Sunday, April 26, 2009

The T-Rex Biting at my Heels

The weekend is nearly over, and I haven't made it to fifty pages. That T-Rex is catching up to me...

HOWEVER, I'd like to add that I'm no Sit-n-Take-It Cavewoman. I am proud of what I've accomplished this weekend, and eventually, that T-Rex will lag behind, gasping in the dust, and find some other poor soul to chase after. I, on the other hand, will finish this book because I am one bad-ass cavewoman.

Me (in theory)

If I end up at only 25 pages, I'll be ok with that because if I hadn't set out to write 50, I might not have ended up with any at all. (And so far, this is turning out to be a darned good first draft.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fifty-Page Sprint

I am about to start my fifty-page sprint. Wish me luck. I hope I can out-run that T-Rex.

I'm at Panera, and I just rode my Vespa here, since the weather was nice and I didn't have a kiddo with me. It's been so long since I rode the Vespa that Jim called out after me---"Will you be ok?!" Apparently, it's like riding a bike, so after the first twenty feet or so, I was able to zip around confidently. Ahhhhhh.

Ok. So. Really. Back to work!

Had to add: Came here without a pen. Borrowed one from a lady (she gave it to me) says "Harley-Davidson." Ironic or what?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Silver Phoenix Video

My friend Cindy Pon, who is in my critique group from San Diego (unfortunately, I participate long-distance), has a lovely book coming out next Tuesday called SILVER PHOENIX: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia.

I'd tell you a bit about it, but her video does a much better job than I ever could. So, without further ado, here it is:

Nice music, too, no?

And to show my family's enthusiasm for Cindy's book, here's E just before bedtime:

She's holding a tiny dragon, too. I did my best to get a smile. Mostly, she would just bat her eyes at the camera or sulk, so I was lucky to get what I got.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My YA Pre-schooler

Yesterday, I took E and H to the library. After running amok in the children's section, E made her way to the Young Adult section and nestled in, right away.

She's nearly through with potty training now, so she's move on. No more Mo Willems, I guess. Now she's reading...what book is that in the pic? SHELF LIFE, by Robert Corbet. I've never read it, but she really really wanted to check it out*. And she had to check it out by herself. (Of course.)

My little girl is growing up so fast! She hasn't had an accident in two days (she's in pull-ups at night time, though). So no more poopy awards for us, I hope. At least, not for two years or so.

On a completely unrelated topic, we have figured out where we'll be moving to this summer: Syracuse, NY. Anyone from Syracuse? We'll be going up in June to find a place to live, and then actually moving there at the start of August. (Sadly, no SCBWI LA for me this year.) My husband will be starting his PhD program in Physics, which will take FIVE YEARS. Yes, FIVE years. We'll be poor grad students for FIVE YEARS. (No, really, I'm fine.) So, for FIVE YEARS, we'll be living off of his TA pay, unless I get another job or somehow learn to write more books at a faster pace. Ones that sell would be nice, too. (I'm trying to be patient. I really am.) So, long snowy winters, here we come.

And on yet another unrelated topic, I'm doing something rather exciting this weekend: I'm locking myself in the guest room and writing fifty pages. I'm calling it my "50-page sprint." I told my husband he's responsible for both kids all weekend long, with the exception of feedings and night-time. Hopefully, it'll work out, he won't knock down the door, and I'll end up late Sunday night with fifty reasonably well-written first-draft pages. I'm a reviser and not a sprinter, so this is like taking a person who does long, casual, perfect-form runs and placing them in front of a ravenous T-Rex on the edge of the Grand Canyon.** Hmm. That's an idea. I shall print off a pic of a T-Rex and tape it to the wall.

* We did not check it out. Instead, I hid it and we got KNUFFLE BUNNY TOO, by Mo Willems. And we love it!!

** Not that my books are "perfect" in any way.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My First Blog Award

My electronic friend (now, he's not merely made of electronic gadgets or anything) Paul, who blogs at the Murphblog, created an award for my last post about E's potty training days.

Now, I am red in the face. I'm honored, of course, to have won anything (as usual). Thank you, Paul! You made me feel, for a day, as if I'm actually funny. Usually this blog gets no action. (Ok, so that sounded bad.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A story of my life

The Girl Who Cried, "Poop!"*

Once there was a little girl who was learning how to use the potty. She was doing very well, and had even made it through half a day without any accidents, when her mommy did a very mean thing: she put her in her room to take a nap. She wasn't allowed to get out of bed.

