Sunday, April 30, 2006

The End --Eve

Exactly 364 days, nineteen hours, and forty-five minutes after starting my first novel…I’M DONE!

Sort of. The ending needs a little work. Details, details. Jay and Robin will fix that. But, I’ve written all the chapters. Worked out all the kinks, holes and messes. Got the character and plot arch working. And I wrote the words, "THE END". Tonight I’m celebrating with last week’s Tivo’ed episode of “America’s Next Top Model” and tonight’s new episode of “Desperate Housewives.” Seriously.

What? Did you think I’d bust out the champagne and caviar? Not my style. Trashy reality T.V. and chocolate covered pretzels are more like it.

So, despite my napping habit, distractibility and procrastination problems, I’ve written a whole book. I’m so proud. I mean, I’ve hardly even READ a whole book.

I felt much better about myself when I heard Jeanne Birdsall speak last week at the L.A. Writer’s Day. She is this year’s National Book Award winner for her first novel, “The Penderwicks.” I learned that Jeanne spends a lot of her time during the day visiting neighbors, playing with her dog, napping, all the while thinking about her characters and story.

That’s me! I thought. I used to think I had a laziness disease that prevented me from finishing my book. But now I know it’s all part of my creative process. All those naps and walks and visits helped me think about my story and work things out in my head. At least it makes me feel better to think that.

I guess I did something right these last three years because now I’m done and my book doesn’t completely suck. I actually think it’s kind of good. I’m proclaiming May 1st a new holiday…Eve Is A Real Writer Day.

So I’m slow…big deal. I’m just glad to know I’m not alone in my writing methods…Thanks, Jeanne. Newbery, Printz, and National Book Award here I come!

There, Jay and Robin. I actually praised myself…you happy?


Thursday, April 27, 2006

To Agent or Not to Agent... -- Jay

…that is the question I am so sick and tired of thinking about. Should I submit on my own, or through an agent? Do I need an agent? Do I even want an agent? What are the pros? What are the cons? Sometimes I feel like a contestant on Survivor: Slushpile Island.

I’d like an agent for three main reasons:
- they have a better idea of who’s looking for what
- they can negotiate a better contract
- it’s just nice to have someone in your corner

But I’m hesitant for just as many reasons:
- I’ve experienced agents losing steam after only a couple rejections
- if I love a manuscript, but my agent doesn’t, it’s not going anywhere
- so far, I’ve had success getting read by “closed houses” without one

So when I decide on whether or not to seek an agent, the drama ends there, right? HA! The confusion then shifts to which one. But I’ve already narrowed my choices down to three. Two are agents I’ve had my eye on for some time, and I’ve spoken with authors they represent to help with the decision. Or, I could go back to an agent I used to work with who told me the door was always open.

The decision To Agent or Not to Agent would be a whole lot easier if all agents were surefire Immunity Idols against rejections.

- Jay

Monday, April 24, 2006

Post-Writer's Day

Note to selves -- If you plan on sitting still for eight hours listening to people talk, it is NOT a good idea to stay up till two in the morning the night before (though Jay appreciates Robin and Eve’s choice in late-night dining: Hooters!).

It was wonderful getting the chance to meet some of our blog readers face-to-face. We’ve always felt that children’s book writers, as a whole, are the most fun group of writers in the world. Turns out, the ones who think we’re funny are even better!

Aside from the tips and inspiring stories shared by the Writer’s Day faculty, we learned who some of the speakers are for this summer’s SCBWI conference:
Authors & Illustrators - Mo Willems, Jacqueline Wooson, Jane Yolen, Caroline B. Cooney, Paul Fleischman, Wendelin Van Draanen, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Nina Laden, Elise Primavera, Melissa Sweet
Editors/Art Directors/Agents - Beverly Horowitz (Bantam Delacorte Dell), Louise May (Lee & Low), Elizabeth Parisi (Scholastic), Jodi Reamer (Writer’s House), Jeremy Ross (TokyoPop), Nancy Siscoe (Knopf and Crown)

And the theme for this summer’s after hours party? In honor of SCBWI’s 35th anniversary: Jade Jubilee. Yes, this’ll be a hard one to dress-up for, but we think we’re up to it.

Oh, and we can’t forget the best news of all. One of the Disco Mermaids did fairly well in the Writer’s Day contest. Eve’s nonfiction manuscript, The Crossing, won First Place!

