Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happiness Is... -- Jay

Robin and I recently met at Linnaea’s Café to go over my edits to her manuscript, The Happiness Project. We were also interested in watching some of the speeches from the Democratic national convention on her laptop.

After the first speech, Robin and I had so much to discuss (thankfully, our political views are almost identical). And I made an offhand comment that it was unfortunate we couldn’t talk about politics on our blog.

And Robin said…

Yes we can!

But I didn’t think it was appropriate to use this blog, where we discuss our lives as children’s book writers, to express our excitement…or disappointment…in political things. I mean, sure, even children’s book writers have worldviews that lean us in certain political directions and almost certainly seep into our written words, but I still didn’t think we…

Yes we can!

Maybe if we wrote non-fiction books dealing with the state of the world it would be more appropriate. But the Disco Mermaids, when we write, we just make stuff up. We write fiction! Contemporary fiction. Contemporary realistic fiction, which basically means we take the real world and add a unique point of view or an interesting plot twist to discuss the way the world works. But, no, I still didn’t think…

Yes we can!

By that part of our discussion, Robin’s laptop ran out of juice (she forgot to bring her plug!), so we hightailed it to Mom and Dad Asher’s house to catch the next big Democratic speech. As she drove, I continued discussing my changes to her manuscript. One of the storylines in The Happiness Project, oddly enough, deals with a girl’s upcoming oral report on the Declaration of Independence. And Robin brings up some great points in there about what the founding fathers hoped Americans would do if our country ever found itself in desperate need of change. Too bad we can’t…

Yes we can!

When it came time to figure out a topic for my next blog post, Robin suggested that I simply describe our back-and-forth about whether or not to discuss politics on our blog. So that’s what you’ve got! And if any of my views seeped into this post, I sincerely hope it wasn’t too irritating.

But a little political…that’s something else I can believe in.

- Jay

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From GA to CA -- Robin

I’m back from my vacation in Georgia where I had my fill of Waffle House and Chick-Fil-A. (But I don’t think I can ever truly get my fill of the vanilla dream ice cream cones at Chick-Fil-A. I miss 'em already!)

I also managed to accomplish the three things I needed to do in order to complete the research for my middle grade novel set in Atlanta.

First, I checked out some architecture…

Note: The house I grew up in looked exactly like this one, except that my house was small and wasn’t white and didn’t have columns and didn’t look like this house at all.

Then, I rode the MARTA subway train downtown. Here’s a picture of me and my brother standing in front of the High Museum of Art...

Note: My brother is the one standing with his arm around me, not the guy in the Skipper hat…in case you were wondering. (You probably weren’t wondering.)

And finally…I took a tour of the Centers for Disease Control!!!

My mother and I were escorted through the visitor center with our own personal tour guide. It was fascinating and I came away with a few great nuggets of detail that will fit perfectly into my story.

The CDC is very secure and we had to go through a couple of security checkpoints. Our car even had to go through security, with two armed guards thoroughly searching every part. Even the engine! They only allow you to take pictures inside the visitor center. You are not allowed to take pictures outside. (But I did anyway. Don’t they understand I have a blog!?)

Note: That’s me in the CDC parking lot. I swear!

When we landed back in Los Angeles, we did what all sane people do at the end of a long, exhausting trip. We went to see Donna Summer at the Hollywood Bowl! She brought down the house with “Last Dance.” The queen rocked it!

So now I’m energized to finish these last rounds of revisions and get this book into the hands of my agent. Hopefully she won’t mind the pages that come with smudges of vanilla dream ice cream. Mmmm…Chick-Fil-A. I think I’m ready for another trip back to Atlanta…

- Robin

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gimme the Gold -- Eve

I’ve decided that sitting down to write for long periods of time takes the same amount of focus, energy, and endurance the Olympic athletes need to excel at their sports. Seriously! I sit here day after day, month after month, and sadly, year after year, clacking away at this computer, not moving a single muscle except for those in the fingers, wrists, forearms and eyeballs. But, at the end of each day, I’m exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Then I sleep, and get up to do it all over again the next day.

