Friday, June 30, 2006

Finding DiscoLand #2

“Seek and ye shall find…something TOTALLY different than what you were looking for.”

Such is the case for those who typed the following words into search engines and discovered us. The Disco Mermaids!

- how to make ganja vegetable oil -
(Dude, don't even bother telling us it's to cook with or run your car.)

- funny foot in mouth -
(So where should I stick my serious foot?)

- big hooters -
(Come on! This is the internet, not a pornshop.)

- platypus preacher -
(I bet he prays to a duckbilled deity.)

- how do mermaids give birth -
(Okay, ready for this? By Sea-section. HA!)

- images three mermaids teaching -
(So far, the only thing you'll learn from us is how NOT to get published...but how to have a blast while you're at it!)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Way Too Embarrassing -- Jay

Lunch today was pretty interesting. Robin and I went to a costume shop to get ideas for this year’s Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators national conference. The theme for the after hours party is Jade Jubilee. If you click Disco! and Mermaids! under our Biggest Hits list, you’ll see what we wore the previous two years.

Our criteria for this year:
1. Jade...obviously.
2. The three of us need to match.
3. No wigs. Dancing + Wigs = Way too much sweat.
4. Cross-dressing is fun!

We thought we’d found the perfect costumes. Robin went into the dressing room first.

“Are you dressed?” I asked.
“Uh...yeah,” she said.
“Can I see?” I asked.
“,” she said.
So I begged. I pleaded.
And finally, she opened the door.
“,” I said.

Let’s just say, if I wore a costume that short, people would be able to tell I wasn’t a real woman from a mile away (okay, maybe not a full mile).

In the end, we did find three matching costumes that fit our criteria...and these costumes will be a lot less drafty.

- Jay

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Inspiration on a Cliff—Robin

I’ve been finding inspiration for my writing in a strange place lately. Near my house is a trail that runs along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Now, it’s a beautiful place and that would make sense that I would find inspiration in nature.

It’s peculiar because the inspiration only hits me when I run along the trail approximately 1.75 miles in. Yes, that is typically when my energy “poops” out and I take a break to push past the sage bushes so I can look over the steep cliff and into the blue-green water. Every time I do this—and I mean EVERY time—I suddenly get an inspirational thought about what to do next in my novel. It’s utterly amazing. I’ve considered trying to run a little farther down the trail to see if the ending of my book will suddenly pop in my head, but unfortunately the trail dead ends at a fence that borders our local nuclear power plant.

Now, those scientific-minded people would say the explanation for this unexplained inspiration must come from one of two sources:
1. By running I release endorphins which pulsate in the limbic corteal regulatory hemisphere of my brain, thus releasing creative thoughts.
2. The chemicals from the nuclear power plant are making me loopy.

Well, I don’t buy either one of those ideas. It’s obvious to me that my inspiration is coming from one source…at the end of that trail sits a little magical leprechaun hiding in the sage brush who can hear my thoughts and sprinkles me with magic dust to pulsate the limbic corteal regulatory hemisphere of my brain, thus releasing creative thoughts. Makes perfect sense.

But please don’t try to locate this magical leprechaun yourself. I’m not sure I’m willing to share this good fortune. (Though there’s probably not too many trails on the coast of California that dead end into a nuclear power plant. DOH!)

Okay, fine. Borrow my leprechaun. But save some magical dust for me. I gotta finish this book somehow!


Friday, June 23, 2006

If Rumsfeld Taught Creative Writing

Lesson #1: Write what you don't know.

Gee-whiz, people, if you write what you know, there won't be a whole heckuva lot to write about. But if you write what you don't know, then--jeepers--there's so much more to explore. Because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns; the ones we don't know we don't know.

Of course, this doesn't apply to me because there's not a heckuva lot that I don't already know.

*italicized words are an exact Rumsfeldian quote...but you knew least, now you know that you know that. You know?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Children's Lit. Myth #3

When asked why the world hasn't heard from Harold or his Purple Crayon in the past few years, 23% of respondents recalled hearing something about him drawing purple wings with his stick o' wax and then flying too close to the sun.

The Study on Children's Book Users & Useful Information (S.C.B.double-U.-I.)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Track&Confirm&Track&... -- Jay

While I appreciate the U.S. Postal Service for introducing a line of stamps commemorating characters in children's literature, I don't appreciate their Track & Confirm option...because I just can't stop using it!

