Monday, July 30, 2007

Shoppin' for L.A. -- Robin & Eve

[If you’re attending the national SCBWI conference this weekend, head on over to GottaBook to find out the time and place for a kidlit blogger meet-up. Plus, you’ll discover what FAKDN@SSC! stands for.]

While most people have been getting ready for the national SCBWI conference by getting their hair and nails done, I’ve been preparing by shopping for pajamas!

Every year, the three of us share a hotel room (in a Three’s Company sort of way…even though Eve never lets me be Chrissy! Waaahhh!). And every year I go to bed in an oversized sweatshirt and way-too-warm sweatpants so Jay doesn’t have to witness…well, let’s just say there are certain things he doesn’t need to see! But Evie, on the other hand, always looks completely freaking adorable in her completely freaking adorable pajamas.

So I confided in her the other day, that I, too, would like to prance around all cute-like, but that I needed pajamas that would be…you know…supportive. Ahem. So Evie introduced me to the wonders of adorable pajama tank tops at Victoria’s Secret that are very supportive. But being the spendthrift I am, I promptly replicated the cute Victoria’s Secret outfit at Ross (Dress for Less!) down the street for a tenth of the cost. Woo-hoo!

When I got home that night, my husband peeked in the bag after I told him what I had purchased. He said, “You mean you bought cute pajamas…for Jay!?” Then he shrugged his shoulders and added, “For some reason, that makes perfect sense.”

So now I can safely prance about our room all cute-like without worrying that I’ll have to sleep in a rain proof snow suit. I’m ready! Can't wait to see y'all there!

Training for this year’s annual SCBWI conference has been tough. To look and feel our best we’ve been busy resting, tanning, working out, painting our nails, and getting our hair done. And the other day, Robin and I endured a major pre-conference crisis when I tried on my “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” party ensemble for the first time. I stared at the mirror in horror when I saw my own silvery moon hanging out the bottom of the dress. Then the phone rang. It was Robin. Same problem! And it was waaay too late to find another outfit.

Though the DMs are used to showing skin at these events, we try to limit it to body parts that won’t get us arrested. What to do, what to do? So, Robin zipped over to my house and we ran around town searching for something…anything!...that would cover our ass-ets, but not compromise the continuity of the outfits. We finally came upon something to wear under the outfit that matches perfectly (and will save us our dignity). However, we still needed a final test. We zipped back to my house and dressed head-to-toe in our silvery best. When Robin said, “Ready…GO!” we jumped, screamed, and danced around like the fools that we are. The ensemble held up through The Cabbage Patch, The Sprinkler, and The Running Man. We discovered that as long as we avoid doing handstands or The Worm, we’re pretty safe. Crisis averted! All is well.

(As a bonus, our show got rave reviews from the golfers on the 7th green peering through my bedroom window. D’oh!)

Practicing similar moves
in our hotel room last year.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bathroom Epiphanies, Part Deux -- Jay

Two days ago, I had another one of those wonderful, magical, bathroom experiences.

There I was, standing at the sink, styling my facial hair. I’d just finished using the #3 clippers to trim my goatee and was working on shaving away everything around it…without disturbing the sideburns, of course. All of a sudden (which is how most epiphanies come to me), I figured out the ending to my next teen novel. And that is a beautiful thing.

A few months ago, when I turned in the outline to my editor, it was nine pages long. But here was my description for how everything in the story wrapped up:

(But I’m kind of excited to find out.)

For some reason, my editor let me get away with that. For some reason? No…cuz she’s awesome!

Anyway, up until a couple days ago, I was moving at a snail’s pace when it came to writing my first draft. I would sit down at my desk to write, but it just wouldn’t flow. So I’d go to Linnaea’s CafĂ© to write, but that didn’t work either. I even checked myself into a hotel once, but wound up watching a lot of television cuz we don’t have one of those beautiful things at my house.

But now? Now it’s flowin', baby! It’s flowing like a [insert perfect analogy here]...if you know what I mean.