I read somewhere that Michael Phelps works out for at least 5 straight hours a day. A re you kidding me? Puh-leeze, M-Phelp. I can do twice that without even taking a bathroom break. Apparently, he also consumes 12,000 calories a day. Psh…that’s nothing! With all the café mochas and red licorice I inhale, no doubt I’ve got you beat. I mean, every single Starbucks mocha I suck down is 1000 calories right there…Boom!

You know, I’m starting to believe that writing a novel is way tougher than being a multi-medal winning Olympian. I mean, these guys have their own entourage 24/7 coaching them, training them, massaging them, feeding them, brushing their teeth. We novelists got nothing! They’ve got the added luxury of having other people to compete against, so they have constant testosterone flying around, and instant adrenalin rushes when they watch competitors excelling. All this activity makes it easy to push through the pain and perform.

We writers sit in quiet solitude. No coaches. No competitors in our faces. No massages. No endorsements or money or commercials or free swim caps. Not that I’d wear a swim cap, but still, it’d be nice to have a collection of free ones anyway…you know, so I could create a display above the mantle or something.

All I’ve got is a brain and a pencil!

Okay, and a critique group and a computer. And an iPod and printer. And the internet and books. And all my Facebook and writing friends. And a cushy couch and lots of sweatsuits. And licorice and Coke Zero and café mochas. And Robin and Jay at my disposal 24/7 for brainstorming, last minute critiques, moral support, licorice, Coke Zero and café mochas. And my fantastic running shoes for those daily runs around the vineyard to work out the plot kink sessions. And a pool. And a hot tub. And my puppies to keep me company all day and play with me on breaks.

Okay, I don’t have it so bad. I do think they should start giving out medals for writers, though. And if they awarded them based on sheer endurance (the ability to bear prolonged exertion, pain, or hardship), I’d win the gold!

- Eve

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Want My RGZ TV -- Jay

I love TV! Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around watching holiday cartoon specials. (Seriously, how did Snoopy get that scrawny li'l Christmas tree to sprout branches just by waving his hands in front of it?) And in college, if I had trouble falling asleep, I would put on QVC and slowly fade into dreamland while watching a woman (who was always a little too composed for me to fully trust her) try to sell me sweaters and knives.

But...and here's the part which usually gets me labeled weird...I haven't owned a TV in six years. And I don't miss it! As long as Mom and Dad invite me over on Survivor night, and as long as I can catch The Daily Show online, I'm fine.

Plus, those fabulous Readergirlz just launched rgz TV where I can watch interviews with some of my favorite YA authors. So far, they've got Rachel Cohn, Sonya Sones, and Paula Yoo available for my viewing pleasure whenever I want them.

Oh, and I'm on there, too. But I refuse to listen to my own video because I would just obsess over my words for the next several weeks and I'd need that composed woman from QVC to help me fall asleep.

- Jay

Dork Admission: I did watch my video with the sound off, though. How come no one ever told me I talk with my hands that much?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hey, Y'all! -- Robin

I'm in Georgia right now to visit friends and family. But mostly, it seems like I've been hangin' out on I-85. When my son and I arrived at the Atlanta airport, we drove with my folks to Charlotte, North Carolina to spend the weekend with my brother and his kids. My nephew was playing in a soccer tournament and we decided to make it a family event. There were almost a hundred soccer teams playing in the tournament, which meant the Holiday Inn Express we were staying at was filled with under-13 soccer teams...boys and girls.

Now, a weekend like that may sound like H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks to most of you. But for me, it was one thing: Fodder. For. My. Book! I spent Saturday night prying under-13 soccer girls off of my under-13 soccer nephew. (He's adorable, so I couldn't blame them.)

My son was a trooper, and even found ways to pass the time during all the soccer games.

Later this week, since my middle-grade novel is set in Atlanta, I plan to do the following "southern" things in the name of research...

1. Visit a historical section of town to study the architecture.

2. Ride the subway to downtown myself.

3. And, of course, take a tour of the Centers for Disease Control!

That last one may sound like H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks to most of you, but I can't wait! I'm going to visit the CDC! I'll report back later in the week with more info. And hopefully, with nothing contagious...

Bye, y'all!