Whenever I submit a manuscript to an agent or editor, I always pay the extra 45-cents so I'll know exactly when it arrives at its destination. Most people use this service to make sure gifts arrive on time (if the gift's going to be late, you can call the recipient to let them know it's literally in the mail and pre-empt any disappointment). But I've never had a manuscript not arrive and I've never had anyone tell me they needed the manuscript by a certain date...usually they don't even know it's coming (I like to think of it as a pleasant surprise!).

When I learn that a manuscript arrived in a timely fashion (as one arrived in NYC on June 14th at 9:42 a.m.), then the real nervousness kicks in. There's still no way to know when the manuscript actually gets read. Why is it taking so long? Did it get lost in the slushpile? Are they taking it to an acquisitions meeting? Are they checking their bank account for the limit on what they can offer? Did they burn it, along with the SASE, and now I'll never know and just have to keep stressing?!?!?!

And then there's the agent who requested the manuscript by e-mail...

- Jay

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Children's Writer's Love Fest --Eve


I love Jay and Robin with all of my heart. There, I said it. I’ve recently been musing over how lucky I am to share my world with them. We talk several times a day, go out to coffee/movies/dinner/lunch/ conferences/bars/dancing/bookstores whenever possible, share the same sense of humor, and think of each other as brilliantly funny. Jay shares my love of movies and Survivor. Robin shares my love of 20-something boys, red wine and toenail polish. My sister always says, “I wish I had a Jay and a Robin to hang out with.”

We often joke that searching for the right editor is like searching for a boyfriend/girlfriend. And you know from my Finding The Right Critique Group blog that I feel the same way about finding writers to hang out with. I want someone who listens, laughs at my jokes, and is honest with me about my writing (“Oh, no you di’int just write that!”), my outfits (“That skirt is so waaay showing your butt!”), and my dancing (“Oh my God, you’re sooo Fergie!”). And as much as we make fun of each other (See above statements), we really genuinely like being together. We also can talk about anything. And I do mean ANYTHING (But I won’t even go there because this is a family show!). What more could I ask for?

New writers always ask me how they should begin. I respond first with a suggestion that they join a critique group. I’m convinced no one can write in a vacuum. I’m lucky to have found wonderful critiquers that have become such great friends. I love that Jay, Robin and I can talk writing for hours, dissecting everything from what we liked/disliked about “Looking For Alaska” to which famous authors/editors we have crushes on to which celebrities we want to make out with (Did that last one have to do with writing? Who cares!).

Yes, we have the perfect relationship. One that has no doubt kept me on the writing path all those times I wanted to quit and go work at Cinnabon (used to dream of being a ‘Fly Girl’ but In Living Color went off the air.) So, THANK YOU, Jay and Robin…for being the wind beneath my wings, my rocks, my churros.

I love y’all, man! And not just because you are editing my novel as we speak. I swear!


Monday, June 12, 2006

Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Writing I Learned from Spongebob—Robin

It’s great having a toddler because I get to spend endless hours watching Spongebob Squarepants. I figure it’s educational because it gives me lots of cute, funny stories to tell my four-year old when he’s done scrubbing the kitchen floors.

Excessive watching of Spongebob has taught me what I like to call the three P’s of writing…

1. Perseverance. Remember the time when Spongebob wasn’t able to pass his driver’s license test? (You love that one, too!?) Well, did Spongebob give up? No! He studied and studied until he realized he would have to have Patrick put a radio in his hat and tell him the answers. Well, for me, Eve and Jay are my Patrick. Only Patrick is a starfish and is very dumb. Which is why Spongebob never passed that driving test. But my Eve and Jay are no dumb starfish. Nope. They have taught me to never give up (usually after an “intervention” and usually at a Starbucks) and to persevere because it’s worth it. At this point, I don’t actually believe them, but they look so cute in their starfish costumes!
2. Passion. Okay, so Spongebob shows passion about a lot of things. His love of crabby patties, jelly fishing, blowing bubbles and studying for his driver’s test. But what’s the most important thing to him? Being the best fry cook he can be. The guy takes his job seriously. He would rather give Mr. Krabs his paycheck than to have to stop being a fry cook. And that’s how I feel about writing. I would be willing to pay some form of national writer’s organization something close to $60 a year, just so that I could be a writer!
3. Pfun. (silent p, but it’s still a p.) No one has pfun like Spongebob. Remember when he and Patrick bought a huge screen TV just so they could play in the box it was delivered in!? Then they explained to Squidward (using flimsy hand movements and a sparkly rainbow graphic…hmmm…) that all it takes to have fun inside a box is your “imagination!” That’s it, Spongebob! The key to successful writing: a box to sit yourself in (office) + your imagination (story writing) + gay innuendos (target audience) = PFUN!

Watching cartoons as a mother has helped my writing immensely. And my floors have never looked better!


Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Pushy Gynecologist -- Jay

In my quest for representation, I’ve been asking my writer friends what they like about their agents. One author wanted to make sure I wasn’t offended that she didn’t offer to speak to her agent about me. She said name-dropping wouldn’t help because the work needs to speak for itself. And I totally agree!

This here’s a true story about how not to ask friends for agent-related benefits.

I used to be in a large writing group that covered all genres of literature. Each month, a member of one of the small-groups read from a piece they were working on. It was Children’s Lit time and I was asked to read. I read my chapter and then informed the group that not only had the manuscript just won SCBWI’s Sue Alexander Award, but it also landed me a big-time agent (obviously, I’m not with her anymore). Unfortunately, this news was delivered to a group that felt Children’s Literature was an oxymoron. So I heard many variations of, “That’s so adorable,” even though what I just read was a suspenseful scene.

One guy came up to me afterwards, begging me to send his manuscript to my agent. “But she only reps children’s books,” I said. This guy was a doctor who wrote medical thrillers (to be precise, he was a gynecologist who wrote awful medical thrillers). And though he had never spoken to me before, suddenly I was his chance to get a foot in the door...of course, he wanted to use my foot. “That’s okay,” he said, regarding my agent’s lack of interest in adult books that suck. “I’m sure she’d give it to someone who does represent them.” I told him, “That’s not how it works. You do the research and you submit to the appropriate agent.”

He found out where I worked and kept coming in, asking me if I’d changed my mind. I hadn’t. And I kept asking him why he was so focused on my agent when there were hundreds of other agents who would love a well-written medical thriller (which, right there, excluded his manuscript). At the following month’s group meeting, he told me that he sent the manuscript to my agent anyway, telling her it came with my recommendation. Was I angry? Yeah, kinda! I wanted to say, “I know this isn’t your area of expertise, but exactly how far is your head stuck up your ---?”

I guess the moral of the story is: Don’t get on an author’s bad side…especially an author with a blog!

- Jay

(And to keep ya up-to-date, I received e-mails from two agents this week requesting to see my YA being from the agent in the first paragraph!)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

How Evie-P Defended Opal Mehta And Her Plagiarism Problem --Eve

I often joke that I have no original thoughts in my little head, which is why I quote movies constantly. Being such a cinephile makes me quite popular with fellow Gen X dudes at parties and stuff, because I can quote Swingers, Stripes and Goodfellas with the best of ‘em. Oh, you think I’m funny? How’m I funny? What am I, like some kind of clown? What am I here to amuse you?


Which got me thinking about poor Kaavya Viswanathan. I never thought the Opal Mehta book sounded interesting or original enough to fetch a half a million-dollar advance in the first place. And, of course, turns out it wasn’t original at all. But I also don’t think we need to criminalize the girl. So, here’s my thing about that…

Just like I watch certain movies over and over multiple times, Kaavya apparently liked to read certain “Chick-Lit” novels over and over. I have no doubt that she unintentionally wrote passages in her novel that were similar to the ones she had read repeatedly as a teen. UNINTENTIONALLY.

Our subconscious mind does strange things. I mean, sometimes I’ll be telling a story, and I’ll be like, “This one time…at band camp…” Then I stop. Wait. Did that really happen to me or did I see that in a movie? It happens. And I really doubt if a brilliant Harvard undergrad would have the bad sense to intentionally plagiarize some very popular teen chick lit novels.

And now some people are pushing for Harvard to kick the girl out! For what? Having such a full brain that she can’t remember which are her original thoughts and which are from favorite novels? Geez…give the girl a break!

Now, Jay will probably say that after defending James Frey and now Miss Viswanathan, my ethics are in question and I should re-think my dream of becoming an author. But I don't care. C’mon. You know I’ve been training to be a cage fighter anyway.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Steak on Monday, Fish on Tuesday—Robin

I’ve been feeling a little fickle lately with my writing…unable to decide which type of writing I enjoy the most. I’ve completed a funny middle grade novel, a serious picture book about a Robin bird and an ostrich (go ahead, you can say it), a zany early reader mystery and have recently found myself completely entrenched in writing a YA about an angry protagonist with an attitude problem.

To me, this problem is kind of like answering the question, “What’s your favorite food?” My answer is “steak.” But I say that only because it’s Monday—the day my non-red meat eating husband works late and I’m actually able to eat red meat in the house. If today were Tuesday, I’d say my favorite food is fish since my non-red meat eating husband would be home for dinner and I’d want to impress him. My favorite food seems to change daily (around my husband’s schedule).