(To Jay’s utter disappointment, we did not celebrate the triumph at Hooters.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pre-Writer's Day

There’s almost nothing we like more than a good children’s book writing event. This Saturday, we’re attending the annual Los Angeles Writer’s Day, put on by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

A few things we’re looking forward to:

- catching up with friends we may see only once or twice a year
- hearing inspirational anecdotes from published authors (including Jeanne Birdsall, author of The Penderwicks)
- schmoozing with an editor from Hyperion (though we promise not to say, “Do ya wanna read my book? Huh, do ya? It’s really really good!”)
- learning the theme for this year’s National Conference so we can start brainstorming costume ideas (check out photos from the past two conferences in our Biggest Hits section...can you say, 3-peat!)
- seeing how our manuscripts fare in the contests (we entered in different categories so as not to compete with each other: Robin - YA, Jay - middle-grade, Eve - nonfiction)

We’ll tell you all about it when we get back...wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tax Man…Here I Come - Robin

For the past four years, my husband and I have dutifully walked into Bob the Tax Guy's office- still furnished with the 1970's furnishings from when he originally opened up shop- plopped down in matching vinyl chairs, laid our hands on our laps and waited for Bob's annual opening question… “So, Robin, have you made any money on your writing this year?”

A few weeks ago, along with the past few years, my answer was a sheepish, “Umm…no,” as I bowed my head and quietly sobbed.

But next year, my answer will be a thunderous, “Why, yes, Bob! I did make money on my writing this year. So, hah! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!” (A little much?)

Jay will also get to answer that way to his tax guy (or girl) next year since we have been asked by a research group at UCLA to help write creative math assessments for middle schoolers learning algebra concepts. We get to write narrative stories that involve given math problems and have hired a great illustrator for the artwork. It's such a cool project and we're so excited to be on board, but the best part? THEY'RE GOING TO PAY US MONEY!

So while I'm thrilled to be using my background as a middle school math teacher to help with my goal to become a children's book writer, I'm most looking forward to the day when I get to watch Bob the Tax Guy lean back in his squeaky metal chair then stick it in his pipe and smoke it.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Hangin' Out With My Inner Child -- Jay

After a half-hour of walking around Blockbuster, my wife, my brother, and I could not agree on a movie. Of course, we were only looking at DVDs. But there are so many movies still available solely on VHS...especially when it comes to TV movies...from the 1980s! I’m talking about 1985’s Poison Ivy, starring Michael J. Fox. When we were younger, my brother and I taped that movie and watched it more than almost any other movie. The plot, according to Internet Movie Database: Two teenage summer camp counselors struggle with their younger campers, providing a variety of humorous situations and romantic encounters.

It had been two decades, yet it seemed like I last watched Poison Ivy just yesterday. Every line of dialogue was on the tip of my tongue. Every movement the characters made was on the tip of my...eyeball. It was so much fun! And also a shocking time capsule of society. The beautiful camp counselor was, by today’s standards, rather plain. The aggression between competing campers was, by today’s standards, rather tame.

When the movie was over, my wife said she got quite a look into my childhood. She pointed out that some of the themes and characters have subtly made their way into my books. She was right. Watching that movie reminded me of why I like to write the stories I do. And it reminded me of the emotions and experiences I hope to pass on to my readers.

- Jay

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Not As Cool As I Thought --Eve

I had a revelation yesterday. Actually it was forced upon me. I’m 30ish and always thought of myself as being pretty hip but apparently…wait for it…I’m not! My nephews (15 and 16) and niece (13), who are here from Vegas for Spring Break, informed me very casually, like it was no big deal. Like the joke was on me all these years.

I’m devastated. Excuse me?? When did this happen? When they were younger, I was the coolest auntie ever. I listened to rap, taught them how to surf, and bought them anything they wanted. Now, somewhere between Eminem’s rise to power and Proof’s death (rapper from D-12 who was shot last night) I became lame. Oh! And apparently “lame” isn’t a cool word anymore.

“NO one says ‘lame’,” they told me. “It’s sooo 90’s.” “Um, they say ‘lame’ on South Park all the time!” I rebutted. “HA HA HA, NO ONE watches South Park anymore either,” they said. Geez, my coolness factor is dropping by the minute.

