Sunday, July 30, 2006
The realization happened just north of Commerce, GA (where they happen to have a killer outlet mall that we happened to stop off at and do some massive shopping.)
I was driving and chatting with my mother about what’s been going on in our lives—which basically consisted of me going on and on about what Jay, Eve and I have been up to and my mother smiling and nodding in her sweet southern way.
Then she asked me, “How’s your writing going?”
“Fine! Fine! Why? Did you hear something was wrong!?”
Apparently she really just wanted to know how my writing was going. Hmmm.
I told her that I was about a third of the way through my first young adult novel and she said she knew, that I told her about it a while ago. “I did? Well, what did I tell you?”
And my mother proceeded to tell me what my own novel is about. She described it in one sentence, in her sweet southern way.
While what she said was true, it prompted me to give her the following reply: “That sounds like the dumbest story I’ve ever heard!”
So we kept talking on and on and I managed to not talk about what Jay and Eve and I have been doing and we came up with the outline of what I think will be a much better novel.
My mother said she might even like to read a story about that.
It’s comin’ Mama.
And we’ll celebrate with a big bowl of grits.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
C'mon, sing it!
Blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind.
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the siiiiiiiiign?
(I know, I know. He doesn't say blocking. But this is a PG-13 blog.)
Now that my YA manuscript is out, I’m seeing signs everywhere. Not physical signs, but signs from Above...from The Almighty (and yes, like Robin said, The Almighty bares a striking resemblance to Dr. Seuss). The novel is called Baker’s Dozen: The AudioBiography of Hannah Baker. A baker’s dozen is thirteen. And the day my wife finished her critique of Baker’s Dozen, we walked down the street for some burgers and fries. Our ticket number? 13!
A while back, an agent took an interest in my query and asked me to submit the first three chapters via e-mail. I did, but I never heard back. So I sent my manuscript out to three editors. A week after that, the agent e-mailed to ask if I’d received her previous e-mail requesting sample chapters. She never received my response! I explained the situation and she asked me to send her the entire manuscript…via post. So three editors and one agent have my manuscript right now. The day before the agent received my full manuscript in the mail, my wife and I went out for Chinese food with some friends. My fortune? Watch for a new relationship to develop within the month. Hmm… Does that mean by the end of July or over the next 30 to 31 days?
I’ll keep ya posted!
DiscoLove to the first person to correctly identify the background of the above picture.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
“Hello there, Mr. Rattlesnake,” I said tip-toe-ingly. “Mind moving aside so I can pay a visit to my leprechaun and end this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?”
Nothing. Not even an obligatory rattle.
I figured this no good day was just continuing so I turned around to go home. But then I reminded myself that when I’m faced with an event like this, especially an unusual one like a rattlesnake blocking my way to happiness, it must be a sign from The Almighty (and when I say Almighty, I’m picturing the late, great Dr. Seuss). So instead of going home, I took a different path. It went straight out to a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
I sat down on the bluff, crossed my legs, and just looked and listened. I figured Dr. Seuss sent me there for a reason and I was ready to find out what it was. At first I didn’t see or hear anything unusual. I just felt it. My body was warm, the perfect temperature, and I felt both rested and energized at the same time…almost euphoric. I realized that I had been resisting the writing of a certain scene in my book where my character would feel the same way I was feeling at that moment. I resisted because I didn’t know how to describe it. But now I had the experience and the words to use. All because of a carefully placed rattlesnake.
I stood up and looked straight down into the ocean. Just 30 feet below me was a sea otter lying on his back looking up at me. He was having one of those Discovery Channel moments where he was trying to crack open a mussel and looking incredibly cute. I looked up and down the trail to see if I could point him out to someone else. But on this particular stretch of California coastline, I was the only one experiencing this adorable moment at this particular place in time. Well, me and Dr. Seuss.
I went back to the trail to thank the rattlesnake for making my day an all too good, beautiful, wonderful day.
But he was gone.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Friday, July 21, 2006
- - -
Eve: Blog. No, Dare. No, Blog!