Originally, I didn’t think I needed to know exactly how things ended in order to get a handle on my story. But knowing the ending, oddly enough, has helped me better understand the scenes I’m writing right now that will eventually lead to the ending. Because if the ending is inevitable (as all endings should be…but without being predictable), the only thing that makes it that way is how your characters grow throughout the rest of the story. And "the rest of the story" is what I’m writing now.

In a way, it’s similar to playing God (which I haven't done since getting kicked out of Sunday School, by the way). Our characters will seem totally unrealistic unless it appears they’re acting upon their own freewill. And yet, we are ultimately in control and know how everything ends up.

Unless, of course, this bathroom epiphany turns out the same way as my first bathroom epiphany. The original ending of Thirteen Reasons Why was completely different than the one you’ll end up reading in less than three months.

- Jay

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Distraction -- Robin

How am I supposed to get any writing done when I’m spending my time worrying about Lindsay Lohan? Seriously…that’s the kind of stuff I’ve been worrying about! (That, and the fact that my silver dress for the costume party at SCBWI’s national conference doesn’t exactly fit right now.)

The reason why I’m worried about Lindsay has to do with the teen girls who idolize her more than her as a person. As a writer, I’m obsessed with what my audience is obsessed about. And I can’t help but wonder if the bad behavior of some of these young Hollywood-ites (Britney, Paris, Lindsay, etc.) affects teen girls in some way.

When I was a teen (I know…yawn!) I was growing up when the “Brat Pack” was coming of age. You know…Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe (well, the entire cast of St. Elmo’s Fire). And my music idols (as far as girls went) were the Go-Go’s. We got the beat! Come on, you know you loved it, too. I pretty much wanted to be Belinda Carlisle. What an absolute babe!

But I can’t imagine if one day my mother had come into my room (while I was dancing to Vacation and wearing tons of bracelets on my arms with my hair in a straight-up pony tail) and told me that Belinda Carlisle had been arrested for DUI, felony cocaine possession, had shaved her head, shown her hoo-hoo to the paparazzi, trashed her dressing room, and, oh yeah, you can now download her sex tape on the internet. Can you imagine!?

Granted, there was plenty of partying back then. It just wasn’t “top of the hour” news on CNN. We weren’t being crammed with the personal antics of our idols and how this should “worry” us. Now the public can’t get enough of celebrity bad behavior, as if they’re watching the stories of characters, not people. So should teen writers create characters that will satiate the public’s need for watching people be bad?

The thing is, I understand that girls who are “bad” make good characters. Remember Rayanne, Angela’s wild best friend on My So-Called Life? I loved watching that show just so I could see how wild she would get. Watching someone whose lifestyle was just a hair out of touch from my own was exhilarating. But compared to the Lindsay-Paris-Britney girls of today, Rayanne was a pussy cat!

So I can’t help but wonder…is the base of knowledge teen girls have regarding drinking/sex/drugs so much higher than it was for us at that age? Do we need to amp up our characters we’re writing about and make them even wilder in order to keep things authentic? Or is this a case of Three Girls Gone Wild Who Will Crash and Burn for Our Entertainment?

Whatever the case, I’m now going to focus all my worrying on this silver dress of mine that doesn’t fit. Otherwise, I might run into Paris and she’ll say, “That’s not hot.”

- Robin

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Leave Your Mark -- Eve

I spent the last eight days hiking, biking, and climbing glaciers throughout the Canadian Rockies, and there’s nothing like alpine solitude to get me thinking about writing and how it relates to the meaning of life. There’s something about cruising around untouched tundra and ice that’s been around for hundreds of years that makes me feel so small and insignificant. But at the same time, I feel like I must have a purpose on the planet if I’m still here, right? Growing up, I wanted to be an actress, a psychologist, and a teacher.

So, why writing? I wondered. Of all the things I could be in this world (or have been), what is it about putting words on paper that satisfies me so much? Three things. First, I’m a storyteller. An entertainer. I love to make people laugh, cry, and think. Second, writing fiction allows me to examine and explain why I believe people behave the way they do, which relates to my fascination with psychology. Third, even though I’m not overtly “teaching” in my books, I really am. We all want our readers to take away a message, idea, or feeling they hadn’t experienced before picking up our books. That’s pretty much what teachers do.