Which brings me to my point…how can I write for teens if teens think I’m lame? Ahh, there I go again! I’ve worked with teens forever…teaching, tutoring, mentoring. I know their music, their T.V. shows, their clothes, their speech (or so I thought). I want to write funny, edgy boy books. But it’s really hard to impress the funny, edgy boys out there…unless you look like Stacy Keibler (you know, the wrestler turned “Dancing With The Stars” chick…come on people, keep up!). Problem is, I’ve been uncool since I turned 30, according to the kids. And I’m only getting older and uncooler.

Have I turned into one of those ‘older’ people who wears Juicy sweat suits a few years too long, and bumps up the 50 Cent in my SUV, thinking I’m the shiznit, while the kids are laughing at me? Now I’m terrified to show the kids my writing for fear of them telling me that it sounds like an old person trying to be cool. How do other people write for teens and get away with it?

Do I have to BE cool to write cool? Help!
Catch you later. I mean...Peace out, my peeps. I mean…goodbye. God, I’m so LAME.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Finding DiscoLand #1

"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!

- do mermaids go to school -
(I wonder if they offer Underwater Basket Weaving 101.)

- mermaids date people -
(That can be problematic. Ever seen Splash?)

- jay in goldilocks -
(Too many jokes here. Way too many! None of them appropriate...but all very funny.)

- mermaid strippers -
(no comment)

- root canal no novocaine -
(Hey! We’re not that bad, are we?)

- how do mermaids give birth -
(Interesting question. But an even more interesting question: Why do you care?)

- mermaids making love -
(And when you leave a comment, it’s like cuddling afterwards.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

This Writing Thing Makes Me So Ambivalent…I Think—Robin

Some days I feel like I’m absolutely on the right track. That my books are necessary to stabilizing the economy of this great nation and it’s only a matter of time before I get published.

Other days (usually the same day) I feel like I’m a crazed coke-head (and by coke I mean diet coke) rationalizing why I need to write that one last chapter, even if it means bankruptcy and the dissolution of my marriage. I’m a writer for God’s sake! I must write!

No? We’re taking money from our savings account to pay for diapers? I spend every waking moment thinking about the sex life of my 16-year old main character, not my own?

Okay…that’s it. I’m quitting. I’m going to take a full time job as a social worker, trying to make OTHER people’s lives better and then work on memorizing the names of my husband and son.

And this is how my mind wanders…from being obsessed and in love with the craft of writing to being embarrassed and disgusted that I would even waste my time thinking this could go anywhere.

One day I expect my husband to come home and say, “Honey, all my life I’ve wanted to become a professional sheepherder. There is no schooling or a degree for it and only a 0.1 percent chance of even becoming one. What do you think!?”

Of course my response would be, “That’s wonderful, lovey! You just need to find a national organization of wannabee sheepherders, practice sheepherding with them, go out of town and spend thousands of dollars on sheepherder conferences and costumes for contests (wolf costumes, I presume) and sacrifice the love of your family so that you can become the sheepherder that you are!”

He would look at me with loving eyes, amazed at my ability to support him in his greatest of needs. Then I would add, “And if it works about by next week, you can come back home. NOW GO GET A JOB, SHEEP BOY!”

And so the moral of this story is: get your kid to stop pooping in his diapers so your sheepherder husband won’t give you a guilt trip about not having enough money. I’d be happy to address these issues with my husband and son…if only I could remember their names…

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Open Letter to Robin & Eve

Dear Fellow Disco Mermaids,

Next week I’ll be handing you the YA manuscript I’ve been working on for three years and I have a few things I’d like you to know before you start your critiques.

1. You’re both beautiful people. Inside and out. And whichever type of beauty is most important to you, that’s the type that you are.

2. You’re both wonderful writers. I’m well aware that the only reason you aren’t published yet is because you’ve been holding yourselves back for my benefit. I’ve been doing this longer than both of you and it wouldn’t be fair if you got published before me. It wouldn’t! It wouldn’t! It wouldn’t!

3. As you’re aware, this has been an emotionally draining novel to write. I’m sure putting up with me as I worked on it has been emotionally draining, as well. I pledge that once my manuscript is in the mail, I will let the two of you start talking about your own manuscripts.

4. You are very beautiful people.

5. I know the manuscript is long, but please do not write or call until you’ve completely finished it because I will read into every single word that you use.

6. You are working on manuscripts, aren’t you? How come you haven’t mentioned them the entire time I was working on mine?

Thank you. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

- Jay

P.S. I know you have caller ID, so if my number pops up and you’re not done with my manuscript...don’t answer. And if you see me drive by your house over and over...shut the lights.