Jay: What’s your most embarrassing author experience?
Eve: When I first started writing I attended a SCBWI retreat where we read our manuscripts in front of an editor and Sue Alexander. When I finished reading my dreadful three chapters Sue said, “If this is the best you got, you should quit writing.” Robin, Blog or Dare?
Eve: If you were stuck on a deserted island with one children’s book author, who would it be? And why?
Robin: I’d have to say Louis Sachar, because he’s the reason I first decided to start writing for kids. I read “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” out loud to my fifth grade class and they absolutely cracked up. I want to be him!
Jay: Gee, that was funny.
Robin: Fine, Jay. Let me give you some of this: Blog or Dare!?
Jay: Dare me, baby.
Robin: I dare you to go to GottaBook’s blog and leave the following question…Can I be in the next Harry Potter movie? (and ask with a thick English accent)
Jay: Oh, cuz Arthur Levine’s his new editor. Nice, Robin. Alright. I'll do it. He’ll probably cast me as Hermione. Hmm...Eve, Blog or Dare?
Jay: Let’s see. Go to the SCBWI Discussion Board and ask if anyone knows of an editor who would be interested in a funny picture book about a puppy with cancer.
Eve: No problem. Tasteless? Yes. But funny! It’ll be a good experiment to see what kind of feedback I get. Robin, Blog or Dare?
Robin: Dare. I think…
Eve: You have to do it! Go to Gordon Korman’s website and click on “contact info.” E-mail him and tell him to check out the blog post you wrote about him last week on our blog.
Robin: Did it. Now I’m ’bout to puke. I think this game is over.
Jay: Okay, that was a really short Fondue.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Sweet! I thought. Maybe it won’t be Colin Ferrell at my door, but I have been waiting patiently to hear back from that dream editor at Hyperion about my novel. So after 7 1/2 minutes I wandered outside to get the mail and… sure enough………
THERE IT WAS!
My August issue of STUFF Magazine!! With Leslie Bibb on the front cover! Who is Leslie Bibb? You ask. No idea. Some scantily clad blond chick with HUGE fake, um, eyes.
But that 30-second adrenaline infused rush to the mailbox got me thinking. The heart pumping, nervous tingly sensation I used to feel when locking eyeballs in the hallway with a boy I was crushing on, is happening all over again! Only this time, the editor who has my ms is the boy, and we have to lock eyeballs through the mailbox. But still. LOVE that feeling!
Very few situations in life precipitate this feeling in one’s body. I used to get it when I was applying to Medical School. I ran to the mailbox every day and tore open envelopes from schools across the country, hoping that one of them would “love” me back. My pre-med friends and I obsessed; we played Spin The Bottle type games to see where we’d end up going to school. We needed hobbies desperately, I know.
Here’s the thing: Once I got into medical school, the whole idea lost its luster. The process of applying and fantasizing was more fun than actually being there. Similarly, once I “got” the boy I crushed on, he suddenly wasn’t so appealing anymore.
I often think about Robert Sabuda’s “Careful What You Wish For” conference speech. He reminded us that becoming published brings a whole new set of challenges. Marketing, deadlines, and sales will replace our current obsessions with character, plot, and schmoozing editors.
I love sitting in our little coffee joint with Jay and Robin (and other assorted OCD writer regulars) writing, re-writing, discussing writing until my brain hurts. I so enjoy the creative process. And I always want to have those butterflies in my stomach before we go to a conference or fantasize about being published, winning awards, and doing lunch with our dream editors.
I’m just afraid that after we’re published, that “crush” feeling will evaporate. Will we still feel the thrill? Or will we be sitting in the coffee joint mumbling about deadlines?
Of course, who am I kidding? After a long day of wringing my brain, I’ll still run to the mailbox sweating in hopes of seeing that acceptance letter from Hyperion!
Enjoy the process, man…
Monday, July 17, 2006
Their conclusion? Too much brown in my wardrobe.