While wandering through the wild, I received news that a dear friend had died while I was away. This type of news, of course, always makes me question my own existence, mortality, and what it’s all about. So, as I sat on the edge of a clear blue, glacier-fed lake while a family of elk surrounded me (literally...I mean, they wouldn’t let me leave!), I thought, there’s got to be more to it than that. Writing is tons of fun and intellectually stimulating, and it allows me to study people and teach things and entertain, which are all the things I love to do. But there’s definitely more to it. Then it hit me.

We all want to leave something behind. A mark. A legacy. Some people have children. Some people create a charity. As a writer, I want to leave behind books that people will read for years (hopefully) after I’m long gone. The idea that a book can leave a shockingly profound mark on the world was confirmed for me on Saturday after seeing hundreds of people (no joke) hiking mountains, riding buses, and catching planes, who were all clutching the same thick, rectangular item and pressing it to their noses. The Harry Potter books have changed the world for the better and will undoubtedly be worshiped for decades to come. Man, I would give a lot to be J.K. Rowling right now. Talk about leaving a mark on the world. Jeez!

- Eve

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Magic of Harry -- Jay

I arrived at Barnes & Noble at 8pm last Friday and didn’t leave till 2am on Saturday. The previous two nights, I’d slept a grand total of eight hours. But surrounded by Harry Potter look-alikes, I never yawned once.

When HP5 came out, I was an employee at that bookstore and worked one of the many well-fed cash registers. Honestly, it was one of the most magical nights of my life. One boy, around fourteen-years-old, started crying when I slid his copy of the book across the counter. When HP6 came out, I was no longer an employee (I’d started working at the public library), but I ran their trivia contest just so I could be a part of the magic again.

This year, I absolutely could not miss it. Unfortunately, I agreed to help outside of the store, giving people their numbered bracelets and passing out flyers. Unfortunately? Yes. Because this year was absolutely insane. This year, the store filled to capacity at around 11pm and I was asked to close the doors and not let anyone else in. People thought they wouldn’t get a book if they weren’t inside at midnight, which we told them was untrue, but all sorts of excuses were tossed at me. “My five-year-old son is in there. Are you saying you’re going to keep him in there all by himself?” To which I wanted to say, “You left a five-year-old alone in that madhouse, while you came out here to have a cigarette? Stay here while I call Social Services.” Thankfully, I have a blog, so I knew that if I held my sarcasm, I'd be able to get it out of my system in a couple days.

Other than a few brief encounters with Fuggles (a term Ms. Rowling can use if she ever writes Harry Potter 8: The College Years), the night was still full of magic. Including this encounter…

A girl I'd met several months back while speaking to students at my old high school recognized me. Her older brother and I attended school together and, after she saw me speak, she told him what I’d been up to. She also told him about something I'd said in that class. The teacher asked what I would do differently if I could repeat high school. I said that I often regret not participating in sports. Her brother told her that it wasn’t good for me to hold onto that regret. Maybe I never would’ve become an author had things been different for me in high school.

And she approached me on Harry Potter Night just to pass on that nugget of wisdom she learned from her brother.


- Jay

Friday, July 20, 2007

t.r.i.logy: the study of Teen Reader Insights (#1)

“Excuse me,” one Disco Mermaid said. “This may sound weird, but we write books for teens and were wondering if we could interview you."

Thus began our tour into the minds of our eventual readers. For our first t.r.i.logy, we spoke with four female fifteen-year-old friends (that's FFFF for you acronym lovers!) at a local bookstore.

If you like your honesty with a splash of humor, a pinch of sarcasm, and just a bit brutal, read on...

NOTE: For readability (and because they spoke so enthusiastically it was impossible to record who said what), their answers have been lovingly consolidated. Our side of the dialogue appears in bold text, while the bold text within [brackets] is Disco Mermaid commentary added post-interview.

What are some of the most recent books you’ve read for fun?
The Nannies, Forever, The DaVinci Code, Bras & Broomsticks, Girls Dinner Club, Jane Eyre, and everything Ellen Hopkins writes.

What are some things that make you want to buy a book?
What my friends say about it, like when they say, “It’s sooo good. You can’t put it down!” Also what the back cover says. The title. The theme of the book. I usually read books with high drama. And if it’s part of a series that I’ve read the other books of.