And so does my favorite kind of writing (not around my husband’s schedule). Unless it’s Friday night, when he offers to watch our son so I can go out to dinner with a friend. And this past Friday night, Eve and I sat down to a lovely dinner to discuss my fickle writing problem.

After the first pomegranate martini (with smoke billowing from the top, strangely enough) I told Eve my NEW idea: creative non-fiction!

“Wow, that’s…interesting,” Eve said with a big, lovely smile. “Waitress, another martini!”

I told her all about my idea and justified all the research it would take and created a timeline for getting the project done and determined my target audience. I was committed!

Now, after the SECOND smoke billowing pomegranate martini I changed the project a little bit. “Wait! Instead of non-fiction, what if I make it a fantasy about an orphaned boy who goes to a school for wizards and he and his little English friends share a pair of pants that magically fits all of them!”

“Wow, that’s…interesting,” Eve said with a big, lovely smile. “Waitress, another martini!”

Honestly, I get a little frustrated with my schizophrenic writer’s mind, but then I remind myself that ribeyes are really only tasty on Mondays.

Tomorrow it’s salmon and writing edgy science fiction historical picture books. Tuesday, here I come!


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rubber Chicken for Good Luck -- Jay

What a weird week! I was going to post one bit of exciting news, and then another bit of exciting news came my way. Let’s begin with D.L. Garfinkle. Debby wrote an awesome book called Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl. When I read it, I sent her a fan e-mail because it had been a long time since I’d read such a funny book capturing the awkwardness of growing up male.

Since then, Debby and I have continued corresponding. She was working on the proposal for a chapter book series but was new to writing for that age. I told her that I dabbled in that genre and if she wanted me to look at it, I would. So I critiqued her manuscript and she wound up selling it earlier this week with a six book contract. While I assume Debby could have sold The Supernatural Rubber Chicken series without me (though she’s allowed to debunk that theory if I’m wrong!), it still feels wonderful to play an itsy-bitsy role in bringing something to children that they’re going to love while I wait for my own books to get published.

Which brings me to my next bit of exciting...or at least, Last August, at the SCBWI National Conference, David Steinberg introduced me to his Grosset & Dunlap editor. She was searching for a new humorous boy series and I told her I’d written the first book in just such a series called Lucky Me! So I mailed it to her…and then a few months went by and I mailed a follow-up letter...and then a few months later (yesterday) I got an e-mail. Does this editor want to buy my series? YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! Actually, not really...but it looked awesome all typed out like that. But she liked it a lot, and it might be something she’s interested in, but she had a suggestion on how to make it even better and wants me to resubmit it if I make that change. Which...guess what...I’m gonna do!!!

Maybe I’ll even ask Debby to critique it.

- Jay

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Step Away From the Editor -- Eve

Two years ago at the L.A. Conference I heard a fantastic editor speak. He was funny, concise, professional and looking for funny boy-books. Perfect! So when I saw Mr. Editor at the conference last year, I figured I’d chat with him. He had seemed nice enough.

I saw him at the hotel pool. I went over and said, “Hello.” He ignored me. Later that day I saw him just before he was going to speak at a breakout session I was heading to. I asked him if he still took “eight sentence query letters via e-mail” like he had said last year. His face turned red and he walked away. Hmm...

During the breakout session he announced his topic. “Conference Etiquette: How NOT to Approach an Editor” Hmm... He looked me straight in the eye (of course I sat front and center). He passed out a list.

1. Never approach an editor during his “downtime.” (Translation: When he’s sunning at the pool.)

2. Never talk to an editor just before he’s about to give a speech. (M’kay.)

3. Never follow an editor to the bathroom and slip your lame-ass manuscript under the stall while he’s doing his business. (Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one.)

So the lesson I learned and am passing on to any of you out there clueless enough to do as I did, is this...Umm, what lesson did I learn? Oh yeah. That’s not the end of the story. Late one night while I was in the hotel bar with Jay (NOT drinking Mojitos, but only milk so we could wake up super early, NOT hung-over, and make it to all the sessions like good little writers), I saw Mr. Editor. He sat and chatted with a few dudes I knew (NOT young, cute, 20-something dudes I had flirted with earlier). One of the dudes told me it would be a good idea to send Mr. Editor a martini. M’kay.

The short of it is...I sent him a pink martini, he came over and thanked me, and apologized for being so rude earlier. Apparently, he suffers from “stage fright” and was so nervous before his speech he couldn’t bear to talk to anyone.

Lesson: If you do annoy an editor at the conference, send him a pink drink when you see him at the bar. Oh, and flirting with cute 20-something dudes doesn’t hurt; somehow it will always work in your favor!

- Eve