With this blog eternally linking the three of us, and with the SCBWI conference coming up (especially our "special guest" spot in Lisa Yee’s workshop), they feel I need to show a little more…pizzazz. Some light blues. Or yellows. How about some pink? That, of course, was Eve’s suggestion.
So tomorrow, they’re taking me shopping for new shirts. And that’s fine. I’ll even wear them at the conference. But I already know the shirt I’m wearing for Lisa’s workshop. I dug it out of my closet today, put it on, and asked my wife how it looked on me.
“It looks fabulous,” she said.
And it’s brown!
Saturday, July 15, 2006
"Are you three going to be at the SCBWI in LA in August?"
Who wrote this e-mail? Lisa Yee, the author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time. Why did she want to know if we were attending the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference? Because she wants the Disco Mermaids to be special guests in her Why Bother to Blog? workshop. On her syllabus, Lisa refers to us as “Authors on the Verge.” Woo-hoo! The other special guest will be Gregory K. from GottaBook (a personal fave of ours!). He’ll discuss how he landed his first book contract because of his blog.
(Psst... Don't tell anyone, but we're still having a hard time believing Lisa actually asked us to do this. I mean, she won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award! Which basically means we wanna be Lisa Yee. All three of us!!!)
Speaking of authors on the verge, the following e-mail may be a sign that Jay’s a little bit closer to leaving his 30-Year-Old Vergin’ ways behind.
"Wanted to let you know that your manuscript arrived safely today; I AM SO EXCITED TO DIG IN. I hope to get to this very soon and will be in touch with you then. Thanks for making my day! "
When Jay gets happy and nervous at the same time, he begins sweating like Eric Carle stumbling into a colored tissue paper factory without his rapid-fire hole punch. And that’s what happened when the above e-mail arrived from an editor at Houghton Mifflin.
We’ll keep you posted…
Thursday, July 13, 2006
You may be wondering why I’ve scanned page 177 from Gordon Korman’s new book Born to Rock and immaturely hearted the page number.
Here’s the back story: A couple of years ago, Gordon spoke at the SCBWI National Conference and, being the social butterflies that we are (or “stalkers” as some prefer to call us), we managed to hang out with him in the hotel lobby for drinks. It was so much fun talking with him and I probably developed a harmless good-natured crush. After all, he’s a successful published author, funny…and bald (all things listed in my secret crush requirement book).
Well! You need to know that was the first year we won the costume contest by wearing glittery disco outfits (or “hooker” outfits as some prefer to call it) and I wore a pair of EXTREMELY tight gold pants. I actually borrowed them from Jay just minutes before the party started. They were the kind of pants you don’t let your mother know about (check out the picture). And Mom, look away.
Yep, that’s me. The tall one wearing the shimmery gold pants. The kind of girl some people might describe as “leggy” and “blonde” wearing an outfit that appeared to be “spray painted on.” At least, SOME people might describe it like that.
Flash forward to this week when I innocently read page 177 of Gordon’s new novel. Could that leggy blonde be…me!? According to my close friends that I surveyed with that question (which comes to about 72 now), it appears that I have finally been published…as a nameless, faceless, blonde chick in a teen book. Woo-hoo! I’m somebody now!
If the blonde that appears on page 177 of Gordon’s book is not me (but come on…how many tall blondes could the guy have thought about!!??) then I sheepishly retract this statement used for the sheer purpose of psychotic attention-getting (a rare condition also known as “Look at me! Look at me!”).
But I hear Gordon sold the movie rights to Born to Rock. Do I hear a casting call? Jay, give me those pants back!
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The entire vacation became a living Choose Your Own Adventure. “Which slide should I go down -- the blue or the red? One leads into the jaws of a giant Venus Flytrap. The other leads to a pot of gold.” “Bedtime? That’s it? But isn’t there supposed to be another choice? Hey, Uncle Jay, how about one more Choose Your Own Adventure?”
How could I say no?
To see my favorite post of Robin’s, click Robin.
