I was still sprawled out in the street and couldn't move. I tried to get up but my arms were useless. One young man asked if I was okay. When I didn't reply because I was still in shock, he began to walk away (I guess he thought I was being rude for not answering quickly). When I realized that I could be lying there for who knows how long because I couldn't push up off my arms to stand, I yelled out after him and asked him if he could help me to my feet. He picked me up under my arms, then quickly walked off.

I did go to the hospital after that. Amazingly, I didn't break anything but I had to wear a sling on my right arm for a couple of days. The x-ray technician at the hospital was disgusted when I told him my story, and amazed that I hadn't broken any bones. I was told later, when I tried to report the hit-and-run to the local precinct, that I should have called an ambulance even though I was just feet from an emergency room. They couldn't make a report because I hadn't called 911.

So reading this article about Mr. Tale-Yax brings back fresh memories. In fact I'm shaking as I write this I'm still so angry about what happened to me. It's a reminder, a terrible one, that we should all be paying better attention to our fellow human-beings. I'm trying not to judge the people who walked past Mr. Tale-Yax without intervening. I know there is a fear for some in getting involved. But are we so jaded and busy that if a person is bleeding to death, or gets hit by a car, we can't stop to see if they are okay? If this had happened anywhere else, in a suburb or smaller city, do you think Mr. Tale-Yax might still be alive?

Monday, April 26, 2010

plastiki going strong

Photo credit: check out Plastiki's flickr photos

The Plastiki has been at sea for over one month now. You can read the latest updates from the mastermind behind the recycled plastic bottle boat, David de Rothschild, here. He talks about missing his dog (I would be so sad to leave my Sadie for that long), what it's like sharing such a small space with six other people, how the boat is handling the sea, and there's also an awesome trailer to watch about the Plastiki voyage and discoveries....

from when I was a kid - how do I love thee?

Yes, the above color-pencil drawing was done by junior high. Although, something I would draw now would look very similar. This is why I'm so envious of all you illustrators - I WISH I could draw! Just like I wish I could play the piano and speak fluent French.

But you can't be good at everything, and this isn't the 1800's when women were expected to know how to sew a dress while playing the violin and making dinner at the same time. I digress...

So I'm ashamed of my art, yet it also gives me a giggle. Anyway, I wanted to share another poem I wrote in junior high called, How Do I Love Thee? By the way, this is from the same book of poems where my teacher wrote that I should think about majoring in writing in college...and I earned an A. Read more about that here.

On the self-evaluation page I wrote that this poem was my favorite: "I like it because I love the ocean and the beach. It's a nice place to be and you can have lots of fun going there and writting about it." I spelled writting with two T's back then. oops. Maybe it's because I'm a Pisces, but I still have a fascination with the ocean. I could literally sit on the beach all day and stare at waves...

How Do I Love Thee?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love the color, the depth, the beauty
My mind can glide with your beautiful waves
I love the freshness and the solitude
I love the touch of the warm golden sand
My hands can sift through salty water
I love the sound you make when you crash down
I love the smell of your morning dew
The seagulls that gracefully fly around
I love the oceans blue, soft, silky waves
My feet slip on your green, slimy seaweed
I love to run on the ocean front waves
I love thee mountains that stretch around you
Mostly I just love being around you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

man of the woods: gary paulsen

"Go home and kill your t.v.'s. Television is carbon-monoxide for the mind." That was just one of the statements made by famed Newbery Honor writer, Gary Paulsen, at last night's reading for his new book Woods Runner (Wendy Lamb Books, 2010). You might know Paulsen for some of his other works like Hatchet (1987), probably the most famous and beloved of all his books and one that is adored by millions of young readers, or Dogsong (1985) (another Newbery Honor winner). In fact, the first three books he wrote for kids were Newbery Honor winners.

