Friday, September 29, 2006
I've had to say those words so many times recently. This Saturday, which also happens to be my birthday, I'm officiating a wedding for two wonderful friends. Erik was my college roommate and one of my groomsmen. Chandler is his perfect match. What an honor!
In fact, this is the second wedding I've performed for friends. Why me? Like I said, I'm not a minister (my wife thinks it's hilarious that people even consider that notion). Actually, it's easy to get deputized on a per marriage basis in most California counties. But why me? I guess it's because I'm a writer. Would your first choice, if you're not having a minister do it, be an accountant? What about an architectural engineer? Oops...sorry, Erik!
But I am a writer. And I take my writing seriously. So I've spent more hours brainstorming, writing, editing, re-structuring, and re-writing than I probably needed to. But Erik and Chandler are worth it!
Plus, on my way to the rehearsal later today, I'll have the opportunity to meet and have lunch with my agent. We didn't do the whole "I'll wear a red rose in my hair" thing, so I hope I can recognize her from the photo on her website. And I hope she doesn't expect me to look like most of the photos on this blog (I'm leaving my fishnets, gold tooth, and seashell bra at home).
It should be a very fun meeting because...oops...I'm not supposed to say. Ooh...but I really want to. No! Can't do it. Okay, here, let me put it this way: Do I have something very exciting to tell you but I can't tell you till the middle of next week?
As I plan on hearing two people say this weekend...I Do!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I just have to figure out what happens, why it happens and how it will end. That’s all! Well, the other day, when I was stuck in the muckiness of all these whats and whys and hows, I remembered some advice I’d heard at this year’s national SCBWI conference. Wendelin Van Draanen spoke about how she plots her novels (Sammy Keyes, Shredderman, etc...). She said she often reads what she wrote that day just before she goes to sleep and then trains her mind to actually dream about her characters. She finds that her subconscious will work out the plot problems for her! Wow, I thought. And all without prescription drugs.
So, I tried it. I curled up in my bed and read my half-written manuscript and told my brain, “Tonight, I want you to write this story. I need it finished and polished and perhaps even award-winning. ‘Kay?” My brain nodded ‘yes’ back to me. (It was a weird moment.)
So I happily fell asleep and had big, epic, fanciful dreams. A lot was accomplished, but it had nothing to do with my novel. What did I dream that night? I made-out with Bill Clinton. He’s a good kisser, really. But then he wanted me to do “secretarial” work and update the phone numbers in his phone directory. I said, “Whatever, Billy. I have a book to write.” And I woke up.
I hate it when stories end with “and it was all a dream.” But it was. However, I think from now on I’ll stick with daydreaming instead.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Oh… and Out Of Africa. And The English Patient! I could go on and on. But I won’t. The funny thing is that I’ve never read a great true love story for teens. I don’t mean a “like” story or a “crush” story. I mean a real live, mind-blowing, earth-shattering, can’t eat- can’t breathe- can’t sleep, true love story. Truth be told, there’s nothing like a first love. Nothing. And when you fall in love for the first time as a teen, it’s even more magnificent because emotions are so potent when you’ve got psycho hormones pulsing through your vessels.
I had an epiphany last week. I’m going to write the Great American Teen Romance. Yep. When I started it four days ago, something magical happened. The computer keys clacked away. All kinds of insane ideas spilled out. I obsessed over my two main characters and their plight when I slept, when I ate, and when I ran. It’s a joy to write because there’s nothing more intoxicating than true love. It’s a complete departure from my first novel about tough kids from the ‘hood struggling to survive. But, it won’t be easy for these two lovers. Oh, no. There’s a twist. Don’t you worry. There’s a twist that will keep you guessing.
After spending 3 1/2 years immersed in my first teen novel, I kind of worried that I wouldn’t have the same passion for another one. I lived, ate, and breathed that book for 1277 days. But surprisingly, just days after finishing that first baby (and sending it off to an editor who requested it after reading a few chapters… Yay, me!), this idea took on a life of it’s own, and I’ve already gotten the entire story down in my head.
I’m so completely fixated on this concept that I believe I’ll crank out the first draft in no time. So, I’ve either developed a form of obsessive-compulsive-psychotic-mania, or I’m actually getting the hang of this writing thing. Either way, I’m officially writing my second book. Which is pretty huge for me, considering I hardly have the attention span to finish READING a whole book.
Unless, of course, it’s Love Story…or The Notebook… they…really…loved…each…other…waaahhhh!!
Saturday, September 23, 2006
It’s just that we—as a collective feminine presence on this blog—would like to have our day! What does Jay have that we don’t? (Please keep your answers to yourself.)
