As I sit here in my pink jammies at 1:45pm (yes, I said pm) squeezing my brain for ideas on how to make my middle grade book “bigger” and “better,” which is what I promised my agent I would do, I came upon a post by Laura Purdie Salas (from the group blog Wordy Girls) that finally flicked the light bulb on for me.
Her post, “It's a Little Pitchy: How Writing For Kids Is Like American Idol” instantly put everything into perspective. This is a huge breakthrough, as I've spent too many days shuffling around the house, morphing into Johnny Depp's character from Secret Window with my tattered robe, greasy hair, and un-bathed body. I've been talking to myself, napping, walking around outside, and avoiding phone calls and e-mail. Slowly I've become the crazy little reclusive writer lady I always feared becoming. Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Emma Thompson in Stranger Than Fiction, Nick Cage in Adaptation…I feel your pain!!
Back to Laura's post… I, too, am obsessed with American Idol. There. I said it. The fascination for me has always been the psychology-experiment vibe of it all. Take a perfect cross section of America, put them naked on a stage in front of a billion viewers, have them perform in front of those judgmental viewers, pummel them with ridicule and/or praise, and see what happens. But as I read Laura's dissection of American Idol and how it parallels writing for children, I realized that I identify so strongly with these contestants because I am them. Okay, in a different profession, not on a stage, and sans paparazzi stalking me. (Thank God, because no human should have to see me greasy, un-showered, in a tattered robe!)
Read her post and you'll understand what I'm talking about. I'm in the “Top 24/Hollywood Week” category, where my book has made it past the arena audition phase of humiliation among the thousands of wannabes and deluded freaks. I've made it to the pile of writers where everyone has some talent. Now, I've got to stand out without gimmicks, and create a voice and product that's beyond memorable.
After a looong talk with Jay and Robin, and reading Laura's post today, I finally figured it all out. I know exactly how to make it a totally original, kick-ass book! It hit me very suddenly, and all it took was a simple American Idol analogy to bring it all together. (Well, that and a lot of Disco Mermaid support.) Here's hoping to make the “Final 12” in the weeks to come! And I promise not to sing “Do I Make You Proud” if I do. Or maybe I will.