After a month of touring with Woods Runner, Mr. Paulsen, gray-bearded, wearing a baseball cap, navy suspenders, a turtleneck and blue jeans, wound down the tour in the town of Danville, CA, where my critique partner and I saw him last night. We arrived early and stepped into a fast-growing line filled with excited kids holding various Gary Paulsen books in their eager little hands. And I'm happy to say that the majority of kids last night were boys. No surprise there really (if you've ever read a Paulsen book you know they're filled with weapons, woods and wounds) but great to see, nonetheless, given the fact that boys are notoriously reluctant readers. In fact, Paulsen said that when he first approached a major publisher back in the 1980's, "You'd know his name if I said it," the editor told him that a book for boys would never sell because boys don't read. "Why not?" Gary asked. "Because," said the editor, "there are no books for boys." Mr. Paulsen laughed and hit his forehead.

Gary Paulsen signing a book

Mr. Paulsen admits that he was a terrible student when he was younger. "I'd like to stand up here and tell you that I went to Harvard and got a degree in literature. I'd like to tell you that, but it wouldn't be true," he said. No, instead he found himself, raised by poor drunk parents who didn't really care, repeating grades and skipping the majority of 9th grade to escape to the woods - the one place, he says, where he can always go, despite what's happening in his life, to feel better. The tipping point in Mr. Paulsen's young life was the day he stumbled into a library and was given a library card. "I'd never been given anything in my life," he said. "That librarian changed my life." She gave young Paulsen a book. He took it home to the basement in his apartment building to read. Six weeks later he'd finally finished the book. He brought it back to the librarian. She gave him another book. This time it took him five weeks to read. Then he was given another, until eventually he was reading two books a week.

When he was 17-years-old, Paulsen forged his parents signature and enlisted in the Army. There he met a man who would further change his life - a rough man who didn't have a problem putting his hands on you. Paulsen found himself pushed down to the ground numerous times when disobeying orders, but each time he was walloped, he'd pick himself back up again. After the Army, he married and aimed high, getting a job as an engineer and making more money than most people in those days. He was living the American dream, yet something was still missing...

Eager readers lined up to get their Paulsen books signed

He quit his high-paying job and comfortable life, and moved to Hollywood, CA where he auspiciously discovered that two of his neighbors were editors. They made him write one short story a night and over 60/cent martinis they'd critique his work. They tore it up, but he learned. The best thing was that he learned. While in Hollywood, he met actor Steve McQueen, worked on scripts and got sucked into the "Hollywood scene" which was not for him. So what did he do? He escaped to the woods...

Fast-forward a bit and now living in a remote part of the Minnesota woods, Paulsen wrote his first two stories (and sold them for about $350/each). While there he also tells us how his love of dog racing began, and his feeble start, "I was saying 'Mush! Mush!' but these dogs had no idea what I was talking about." In fact, it was in the woods, while competing in the 1,180-mile Alaskan dog-sled race called the Iditarod, that he wrote the first draft of Hatchet. A funny side note was his story about the first time he competed in the Iditarod. His lead-dog, Cookie, was panicking the first day of the race, so someone loaned him another lead-dog who he was told had done races before. "Instead of turning, that dog went straight, cutting a path through the crowd." He laughs. The audience pictures sixteen dogs and Paulsen being dragged on a sled over pavement and through streets and neighborhood yards. "We passed a cocker-spaniel who I'm sure never left his yard again."

At one point, Paulsen mentions what inspired him to write for children and about the woods. He was out with his dogs, during one of the races, and while passing over a hill and cluster of trees, he saw the dogs' breath rise up and fall over their backs in a ghostly mist. He stops to remember and takes a deep breath "I've never seen anything so beautiful."