While her mommy was feeding her baby brother and trying to put him down for a nap, she called out, "Mommy, I pooped!" Mommy ran into the room to see what had happened, but there was no poop. And the little girl shook her head when offered a chance to go to the toilet.

Five minutes later, she called out, "Mommy, I want to poop!"

And Mommy ran into the room, leaving a wailing baby behind. But sadly, no poop.

This went on for two more times, although one time she just called out, "Mommy, I want to go to the potty."

Mommy grew angry. The baby wasn't sleeping at all. In fact, he was crying and showing the world what Mommy was really feeling.

Once again, the little girl called out, "I'm poopy! Mom! Poop!"

But this time, Mommy ignored her. Instead, Mommy twittered angrily about her annoyances of the day. Mommy fumed. Mommy wanted a nap.

Forty-five minutes later, the little girl banged on her bedroom door. "Mommy, I want out! Let me out!" Mommy, feeling guilty by now, complied.

And then she shreeked.

Poop was smeared on the walls. Poop was smeared on the carpet. And poop was wiped on the blankets.

"I said I pooped," the little girl said, smiling and fluttering her eyes.

* This is mildly gross, but if you made it to here, you probably read it already anyway and therefore this disclaimer is a waste of pixels.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A title and a new MC

I have focused on nothing but my WIP the past few days and tonight, one character pulled the flying carpet out from under my feet. In fact, she decided that I wasn't going to write the book in close-third. Instead, it's all about her and how she has completely messed up. And she wants me to write it in first person. (I actually feel relieved.)

She also gave me a blessing: a working title. Something I never truly had before. (No, not gonna tell you.)

Because I'm re-starting (for the third time? fourth time?), I have to put myself into First Draft Bootcamp and get some words on the page. I've penned in a date on the calendar in which I will do nothing for a whole weekend but write the first draft (at least 50 pages of it) and nurse the baby (because, well, no one else can do it). Jim has graciously, albeit reluctantly, agreed to the plan.

This is still the re-telling of the Arabian Nights tale, but with my own little narrative twist.

And that's all I'm going to say about it. For now.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Poetry Friday

This week, I bring you an ancient Arabian poem:

On Fatalism

Not always wealth, not always force
A splendid destiny commands;
The lordly vulture gnaws the corpse
That rots upon yon barren sands.

Nor want, nor weakness still conspires
To bind us to a sordid state;
The fly that with a touch expires
Sips honey from the royal plate.

---The Holy Imam Shafay

I like this one because it's not about love, or spring, or beauty, but about life and death. The circle of life, really.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Elijah of Buxton

Want to read a book that makes you cry a little and laugh a lot*? Christopher Paul Curtis's book, Elijah of Buxton is the perfect book. It is also the best example of a character-driven novel I can think of. It's also a wonderful example of "voice." The plot is good, don't get me wrong, but I could listen to Elijah talk about anything for another two hundred pages, if Mr. Curtis would have let me. I loved Elijah. I wanted to step right into the book Thursday Next style and meet him.

Elijah is growing up in the Canadian community of freed and runaway slaves just prior to the U.S. Civil War. He is the first free child born in the community and has a story about that and nearly everything that has happened to his town, his neighbors, and himself. He is also greatly afraid of snakes, but he will tell you all about that right off the bat.

This book isn't all laughs, though. On its deeper level, it's about freedom and slavery, good people who risk their lives and those who risk others' lives for their own.

I promise you when you crack open the book, you won't be able to put it down. And you'll want to step into the book and shake hands with Elijah. This is historical fiction at its very best. Oh yeah, and it won the Newbery Honor in 2008.

* Warning: Do not read at the gym while on the tred-mill or you will laugh yourself right off of it and land on your fanny.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poetry Friday--with a Guest Poet!

For Poetry Friday and National Poetry Month, I am pleased to introduce you all to Courtney Hartnett! Courtney is a poet I met during a teen writing workshop I taught last August. Her first book of poetry, Eleanor's Angel, is due out April 15th from Wild Leaf Press.

I was fortunate to read some of Courtney's prose as well as her poetry and I can say she's got quite the talent. Her poems are full of voice and bring you right into moment.

Courtney grew up in the rural Northern Neck of Virginia. Her life in the country has inspired her to write since childhood. She has won awards through the international level for speaking and writing, including a national honorable mention in the 2008 Library of Congress Letters About Literature competition and first place in the 2008 United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth International Speech Contest. In her spare time, Courtney enjoys horseback riding, running with friends, painting, playing guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, and raising chickens.