So what are some things that make you put a book down?
If the description on the back isn’t good, I’ll put it back. Especially if it’s confusing. But if the description is intentionally confusing, yet intriguing, even if I don’t fully understand what’s going on, I’ll read it.

Also, I don’t like when there’s too much blunt sex talk on the first couple of pages. Otherwise, I know my mom will flip through it and say, “You are not reading this!” So just be subtle with the sex stuff. And sometimes with sex scenes, I wonder why they put it in there to begin with. [As an example, they share the name of a specific book…but we ain’t sayin’ which one!]

If swear words are used a bunch, I don’t like it. But if one character uses it a lot, and that’s just what that one character does, then it’s fine. Just don’t make it the main character. If the word is needed, it makes sense, but if it’s used a bunch, it gets old fast! [Aren’t these girls brilliant?]

How important is the first page of a book?
Very important! If the first couple of pages…maybe the first chapter…aren’t good, I won’t read it. [Maybe all those First Pages workshops we took were worth it!] Sometimes I like to look at the last page and read the final words first.

Um…we don’t like readers like you.
No, I only do that because it’s fun to watch how the story gets there. [Hmm…maybe we need some Last Pages workshops.]

What makes you pick up a book you’ve never heard of?
If the title and cover are interesting.

What do you think of the cover for Thirteen Reasons Why?
I like it a lot! She looks like an interesting person and it makes you wonder what’s going on with her.

Okay, we like you again.

Do you read all the things publishers use to woo you (blurbs, author bio, flap copy)?
I read the back, but I don’t read what other people say, because I probably have different opinions than they do. Plus, they’re not going to say anything bad about the book.

A lot of times I read the bio after reading the book and sometimes I’m surprised by what the author looks like. Especially if it’s a book with lots of sex. She wrote that book?

I was very surprised to find out Avi was a man! [Avi: I’m a man, bay-bee!]

Where do you get most of the books you read (bookstore, library, friends)?
From friends. Well, bookstores, but then we pass them around and share them. I don’t get books from the library.

You know, Jay works at a public library.
No, I like libraries, I just don’t like late fees. And sometimes the plastic covers make the design on the cover lose its effect…it’s less dramatic. And I like to use that half-page [the jacket-flap] as a bookmark, but you can’t do that with library books.

Well, there goes our librarian audience. Moving on…

What do you see in a lot of teen books that really bugs you?
[All together now…] Stereotypes! Like having a dumb blonde. [And that was said by the lone brunette.] Or if things happen in an overly dramatic way. Or dialogue that’s not believable. I don’t like to see big words that I don’t understand. I mean, I don’t think someone my age would use a word like indubitably in a sentence.

You just did.

Or when I read the back or cover and it says something like, “You’ll like this book if…” or “this book is for people who are in relationships.” But maybe I’m not like that, or I’m not in a relationship, but I might like the book. I don’t want them to tell me what I’ll like or not like.

There needs to be constant description and flow and events that build up to a huge twist at the end. Definitely a huge twist!

And if the book is trying to teach me a lesson, I’m like, “I’m not five!” [And they’re funny, too!]

The character has to be someone you can connect with. It has to be someone I would want to be friends with, or at least someone I can imagine who goes to my school. Even with Harry Potter, the characters seem like regular people you want to be friends with. I used to go to a boarding school because I wanted to go to a place like Hogwarts. But it was nothing like it and I don’t go there anymore.

Are you going to be here at midnight when the final Harry Potter book goes on sale?
Yeah, we’re dressing up!

What would you like to see more of in books for teens?
Books that aren’t typical love stories. More creativity…not stereotypical relationships. Real people, but with something really creative happening.

Do you consider yourself a young adult or a teen?
Teen [said as a quartet]! Young adult is eighteen or nineteen.

Do you plan on reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher? It’s a really good book and we know you’ll really really love it!
What’s it about?

Oh, right. [We describe what it’s about.]
Definitely! Of course!

Well, for taking the time to sit down with us and answer some questions, we’d like to buy you a book. Whatever you’d like. Discuss amongst yourselves.