We realize he’s charming…he’s witty…he has a reasonable amount of hair. But come on! We’re charming and witty and hairy and, doggone it…we’re hot! (Okay, we were hot…once…in those pictures from our 18th birthday.)
Why must women continue to be oppressed in this society? Why can’t WE be recognized purely on the basis of our looks? All we ever hear from you folks is, “Oh Eve, you’re so smart!” “Oh Robin, you’re such a fantastic writer!” What do we have to do to get noticed? Parade around like Jay with heavy make-up and short skirts at writing conferences? (Again, keep your answers to yourself.)
Perhaps we should start a list of “Women in Literature Who Stand in the Wings Supporting Their Hot Men of Literature, Going Unnoticed And Graciously Accepting Their Place in Society.”
We will not go quietly! Hear us ROAR. From this point on, September 23rd will be known as WILWSITWSTHMOLGUGATPIS DAY!! Do they make a Hallmark card for that? Well, they should.
CONGRATULATIONS, JAY! You’ve always been OUR personal Hot Man. Now we can share you with the world. (If you’re into that kind of thing…) Rock on, H.M.O.C.L.!!!
- Eve and Robin
Thursday, September 21, 2006
I left the dentist, got in my car, and started driving. My phone rang, I answered it (speaking through a very numb jaw), and before she could say much of anything, I told my agent I’d call her back after I found a place to park. Before I lead you on any longer, I did not just sell my first book. But an editor really likes my manuscript and requested a bio of me to take to a company meeting. I spent a couple hours on the bio and asked Robin and Eve to meet me at a coffee shop to critique it. They made it much stronger, I sent it to my agent, and now it’s out of my hands.
Something else we discussed at that coffee shop was our dePaola Code contest. We chose the winners and I went home to write up the announcement. Then I got an e-mail from Lisa Yee congratulating me and directing me to Fuse #8’s blog. Fuse #8, as I’m sure you know, is the mega-bloggin’ children’s librarian at the Donnell Central Children's Room in NYC. Her support was part of what made The dePaola Code take off. And that helped our blog take off. And that brought us to the attention of Lisa Yee. And that’s why Lisa asked us to speak at the national SCBWI conference. So basically…we love Fuse #8! One of her most popular features is pointing out people she considers Hot Men of Children’s Literature. And guess who she chose as her 26th H.M.O.C.L.?
Okay, sure, there aren’t a lot of men to choose from in children’s lit., but I’m not even published yet! How cool is that?!?! Well, my mom sure thinks it’s cool. I think her first words were, “Of course you are, dear. But why did she put you all the way down at number 26?”
It was late when I found out about this, so I ran down the hall to tell my sleeping wife. “Honey,” I said, “I’m a Hot Man of Children’s Literature!” Pulling the blankets over her head, she turned away from me and said, “I'm sure you are, but how is that going to help you sell a book?”
Eve’s always up late, I thought. She’ll understand. So I called her. “Hello?” she said. I was all excited and out of breath. “I’m a hot man…” Then she slammed down the phone.
Early the next morning, Robin saw Fuse #8’s blog and called me. “This is going to be a long day, isn’t it?”
You bet it was…and I loved every minute of it!
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
WINNING JOKE by Paige:
Three Disco Mermaids walk into a bar with frogs on each of their shoulders. The bartender says, "Where did you get those?" The frogs say, "At the SCBWI National Conference. They were all over the place!"
WHY IT WON:
A cute twist on a classic joke…and clean, too! We received many jokes--some of which were a little inappropriate to publish in this somewhat kid-friendly forum (especially The Aristocrats inspired joke…though we may do some creative editing and publish that one soon!).
WINNING LOGO by Don:
(it's at the top of this post...ya can't miss it!)
WHY IT WON:
We love how the caricatures Don created resemble each of us perfectly. If you look closely, Jay has five chest hairs (how did he know!?), Eve has big, beautiful teeth, and Robin has big…well…let’s just say they’re big! What was evident to us was that Don looked back at the evolution of the Disco Mermaids through the years and incorporated our looks into one image that, in the words of someone who left a comment on his blog, “immortalized the wild and crazy disco mermaid spirit.” Look for his Disco Mermaid logo to appear on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and mousepads across the nation.
Thank you to all who entered our contest! Please check out the other logos that were submitted by clicking through the Disco Designs in the index to the right of this post. They were all beyond our expectations and so different! We plan to give each logo special recognition in an upcoming post.
But as for this post, once again, congratulations and thank you to Don Tate and Paige Keiser. What a couple of winners!!!