Paulsen didn't read from his new book, I was hoping he would, but he didn't. And at the end of telling his life story, he only had time for a couple of questions. He mentioned how he never knew Hatchet would become such a success and was honored, when in 2007 the book actually helped save a young boy's life. The 12-year-old boy wandered off from his North Carolina boy scout troop and was lost in the woods for several days. His father said he was hopeful that some of the lessons his son had learned from reading Hatchet, had sunk in - most importantly, staying calm. Paulsen said that he was in the middle of butchering some of the catches from his trappings in the Alaskan woods, when he was called in to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN. He said he showed up at the studio in Alaska covered in blood. "It would have been really interesting if I'd been carrying my axe, too," he laughs. You can read a transcript of that CNN interview, here.

Paulsen signing away

I didn't stay to get my copy of Hatchet signed. I brought it with me but the line was filled up quickly with kids. I always love going to author events like this, especially with writers as well-known as Gary Paulsen, because it's interesting to see the writer's interaction with his fans. At the beginning of the night, the principal of the school where the event was being held, told the kids they could come up to the front and sit on the ground. Wow did they move fast! Before you knew it the entire floor in front of Mr. Paulsen was covered with little Indian-style sitting bodies. As I mentioned, I wished there'd been more time for Paulsen to answer questions. Dozens of anxious hands were waving in the air. But in the end only three questions were asked (and only two of them I remember): "What was your favorite book to write?" a little girl with black hair asked. "Woods Runner, and Hatchet." "What was your favorite dog?" asked a round-cheeked boy in white. "Cookie," said Paulsen, matter-of-fact. "No doubt, Cookie."

Thursday, April 22, 2010


If you read this blog you know that I love dogs. So how could I not absolutely love the book by that title, Dogs by author/illustrator Emily Gravett. That is why I would like to appoint Ms. Gravett as my newest pick for flipside featured artist. Not only is her story about loving all types of dogs adorable, her illustrations are fantastic, too. Pencil and watercolor make up the winsome pictures of all different types of dogs from "stroppy dogs to soppy dogs," to "dogs that play and dogs that won't" (ah, Sadie falls into the latter).
Ms. Gravett has also written numerous other books for kids like The Odd Egg, Orange Pear Apple Bear, and Monkey and Me. Of course I think Dogs is my favorite, even if she didn't add any Norwich Terriers... ;)

Check out her website where you will enter through the door of an old library and inside find all kinds of wonderful things. And if you know anyone who loves dogs as much as me, this book would make a great gift for adults and kids alike.

(All photos from Emily Gravett. Gravett, Emily. Dogs. London: Macmillan, 2009).

Monday, April 19, 2010

photo pops and three of the four corners

On the road again, photo pops was on the road again... This time we're taking a trip through Arizona, Colorado and Utah... a little factoid, did you know that along with New Mexico, the three previous states mentioned all touch at one corner making up the only such geographical point in the United States called the Four Corners.

Spring storm over sandstone rocks near the border of Arizona and Utah.

Sandstone rocks in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona.

Looking west towards Buckskin Mountains.

Gobble-gobble-gobble. Turkey's crossing the road in Zion National Park. By-the-by, have I mentioned how the turkeys are out in my own neighborhood? I come across them almost every day that I go for a run, and lemme tell you, they're not always so pleasant. They are quite beautiful when they spread their wings, but when they do that it usually means they're upset or being protective about one thing or another. One of them even hissed at me the other day. I swear I was minding my own business, these birds just have a bit of attitude..if you ask me.

Waterfall in Zion National Park.
Tree amongst red rock. (This is my favorite).

(Okay, I like this one, too). Sandhill Cranes migrating to Yellowstone for their summer break.

Where can you find sand, snow and water all in one place? The Great Sand Dunes National Monument at 8,000 feet, near Alamosa, CO. That's where.

Sand dunes. Thirty-square miles to be exact. Some as tall as 750 feet.

Sand dunes at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Southern Colorado.

Good stuff, right? Please feel free to share which photo you liked the best. Next, photo pops is headed for Switzerland- that is only if Iceland's volcano stops erupting...

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

Saturday, April 17, 2010

what's a writer to do when she's not writing?