[They pick out several books, form a huddle, then decide on Uglies, the first in a series by Scott Westerfeld. And like true friends, they plan to pass the book around and share it. Hmm...kind of like a library!]

[Finally, we'd like to acknowledge our four intelligent, insightful, and hilarious volunteers. Thank you!]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

t.r.i.logy: the prologue

Dear Authors of Teen Lit.,

Tomorrow, we’ll debut a series of posts that you might find interesting and informative. At the very least, it'll be a whole lotta fun to read! Like many of you, we’ve been attending writing workshops and conferences for years. Established authors have shared tips with us to help improve our writing. Agents and editors have told us (often cryptically) what they’re most interested in acquiring. But there’s one group we’ve never heard from, and it happens to be the most important group of all.

The readers!

What do they want? What don’t they want? What do they think of this? How about that?

Wanna find out what they said? (Trust us, you most definitely do!)

See ya tomorrow,
The Disco Mermaids

P.S. When we say this is a series of posts, we don’t mean in a row. It’s more like whenever we get around to it. Because in a row would've required a lot more planning up front.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The End is Near -- Robin

By now, we all know that the final installment of the Harry Potter series will make its debut at midnight on Friday. (And if you didn’t know that, then…well, you must actually be a rock, not just living under one.)

I don’t have anything hugely profound to add about this, other than to share a conversation I had earlier today at a coffee shop with my dear friend, Jay. (You all know him, right?)

He asked me if I wanted to volunteer with him at Barnes & Noble on Friday.

“No,” I said politely as I scarfed down his cookie.

“Okay, then you should at least come to the bookstore that night,” he said as he slid the remainder of his cookie into his backpack.

I tried to explain that my husband has to work that night, that I have a five-year-old to take care of, that I have dishes and laundry to do, and that if I thought of any more excuses, I would let him know what they were.

Jay then proceeded to explain to me that Friday night is no ordinary night. It’s a historical night. It’s the beginning of the end of something magical that happened…and it happened to a children’s book writer. (Jay continued his lecture, despite me eyeballing the cookie belonging to the guy next to us.) He said that being there for the moment when kids (and adults!) get their hands on their last Harry Potter book will be like no moment we'll get to experience ever again. He reminded me that, as a children’s author, and out of respect for all that is good about children’s literature, I need to be there. It is my duty.

Of course, I saluted him. Then I told him he had something on his shirt and snatched the cookie from his backpack.

As I was running away from him, I thought, You know, maybe he’s right. It is my duty. I can come up with excuses another day. I should be present for the event that represents everything good and right about children’s literature!

So thanks for the lecture, Jay. But seriously, you did have something on your shirt.

What about you all? Will you be at a bookstore on Friday night?

- Robin

Friday, July 13, 2007

We're a Happy Family -- Jay

I hate writing. There...I said it. Now, I absolutely love revising and polishing. But first drafts absolutely suck. And guess what! I’m still working on my first draft for Book 2, which means I’m feeling a whole lotta suckage right now. But I’m cool with that. Why? Cuz you make me happy!

I’m happy because Stephanie Blake signed with an agent. A mere three weeks before signing, Ms. Blake won our SCBWI conference scholarship. Her entry was written with so much personality that we knew she was going to take off eventually. We just didn’t know it was gonna happen before the conference.

I’m happy because Gail Maki Wilson won an Honorable Mention in the W-I-N picture book category. And if you’ll recall the post where we told you to enter that contest (ah shucks, there’s no need to make you recall it…just click here), we told you we’d give anyone who left a comment in that post and won an award an advance reading copy of Thirteen Reasons Why. So, Ms. Wilson…it’s on its way!

I’m happy because Charlie Perryess won First Place in the W-I-N young adult category. That’s a particularly special category to me because I won that very same award four years ago with Thirteen Reasons Why. And Mr. Perryess is a particularly special person to me because we’re in the very same critique group. I know! Charlie even came to my party celebrating the sale of my book and can be seen in this post (he’s a little fuzzy, so look for the happy head under the first blue balloon in the photo marked "The Guests"). Chris Crutcher was the judge when I won, and happens to be buds with Terry Trueman, who was the judge this year.