- Robin, Jay, and Eve
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Jay and a few of the wonderful librarians at our local library furiously put together a collection of books for me to look over. What I found was that the books on dying were very specific, i.e. books on the death of a grandfather or a Labrador retriever or a Siamese cat. Nothing on adorable grandmothers from South Carolina!
But I did take the advice at the back of one of the books that said ‘only answer the questions they have and keep it simple.’
Which I did. My son’s eyes got big and he said, “Oh.”
Whew. So I guess the questions will come later.
And, I realized, so will many more questions about the complex events in life and, I also realized, I’m not prepared!!
So I’d like to turn this problem over you, my writing friends, and ask you to get writing some picture books that will help me deal with all of my son’s questions in the future.
Here are just some of the many topics I need you all to get busy on:
• Why winning isn’t the goal, it’s just having fun, even though winning is fun.
• Why you should share everything with your friends, except for your toothbrush.
• Why you can’t say those four letter words, even though mommy likes them very, very much.
• Why your parents will never, ever let you drive a car.
• Why you can’t have any of those “adult drinks” that make them giggle and wake up with headaches.
• Why your first girlfriend will inevitably break your heart…I don’t know why…but she will…and you’ll never forget her.
Friday, September 15, 2006
“Are you published?”
“No. I mean…well…not yet.”
“What’s your book about?”
I love that last question because it implies, since I’m not yet published, I’ve only written one manuscript. Cuz how it works is you write one manuscript and sell that before starting something else, right?
In the past few months I’ve had to ask myself, “Dude, what is your book about?” or "what is it about to me?" for two different manuscripts. Both questions came as the result of editors offering to give me a second-look if I make some changes. And the keyword here is if.
With one manuscript, I chose not to make the changes. They would have altered what the book is and was intended to be way too much. It might’ve been a good book, but it would have been a very different book in both tone and theme. The reader would’ve left with a drastically different feeling about their reading experience.
The other second-look offer came for a chapter book series. A series! I would love to write a series. And the editor thinks it would make a great series…if. (Which is fast becoming a two-letter four-letter word.) Right now the manuscript is humorous with characters getting into somewhat sticky situations. If I make the changes, the manuscript will be hilarious with characters getting into ultra-sticky situations. When I conceived the series, I wanted it to be about situations my readers could actually see themselves getting into. But that wouldn’t be the case with the second type of series. It would be like saying, “Ms. Park, could you push Junie B. Jones into some Zack Files type situations?” It would work…and it would be funny…but it would be a different series.
And in this case, I’m okay with that. Mostly because I think the characters can remain the same and it’s the characters I’m excited to write about more than the situations. But it’s also because, Dude, this is for the chance to write a series! How awesome would that be?!?!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
A couple months ago, my wife and I were checking out a local nature preserve. The sign said Closed After Dusk, but we figured if we got caught, we’d just say we must have not seen the sign…since it was so dusky. After walking about a mile on a dirt path beneath a canopy of trees we saw a second sign. We leaned up close, squinted hard, and learned that mountain lions were often seen roaming the preserve and that they have been known to attack without warning! “Do you want to keep going?” my wife asked. But I wasn’t there. I’d already started walking back. My wife, Ms. Nature Lover, knew just what to do. “Don’t panic, but make lots of noise. That way you won’t surprise them and they’ll be less likely to attack.” “What kind of noise?” I asked. So she started yelling as we walked. “Hey, Mr. Mountain Lion! My husband’s afraid of you! He’s terrified! You’ve really got him freaking out!!!” I was walking really fast by then and I swear my wife was right behind me, intentionally cracking every twig in her path.
To round out the cliché, here’s what happened this weekend in Yosemite National Park. We honeymooned there four years ago, so for our anniversary we went back. On our way out of the park, my wife wanted to hop in the river at a spot with no one else around, recreating something we did four years ago. So we parked on the side of the road, found a tiny trail that led us across a meadow, through some trees, straight to an embankment that led down to a beautiful river. I had been walking a few paces ahead and started taking off my backpack. Glancing to my right, I noticed, partly hidden in the dark shadow of a large tree trunk, a massive black bear! It was just sitting there, admiring the beautiful river. They say bears don’t want to be seen by humans, so I was a little shocked that it was just…there. Maybe it was because my wife hadn’t been yelling, “My husband’s afraid of you! He’s terrified! You’ve really got him freaking out!!!” But there it was…about twenty feet away. Maybe it smelled my stockpile of almonds, pine nuts, and dried cranberries, but suddenly it knew we were there. And I knew it knew we were there because it turned it’s massive head and light brown snout right at me. My wife was still a few paces back when I turned around and (quite calmly, actually) said, “Bear. Let’s go.”