To see my favorite post of Eve’s, click Eve.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
(And now, back to my blog) So…I find it rather interesting that all three of our breakout soon-to-be-bestseller YA novels we’re finishing happen to be about seriously un-funny topics.
That’s right…Jay’s involves a suicidal 16-year-old girl. Robin’s is peppered with AA meetings. And my novel? Well, mine is about bad ass L.A. gang kids. Didn’t know I was that “street” did ya? Well I am, yo. So stop trippin’!
How did this happen? When we first met 3 1/2 years ago, we were all like, “I want to write silly, funny, boy books!” And now we’re all like, “Everyone dies in the end, dude. It’s a total bloodbath.”
My explanation is this: Even the best funny teen books have an underlying seriousness. Sid Fleischman Humor Award winning books Millicent Min-Girl Genius, Al Capone Does My Shirts, and Captain Underpants, are all examples. Did Captain Underpants win the Sid Fleischman Award? Well, it should have.
The three of us seem to have a knack for writing serious books with an underlying funniness. I mean, there are several parts in all three of our novels where I laugh out loud. Only Robin could make the voice of a depressed, sarcastic, alcoholic’s daughter LOL hilarious. And only Jay could weave strangely witty moments into a dark book about suicide.
And me? My novel started as a hilariously lighthearted book about gang kids at a summer camp, and when I finished it had turned into…well, a total bloodbath. So, even though the three of us are pretty damn funny (to US), we really do have serious sides. Who knew?
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
I will wake up in the morning to breakfast in bed presented to me by the entire staff at Scholastic. “Wake up, sleepy head,” they’ll say. “You need energy to sign all those book contracts!”
When I walk into the kitchen, Carolyn Mackler will be trimming fresh flowers from the garden and saying, “Oh-ma-god, Robin, you look so totally good for 29!”
As I head off to work, a limo will pull up and Richard Peck will be driving. He’ll tell me a story about how my office is such a long way from Chicago, and he’ll talk to me the whole way there in such a soothing and genius way, that it reminds me that I need to read all of his books again. Then call my grandma.
When I sit down at my cubicle, I’ll turn to see Lois Sachar sitting next to me with a copy of “Sideways Stories from Wayside School.” He’ll read me the little chapters out loud and I’ll giggle while I work.
On my way home, I’ll stop for gas and the station attendant will be Gordon Korman. “Need you’re oil checked?” he’ll say. I don’t know why he’ll say that. He just will.
Then when I finally get home, my husband will run out to meet me and say, “Honey, guess who is joining us for your sixth annual 29th birthday dinner!?”
“Even better…Jay and Eve.”
Aaaaaaaahhhh…the perfect ending to a perfect birthday.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
At the time Cecil was Pre-Published as well. I was wide-eyed and brand new to writing. Her sense of humor and unshakable confidence inspired me. She said, “We all suck at first. Then as the years go on and we hone our craft, we suck less and less. Pretty soon you won’t suck at all. Then it’s just a matter of time. You just wait your turn in line!”
I loved the idea that the harder I worked, the less I would suck. And...I did suck, by the way. I know this because Sue Alexander told me so, and I am forever indebted to her for preventing me from multiple-submitting my heinous cliché-laden, dreadfully preachy, “Puppy Cancer” manuscript.
Anyway, I'm happy to announce that Cecil got to the front of the line and published her first book last year. BOY PROOF is a fun read, and it nails the “outsider-teen-angsty-girl” thing in such a unique way. Her latest book, QUEEN OF COOL, has been getting rave reviews as well. It’s exciting to see someone who was once in my Pre-Published shoes finally succeeding and living the dream. It gives me great hope.
I think about Cecil Castellucci’s advice every single day. I’ve worked nonstop the last four years to learn the craft of writing for children, and am finally at a point where I don’t totally suck. So, according to Cecil, now I just wait my turn in line. Hope it’s short...not one of those long-ass, brand-new-ride-at-Disneyland lines.
Thanks, Queen of Cool! Can’t wait to join you in the front of the line.