It’s like one big happy family…and I’m happy to be part of it!

- Jay

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In the Waiting Line -- Robin

We all go through it. You know…the wait. Is today going to be the day that I get “the call” and my life will be changed forever? Or will I simply go to the grocery store and wait in line to buy the same old cereal and the same old jug of milk and the same old box of double fudge Nestle’s Crunch ice cream bars? Who knows!

Lately, there’s been a lot of bloggin’ out there about this dreaded wait. I applaud The Mighty Dotificus for showing her feelings about the topic and I can’t help but laugh that my dear Evie thought her agent was giving her “the call” when she had actually maxed out her credit card.

As I was thinking about how the wait is making me a crazy person, I remembered a conversation the three of us had with author Cecil Castellucci a few years ago at the national SCBWI conference. She had just recently sold her first book, Boy Proof, and confidently told us that she knew she would eventually sell a book. “As long as your writing is good,” Cecil said, “all you have to do is stand in line and wait your turn.” She said it without even twitching or breaking out with a string of Tourette’s-style curse words. She just said it and meant it.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m waiting in line for my turn to come up. And waiting in line for a publisher to love your book is very similar to standing in line at the grocery store. You look for the shortest line to stand in, then look around at all the other lines wondering if you made a mistake by standing in that one. You look at everyone else’s groceries and estimate how long it will take for them to get through, then look at the cashier and estimate their level of ability when it comes to typing in vegetable codes and wonder if it’s your cashier’s first day on the job. This will take forever, you think. But then you have a flash of empathy and you see the person behind you only has one item and you let them go in front of you, but when it’s their turn, a bell suddenly rings and the inexperienced cashier yells, “Congratulations! You’re our millionth customer of the day! You get a three book deal!” That should be me, you think. And then you change lines.

Sometimes my line is moving so slow I wonder if it’s even moving at all. But my agent reminded me that progress is slow, but it is progress. At her workshop on setting goals, she asked me, “Are you closer to your goal than you were a year ago?”

And my answer: Definitely yes.

So I hope my cashier is good and experienced and this line moves quickly. I’ve got double fudge Nestle’s Crunch ice cream bars melting here!

- Robin

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

7-7-7 -- Eve

I was in Vegas (Baby!) for the last few days, eating, drinking, gambling, sunning, and generally engaging in debaucherous Vegas-y behavior. But believe it or not, I couldn’t fully concentrate and enjoy the depravity of it all. Why? I’m fixated on my freaking book that’s sitting on editors’ desks as we speak! Now, granted, it’s probably serving as a big fat coaster, collecting coffee ring stains from assistants’ mugs because the editors are all on summer vacay enjoying their own debauchery. Still, I couldn’t help but obsess. Waiting gets worse every single day.

As I floated down Mandalay Bay’s Lazy River on my fluorescent pink tube (poor me, I know) I remembered something. My agent is in NYC right now. I had forgotten that she’s spending the week meeting with the editors who aren’t sunbathing in the Hamptons with Paris and Lindsay. Holy crap! She could call me at any time with news! Then the signs started popping up all around me. My room got upgraded to a suite. I accidentally got a free dessert. And, kid you not, as the clock struck 12 midnight on 7/7/07 my slot machine suddenly got hot, spitting silver dollars at me. CLANG CLANG CLANG! With each pull of the lever everything became clear. This is my lucky day. 7/7/7 is the luckiest day of the millennium. Woo-hoo! Baby needs a new pair of shoes!

As the day went on I realized that I hadn’t heard my phone ring one time. I usually get at least 5-10 calls from Robin and/or Jay per day. So I checked my phone and, sure enough, the ringer was off. And I’d missed a call! It was from area code 831. Hmm. I searched my brain. 831…831…Holy crap! My agent! She’s the only person I know from the 831. Are you kidding me?? I knew it. Knew it! Knew it! Knew it!