It was so weird, but because I knew the bear was there (and because I knew it saw us and didn’t start charging) I wasn’t freaked out at all. Okay, I started freaking out the further we got from it because I kept turning around imagining it jumping out of the trees and charging us across the meadow. But seeing it was…well...kind of cool. It was Yosemite National Park and it felt entirely appropriate to see a bear sitting there, admiring the river.
Anyway, my wife hated it. The entire ride home she kept saying, “It’s not fair. I’m Ms. Nature Lover, yet you get to see a black bear.”
Happy Anniversary, babe!
Saturday, September 09, 2006
A) Sit in my pink jammies ALL day
B) Drink café mochas ALL day
C) Have no “official” boss
D) Wander to Google-Earth, Classmates.com, and other blog sites during the workday, without anyone looking over my shoulder
E) Enjoy the “creative process” (i.e. napping, sunning in the backyard, walking the dogs) on my own time
F) Call a trip to B&N, to browse the new teen books and gossip with Jay and Robin, “research”
G) Go see “Wordplay”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, and “Snakes On a Plane” all in one week, and call it “research” (What?? There were TONS of teens in the theater watching “S.O.A.P”)
H) Talk to Jay and Robin 10 times a day, on the phone, at my house, at lunch, at dinner, during coffee, at the movies, on the phone again, IM-ing at midnight…all in the name of work
I) Attend multiple writing conferences a year, eat, drink, schmooze, dance, dress up like a fool, drink some more, stay up all night discussing, um, “writing” with Caldecott and Printz-winning writers and illustrators, and then do it all again the next day…all in the name of work
J) Have the permission to say, “I’m self-employed” or “I’m an artist” whenever people ask what I do for a living. They don’t need to know that I’m pre-published, only made $200 last year (for that little story I sold to Chicken Soup For The Dog-Lover’s Soul), and spend my days in pink jammies perfecting café mochas (and my tan!)
The only other jobs I would consider if this writing thing doesn’t work out:
A) Taste-Quality Technician at Cinnabon
B) Exotic Spa-Resort Reviewer (you thought I was going to say “Exotic- something else”…didn’t you?? Okay, maybe I’d consider that, too!)
C) Person who is responsible for “disposing” of the Mrs. Fields cookies that aren’t round enough or don’t have enough chocolate chips in them
D) Assistant to Colin Ferrell (or in the words of Libba Bray, “I’d love to get a job as Colin Ferrell’s ottoman!”)
E) Production assistant on anything having to do with Brad Pitt. Sorry, Angelina, I still love him!
F) Player on S N L (Hi, Will Forte!! Party on, dude!)
G) Pro Baseball player…’cause, I mean, c’mon! Money, travel, dudes in tight pants. Does it get any better than that?
H) Assistant to Kevin Sites…That hot man reporting for the “Hot Zone” via Yahoo. You know, the dude who travels the world reporting/blogging from war-torn countries all by himself. You know, the dude who pioneered “So-Jo” (Solo Journalism). I figure after five years of So-Jo, he could use a companion!
So, if anyone in the corporate Cinnabon, Mrs. Fields, Colin Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Yankees or “Hot Zone” offices is reading…call me. ;) I’m just sitting here in my pink jammies.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Apparently KT has been conferring with Greg over at Gottabook, because I just watched the movie he wrote, “Behind The Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Different Strokes”, and all I gotta say is…damn! It started off so happy and silly, then spiraled into a depressing black hole of drugs, arrests, assault, bankruptcy, unemployment, and, in one case, death by overdose.
Too many responsibilities and expectations at too young an age, well… aged them prematurely. Poor Arnold, Willis, and Kimberly, smiling for the cameras and perpetuating the romantic myth of child stardom, while watching their real lives crash down around them.
Whew! Okay, then. But watching it did remind me why I love writing children’s books so much. Spending my days immersed in Kid Lit is an escape from real adult world pressures. It reminds me how blissful and alive I felt when the biggest decision I had to make was which shade of red to choose from the jumbo Crayola box.
And I think Greg will agree with me. Although well-written and fascinating, the “Different Strokes” movie certainly made me thankful for my “normal” childhood, and even more thankful that I have a really cheery job!
And, KT, you were right...again. One less thing we have to disagree about.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Then the folks at UCLA said, "Could you have your illustrator do it in a comic book style?” Our first reaction was…our illustrator!? I mean, Eve is a great artist, but she’s too busy jumping around yelling cheers. So who did we turn to? Our good friends at SCBWI. We got on the message board and sent out a holler for any illustrator who might be interested in illustrating algebraic equations with comic book characters. “We’re doomed,” we said to ourselves, often and repeatedly.