On Thursday my laptop finally decided it'd had enough. One minute the screen was filled with words - my book Trevelyn's Shimmer, to be exact - and the next nothing but a black screen. I'm really trying not to freak out because I've been pretty consistent with backing-up my work. Of course, the one day I didn't back-up the edits of my manuscript was the day my computer went ka-put. Luckily, I had been procrastinating that day so I didn't make any major changes, and I'm still hoping my work can be recovered... So now, I'm pulling together some savings, which totally sucks and really hurts, and trying to decide what kind of laptop I should get (your suggestions are totally welcome, by the way).

I've had two free days to spend not-writing. Two days that I would normally be glued to my computer. Two days, too long. See, I'm not one of those writers who waits around for inspiration to strike. If I have a day off to write, I write. Yes, sometimes I spend chunks of time staring into space, but my mind is always working and thinking about what to do next in my story.

I was talking with my step-mother this morning about my laptop issue. "I feel so helpless," I said. "I don't know what to do with myself and all of this free time not writing."
"Read," she said. "Why don't you just sit down and read?"

And she's so right! I do read. I read quite a lot, actually. But I haven't been reading enough. I've been so hyper-focused on revising my book, that any time spent away from it makes me anxious. Yet, I know it's so important for writers, published or not, to keep abreast on the news in our industry. I've cut back on some of the subscriptions I used to buy - probably like most people - however, I still get Writer's Digest - a must-have for writers, in my opinion. That said, there's a pile of unread Writers Digests collecting dust in my room. I also have the March/April 2010 SCBWI bulletin (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) to read. And countless websites like Publisher's Weekly, and agent blogs with invaluable information like Nathan Bransford's and Jill Corcoran's, as well as the Children's Book Council site, where I was happy to learn of the Children's Choice Awards - that's the most popular books for kids decided upon by kids. Plus, so many more websites, that are sadly saved on my dang busted laptop under My Favorites...ah! I'm trying not to freak out....

One day Spider, one day....

Inside, such good advice from my peers...

Oh, Cricket. You know you want one of my stories!

It could be so easy to sit around and snack and watch episodes of Top Chef Masters and Vampire Diaries, while I decide on which laptop to buy (I clearly don't make quick decisions). But I know I need to be doing more. So I will go to my local bookseller and buy the latest issues of magazines that I dream of being in - a la Cricket, Spider and Highlights. I buy them, the cashier asks if I am a teacher, I say no, sometimes they give me a strange look (I guess I don't look like a person with kids), then I'll go home and read and study. Hey! You want to know a great place to find suggestions on pieces to write?...straight from the mouths of babes, as a matter of fact? The Letterbox section in Cricket Magazine. Yeah! That's the place where readers write in on what they really liked reading, what they want to read more of, and what outside books they're currently loving, or not. Kids chime in on topics ranging from their favorite animals to chronic diseases affecting their family or friends. Seriously, check it out. Letterbox, and the-like, gold-mine for writers.
So, now that I'm more caught up on my reading, I realize I need to make a calendar to set aside "reading-time" and "writing-time." It's just so easy to get sucked into writing a book or short story for one of my dream magazines.
And by the way, I really would appreciate any suggestions anyone has on what kind of laptop I should buy. I'm torn between biting the bullet and investing in a Macbook Pro, or going the less expensive route and getting another PC...?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"U @ 50"

"A palindrome reads the same backwards as forward. This video reads the exact opposite backwards as forward. Not only does it read the opposite, the meaning is the exact opposite."

A friend of mine sent me this link for a video that a 20-year-old created for a contest called "U @ 50" by AARP. Very clever. I'm always so impressed when someone that young creates something so deeply insightful.