Without further ado, here is an interview with Courtney:

Amber: What inspires you as a writer?

Courtney: I think one of the key aspects of the “writer personality” is that you can find inspiration in anything – as long as you’re looking. I’ve been inspired by passengers on buses and flowers in fields. I enjoy writing about animals, especially horses, who I think are really the most poetic of all.

Amber: I agree with you on horses. I'm having to study them right now for my new book. Who was your first inspiration as far as writing poetry?

Courtney: The first poem I remember writing was when I was about seven. It was about a sled dog who was pulling a crate of medicine to children who were snowbound in Nome, Alaska. I was really fascinated with sled dogs when I was little; I read Gary Paulsen books about them and watched Balto. It was really ironic that the poem rhymed, because now all I write is free verse.

Amber: I have a hard time with rhyming, as well. How does your poetry describe you?

Courtney: I think my poetry parallels my personality – I’m somewhat quiet, and I notice a lot. My poems are like that; they aren’t in-your-face, loud writing, but they’re perceptive. I like to write about little things we pass over in our day-to-day lives – the things we’d think about if we only had more time.

Amber: What do you hope the reader walks away with after reading your first book of poetry?

Courtney: I hope, most of all, that everyone who reads Eleanor’s Angel will keep reading poetry. Most contemporary people dismiss poetry as too esoteric and utterly academic to be a relaxing read. The book’s style is easier to read and relies primarily on rhythm and imagery – not obscure language, bizarre syntax, and barely perceptible allusions. I don’t want my readers to have to dig for a deeper meaning. I want the meaning to be right there, in front of them, so they can truly understand it, absorb it, and make it their own.

Amber: I write with loads of imagery, as well. It brings beauty and truth to the story/poem, I like to think. Your poems are like mine, except, well, much better! What are your strengths and weaknesses as a poet, if any?

Courtney: I think my greatest strength as a writer is my imagery. When Claudia Emerson judged my poems in a contest, she told me that my poems have strong, believable imagery. I also feel that my work has rhythm to it, which poetry really needs. My greatest weakness are my cop-out endings. You don’t see a lot of them in the book because I find them and edit them, but all too often, I can’t think of a good last line and I’m about to get off the bus or switch classes or go do something else, and I scribble down whatever comes to mind. Rushed endings really kill a poem’s momentum and leave a bitter aftertaste. I’m trying my best to stop writing them.

Amber: I think most writers, no matter whether it's poetry or prose, have that problem. You get to the end and you want to be done. Did you find any unusual hurdles in the publishing business since you aren't exactly an aged poet?

Courtney: To be honest, publishing a first book, especially poetry, is difficult whether you’re young or old. I worried that my publisher might have second thoughts when she realized I was 17, but all we had to do was add my mom as a co-signer on the contract because I won’t be 18 til July. Most of all, I try to put my best foot forward with all my poetry submissions. There’s a stereotype of the teen poet; most people think of the kid dressed in black who sits in her room and writes sing-song-y love poetry and morose, badly written breakup songs. I do my best to be sure people realize I’m not that stereotype.

Amber: I am guilty of having been that kind of teenage poet, except for dressing in black. My poems are too depressing, and I wasn't even "depressed." Your poems are true-to-life, like perfect snapshots of moments in time. Ok, now, the most important question of all: What's your favorite ice cream flavor?

Courtney: My favorite ice cream is coconut-chocolate-almond. I tried it once at an ice cream shop in Tappahannock, and it was absolutely delicious! It tastes like an Almond Joy bar as an ice cream cone. I also am a fan of pistachio ice cream; I thought it would taste odd, but it was really quite good.

Amber: My God-o'-Desserts, that sounds awesome. Thank you for visiting my blog, Courtney. I don't think people will read your poems and think, "that was written by a teenager." People will read your poems and realize they're just going to be reading your poems for many years to come. Besides, poets are Old Souls.

Ok, everyone, here’s the publishing info on the book: The publisher is Wild Leaf Press, a small poetry/short fiction press in New Haven, CT. The book can be pre-ordered by visiting the WLP site and clicking “forthcoming.” Please visit the Wild Leaf Press website and check out Courtney's poems! (I'd post one here, but I think it'd be better if you went to the website and looked around, so go! I'm sending you on a mini scavenger hunt for choice words!)