But we weren’t. By some miracle, that little query found its way to the eyes of one Mr. Bob McLeod. The dude has illustrated for Spider-Man and X-Men and, coincidentally, just published his first children’s book called SuperHero ABC (which also happens to be my four-year-old’s newest favorite book…it’s totally wonderful). Mr. McLeod is a new member of SCBWI and was glad to take on the project.
“Ohmagod, Ohmagod, Ohmagod,” we said often and repeatedly. Once we got over being star struck, we were able to move on to the task of creating a visual and fun way for kids to learn algebra. “So how did that go?” you may be wondering. Here’s my answer:
- Good because Jay is an Idea Man and I am a Reasonable Woman.
- Bad because sometimes Jay’s ideas are not reasonable.
- Good because, since I’m a girl and he’s a guy, we were comfortable saying things like: "That sucks. You can do better than that. What are you thinking!? Shut up. Seriously, shut…up." You just can’t say those things when it’s two women working together. Feelings would get hurt and hair would get pulled. I don’t know how it would work with two men. Not at all, I presume.
- Bad because Jay likes to look over my shoulder when I’m typing. And I hate that!! Sorry for that elbow to the nose, Jay.
- Good because Jay let me have a dog as one of the lead characters. It worked out mainly because Jay came up with a great mathematical name for the dog (Rexagon) but also because we made him interact directly with the reader.
- Good, again, because I think we came up with a great product. I love it, I’m proud of it, and I was so happy to work with you on it, Jay. One down and only 45 more to go, my friend!
(Check this out! It's our first 3-page installment of The Adventures of Half-N-Half and Their Dog Rexagon!)
Saturday, September 02, 2006
I recently asked two of the most loyal Disco Mermaid readers for the number one reason they keep coming back. Both of them gave the same answer: to laugh. And that’s great. But this particular post ain’t funny. So, Robin and Eve, I hope you’re not too disappointed.
I love books about the writing biz. For inspiration, I re-read Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Leonard S. Marcus or On Writing by Stephen King. For tips, I’ll review The Elements of Style by Strunk and White or Screenwriting by Richard Walter (seriously, the get-to-the-point and cut-the-fat approach of screenwriting helped my novel writing tremendously).
When tackling a new genre, I read as many books in that genre…or how-to books about that genre…as possible. Right now I’m thinking of writing a YA love story because there's NO emotion stronger than a teenager in love. My two favorite novels in that area are Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. But I’m having trouble finding a book about writing a teen romance. And that’s where things get very un-funny. I recently requested a novel from the library called How to Write Romance Novels That Sell. I’m not writing an adult romance, but I thumbed through it anyway and holy…frickin’…cow!
Here are a few of my favorite…actually, least favorite…passages:
- This intoxication is a way of including him in a rape scene and minimizing his responsibility so that the heroine--and readers--can remain sympathetic to him. Moreover, we do not blame the heroine for losing her virtue.
- The reader must not feel disgusted by the actual rape scene. Early in the “bodice-ripper” romance plot, the heroine is usually raped by the hero; and we must remain sympathetic with both characters.
- Though the reader feels good about the scene, the heroine feels guilt and anger. Her emotions make her at odds with the hero, who has caused her to lose control.
- Remember to keep rapes sensuous rather than explicit. Even committed by the villain, they should not outrage the reader. They are not presented as the acts of violence they actually are. Instead, they help to indicate that the heroine is a woman all men passionately desire.
When I was younger, I remember sitting in my grandma’s den with my brother and female cousin while the adults conversed in the living room. We attacked her bookshelves of romance novels and flipped through them till we came upon passages containing words like throbbing, plunged, quivered, and arched. Then we read them out loud, punctuated by giggles. But I don’t remember reading about rape. Maybe Grandma knew how to avoid those particular books, but obviously they were out there. So far, I’ve yet to find any YA books that treat rape as anything but the act of violence that it is.
Granted, this book was first published about twenty years ago. So while it may have little direct effect on today's literature, it does reflect what was read by the women who raised today's readers and writers. No wonder, when I was in high school, we had such a hard time agreeing on definitions for date rape and No!
Sorry. I’ll step off my feminist soapbox now.- Jay
Friday, September 01, 2006
That is so cool it’s ridiculous!!!
But do you know what would be even cooler than ridiculously cool? Winning your very own autographed copy of The dePaola Code! Better hurry...the contest won’t be open much longer.
Let’s make Tomie proud!