Watch the short video here: Lost Generation.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

who? which one? why, mrs. whatsit, dear lamb

I think it's safe to say that I'm pretty obsessed with Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, right now. I'm reading it again. I've only read Wrinkle three times before, so not a lot...yet. But every time I open it up I like it better and better. I can't get enough of little Charles Wallace and I love Meg Murry and Calvin O'Keefe's sweet friendship. Sometimes in my own writing I struggle with writing believable relationships. I like the quirks and peculiarities of the characters in Wrinkle. How can you not admire Ms. L'Engle for creating such unique, forward-thinking kids before their time?

That said, my word-of-the-week posts should be renamed word-of-the-month, or every-other-month, because I've been such a slacker! Sorry about that. In any case, here's a new word straight from the pages of A Wrinkle in Time...

Supine (adj): Lying on the back or with the face upward. Lethargic. Sluggish.
Used in a sentence: “Oh, dearie me,” Mrs. Whatsit said, lying on her back in the overturned chair, her feet in the air, one in a red and white striped sock, the other still booted... “If you have some liniment I’ll put it on my dignity,” Mrs Whatsit said, still supine.

(L’Engle, Madeline. A Wrinke in Time. New York: Square Fish, 1962).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

queries and personal ads...

I thought this post called "Love is Like a Bottle of Query" on the Rejectionist was quite clever. It's about how manuscript queries that literary agents receive from writers are similar to the personal dating ads found on Craigslist. I think number 4 is my favorite. The whole scenario of being inundated with letters like these literary agents receive from hopeful writers, reminds me of when I worked at Christie's auction house. Every day my inbox would be flooded with adamant letters from people claiming to have found an unknown Picasso in the dumpster behind their house. I can relate to the OMG! Give me a break! moments these literary agents must constantly have......I just hope I'm not one of the writers giving it to them! lesson learned....

Monday, April 5, 2010

what makes a word popular?

Sometimes I hear certain new words in my friends' or acquaintances' lexicon, words that have suddenly become popular, and I wonder how or why they've become so common? Why, all of a sudden, is everyone I know saying "doppelganger" "napalm" or "gravy" when those words didn't even exist in their vocabulary five months ago? (And yes, those are the actual words that have inspired this post...)

popular culture

This is what I've come up with: Pop culture. Yeah, pop culture. Seems obvious, right? So far, people in their 20's and 30's seem to be the main-abusers of the above words, and I figure the major reasons are because we're watching the same shows, reading the same magazines, and viewing similar commentary from friends on social networking sites, like Facebook. You ever read an email from someone and then reply using a word that you haven't used before thinking to yourself "I'm so clever," only to realize that that same word was right there in your friend's email? I have. I revise and delete when that happens so my friend doesn't think I'm an echo, but then I'll use the word in a future email to someone else (sometimes without even thinking), thus creating a chain of popular vocabulary.

popular words, man

A dear friend of mine says "man" a lot. As in, "I worked on this project today that was really tough, man." or "I don't know, it's one of those tricky things, man." After hearing her say this several times, I now find myself using "man" much more

East Coast vs. West Coast

Maybe it's regional? Californians use some interesting slang (like man, although I think that started from an East-Coaster?). When I first moved to New York I worked with people from nearby towns associated with heavy, nasal accents - Long Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey. When I started saying "Bless" after someone sneezed, instead of "Bless you", and pa-jahmas instead of pah-jamas (as I'd been saying it) I realized that my transition into a New Yorker had officially's since reversed.

what about you?

So why do you think some words suddenly become popular? Is it pop culture? Regional? Age? What are some of the popular words that you currently hear, and where are they being used?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

every doggie has a soul and this one smiles

(photo of Smiley Riley courtesy of

You've probably seen the photo of "Smiley Riley" by now. No? I hadn't either until this morning when I opened the Internet and there he was!

Riley's owner, a San Jose, CA resident, gave her pooch a slice of birthday cake for his 1st birthday, and this human-like smile was the result.

This photo made me laugh but then kind of freaked me out at the same time. Doesn't it look like a human is behind those pink-rimmed eyes? This just proves that animals have souls, too.

Now if I could only get Sadie to do something cool like pout...hmmm.