My heart raced and my fingers shook as I pressed in my voicemail passcode. My head raced. My agent, my agent, my agent. Million dollar deal, million dollar deal. Five book contract…aaahhh! “Hello, Eve,” said the soothing female voice on the recorded message. This was it! The call. The moment I’ve waited for my whole entire… “This is Jenny with the Henry Miller Library. We received your registration for the Big Sur Writer’s Conference. Unfortunately, we can’t accept your credit card. Apparently it’s been maxed out. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

So, turns out 7/7/7 was pretty significant. It was my day (to file for bankruptcy). Damn that slot machine. Damn that temptress! Seductress!

- Eve

Saturday, July 07, 2007

When You Win...We Win!

By way of e-mail
Natalie, winner of our Thirteen Reasons Why ARC contest, sent us several cool photos of her cool prizes living it up in Italy. There was one of Eve’s painting being admired by a classroom full of children, a couple shots of Natalie’s own children enjoying good ol’ American peanut butter candy, a photo of her daughters carefully holding a drawing by Robin’s son, and several of Jay’s book enjoying the Italian experience. His book visited a beautiful stone fountain, rode a motor scooter, sampled gelato, and sipped cappuccino…

By way of mail mail (Jay’s dad works at the post office, so sn@!l mail is not a part of our vocabulary)
Stephanie, winner of our SCBWI summer conference scholarship, sent us a care package full of Mermaid-appropriate gifts (which will only seem appropriate to you if you’ve read an insane amount of our posts). Robin is thrilled to now own a Microfiber Super Duster, a bunch of plastic dinosaurs, and some Ghirardelli chocolate. It’s hard for Jay to believe he now owns a Not Now I'm Busy t-shirt, a Butterfinger bar, and a happy-face stressball. And Eve did the happy dance after receiving some new pink flip-flops, Little Debby Fancy Cakes, Gummi Bears, and a tube of bonbon flavored lip gloss.

By way of The Horn Book
Susan Patron has yet to win a Disco Mermaid contest. But she did win this year’s Newbery Award (which, we admit, is a very close second). The Higher Power of Lucky scrotum controversy inspired us to create The Newbery Jewels. The Horn Book then contacted us about including that design in their forthcoming issue dedicated to the ALA awards. We said, "Sure!" Then we began selling our design on T-shirts, mouse pads, coffee cups, tote bags, and thongs. But The Horn Book decided not to use our Jewels due to copyright concerns. We stopped selling that merchandise soon after, due to those very same concerns…and some e-mail exchanges with ALA lawyers (who, by the way, were extremely friendly and had brilliant senses of humor!). So what did we win when Ms. Patron won the Newbery? Inclusion! Here’s an excerpt from her Newbery acceptance speech, as printed in The Horn Book’s latest issue, which is dedicated to the ALA awards…

I was trying to keep a copy of everything being said, published, blogged, and podcast about the controversy. In a librarianesque way, I set up a folder: SCROTUM. Soon that folder was inadequate. I needed subheadings such as POPULAR CULTURE for online scrotum-inspired products: T-shirts, mouse pads, coffee cups, tote bags, and thongs.*

*Ms. Patron herself bought several items from us
...though she did not purchase any thongs.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gender Bending -- Robin

After being completely encouraged by Laini Taylor’s “just start writing” advice, I’ve been immersed in the world of my new middle grade novel…and I’ve written a whopping ten pages! Woo-hoo!

But just yesterday, I had an epiphany. Now, I must tell you that I always have my epiphanies in two places: either in my bed during those lovely moments when I’m just waking up…or…when I’m in the shower. So when I have an epiphany, I typically rush out of bed (half-dressed) or jump out of the shower (not dressed at all) and run around to find my dear husband so I can share this life-changing thought. And he typically responds, “Yes, that’s nice, dear…now get some clothes on!”

So here is the new epiphany I had yesterday: I think my main character needs to be a girl, not a boy. Zoinks!!! How could that be!? I’ve been stewing this book idea in my brain for months, and it’s always been with a dorky 11-year-old boy as the main character. So why does it need to be a girl? Well, I broke it down to two reasons:

Voice: To make any book work, that has to be right on. The thing is, I’ve been writing my other middle grade novel with a boy main character for almost five years. And honestly…I can’t get him out of my head! When I sat down to write my new story with a completely new boy, I felt I was still writing from the perspective of my previous MC. And as much as I’d like to admit that I am a highly skilled and adaptable kind of writer, I have to come to terms with the fact that maybe I need to make a real big change in order to force my brain into a new way of thinking. And that big change is…a girl!

Audience: My new novel is big, big, big in terms of plot (which is a bit of a diversion for me, since I seem to be more of a character writer). For some reason, I felt this big plot needed a boy to carry out all of the adventurous activities I was planning on writing for him. And I figured only boys would want to read about spy stuff and world domination and soccer. But now, I think I was wrong about that. Girls are different than boys, that is true, but when I was teaching, I knew a lot of very strong, smart, feminine, sweet girls who could also kick butt and save the world. So I think those girls deserve an action-packed book just as much as the boys do. I’ve always loved girls who played sports and wore a nice shade of lipgloss.

So now I go back to Laini’s advice to try not to get hung up on the “other” writing stuff like outlining and having epiphanies in showers. I’m just going to reactivate my feminine side and get writing!

- Robin

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy July 4th! -- Eve

There’s a new “Meme” making the Blogosphere rounds that asks for our earliest memory. While working on my second book today, I searched my brain for childhood summertime memories to add some authentic details. And I realized that my earliest and most vivid memories happen to be from our neighborhood July 4th parties. How appropriate!

From age 3 to 8 I lived in the most perfect little Southern California neighborhood, where all the kids were the same age and all the parents were the best of friends. Every Fourth of July we’d have an enormous block party with games and relay races and tons of loud, dangerous (and probably very illegal) fireworks. Two things stand out the most. First, I adored those little snake fireworks. You know, those round, black, nickel-sized discs that grew into log-shaped ashes when you lit them? Loved those! I looked forward to them all year. Second, it was at my first July 4th party (at age 3) that I developed my first real crush on a real boy. Alex was his name, and he was somebody’s cousin who only came around once a year to visit. From the moment we met, we were completely inseparable. And for the next five years, we were reunited and “married” every July 4th. It’s funny. It’s been almost thirty years since I’ve seen the boy, but I can still remember exactly what he looked like (thick, dark, curly hair and pudgy face), the clothes he wore when we met (blue and yellow horizontal striped shirt), and the way he made me feel when he first held my hand (to lead me across the smoky street to the curb where the “snakes” were being lit). My heart still jumps at the memory.

There’s a brilliant scene in the movie Knocked Up (which, BTW, if you haven’t seen it, I order you to drop your Hot Pocket, abandon your Lazy-Boy recliner, and run to the nearest movie theater right now!) where the two dudes are sitting watching kids at the playground and one says something like, “Watching kids play just reminds me how we forget to take pleasure in anything as adults.” Basically, he implies that as we age, the life gets sucked out of us, and we have no fun. In contrast, as kids, we could have a hunk of sand and a stick and we’d
make the fun last for hours.

I have a theory that children’s book writers are just big little kids who desperately want to recapture those days, so we naturally gravitate to the one profession that allows us to live in kid-world day after day. At least, that’s true for me. I’d give anything to be a six-year-old for life. Everything at that age is new and exciting. Your job is to play and have fun. The highlight of the year is
watching little pellets grow into ash-logs. And falling in love is as easy as holding a pudgy hand.

Happy Fourth! Now I insist you go write your name in the air with a sparkler.

- Eve

Monday, July 02, 2007

Finding DiscoLand #5

“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!

- Harry Potter karate -
(is someone at Scholastic hunting for Book 7 spoilers? hmm...)

- how do mermaids poop -
(just like everyone else...with a magazine and an overhead fan)

- pasta symbolism -
(he asked if you liked penne rigati on the very first date?)

- Eve's sex tape -
(honestly, it's just a look-alike...Eve would never wear those shoes)

- i said oh ow disco -
(this one came from the E.P.A.—seriously!—which explains what they've been doing with their time and resources lately)

- Hannah tan between the mountains -
(of course, that's only after she burned and peeled)

- how to clean up robin poop -
(it's not very different from jay and eve poop)

- easy ways to turn into mermaids -
(***see below***)

- mermaid camp -
(who wants to go?)