- Robin

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bruce Coville-isms -- Eve

(I'd like to dedicate this post to the ever-talented writer, singer, picture book reader, Disneyland expert-extraordinaire,  
Tyler McBroom...who I believe in my lifetime will become the next Bruce Coville.)

One of the best parts of the SCBWI conference for me this year was watching the always outrageously entertaining Bruce Coville speak. He makes me laugh, cry, gasp and yearn to become a better writer and person. Every time I see him, he spits out so many perfect, poignant Coville-isms, I hardly have the finger power to write them all down. Some of my favorites from this year’s opening keynote speech:

“Push the why. Ask yourself why you want to write the story.”

“The three stages of childhood in American history include child as: 
A) Economic Contributor, B) Object of Love, and C) Consumer.” 
(So true! Yet a little sad…)

“Kids need heroes.”

“The seven deadly sins for writers are: Dullness, Repetition, Cliché, Inattention, Perfectionism, Sloth, Clumsiness.” 
(Is Sloth really a sin? Damn!) 

“Do not follow the trend. Make the trend.”

great book is like only itself.”

“Clichés lie dead and leaden on the page.”

“I cannot imagine a greater handicap than lacking a sense of humor.” 
(Couldn’t agree with you more, Bruce! Well said.)

“Security is an illusion.”

“Humor is the highest emotion.”

“To act from joy is more courageous than to act from fear.”

And my all time favorite Coville-ism:

“The Creator must have had a sense of humor to place the plumbing so close to the playground!” 
(Remember, Bruce said it. Not me!)

Love Bruce Coville. I want to be him when I grow up!

- Eve

(Please check out the Plot This blog for a great recap of Bruce Coville's Plotting workshop!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Disco Blurbmaids

Dilemma: We don’t want to start reviewing books on our blog, yet there’s a new book all three of us fell instantly in love with. You might say we frequently sing its praises!

Solution: We won’t review the book…we’ll blurb it!

While this book has already received a wonderful blurb by someone named Meg Cabot, we decided to offer our own little nuggets of applause to Robin Benway’s debut teen novel, Audrey, Wait!

But first, here’s how the book is described on its jacket flap:


Audrey Cuttler’s life hasn’t been the same since that song, “Audrey, Wait!” hit the airwaves. All she wants to do is go to concerts, hang out with her friends, and maybe score a date with the cute boy who works with her at the Scooper Dooper.

But now, her ex-boyfriend’s song about their breakup is at the top of the charts and she’s suddenly famous! The paparazzi won’t leave her alone, the tabloids are trying to make her into some kind of rock goddess, and the Internet is documenting her every move!

Will Audrey ever be able to have a normal life again? Get ready to find out, because it’s time for Audrey to tell her side of the story.
And now for the blurbs:

Robin Benway did three things with this story: She. Rocked. It.
- Robin Mellom

When I first heard the premise for Audrey, Wait! I was almost too afraid to start reading it. I thought my hopes were way too high. Turns out, I could’ve set them even higher.
- Jay Asher

Robin Benway, brilliant! Just like when I come across a new tune I need to play over and over, I finished Audrey, Wait!, then flipped back to the beginning and read it all again.
- Eve Porinchak

Run, don’t wait to get your hands on Audrey, Wait! You’ll wonder why you didn’t run faster! Then you'll wonder why you don't run through bookstores all the time. It's so much fun!
- Robin Mellom

If you mix up the letters and punctuation in Robin Benway Audrey, Wait!, you get A Brawny, Auditory Newbie! Coincidence? I think not.
- Jay Asher

I laughed, I cried, I became one with Audrey, Wait! But mostly laughed. My new favorite book!
- Eve Porinchak

Not only do Robin Benway and I share the same first name (which makes me that much closer to being cool someday) but we also share a love of music. And Audrey, Wait! makes you want to write a love song to her as the author for writing such a fantastic book. So fantastic that I had to read it even when American Idol was on. Seriously…it’s that good.
- Robin Mellom

You know that song "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen? And you know how that song is so fun, but it’s really hard to figure out which part is the most fun? Audrey, Wait! is just like that!
- Jay Asher

I LOL-ed so many times my stomach hurt. So real. So quick-witted. So wish I had written it first!
- Eve Porinchak

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
It won't just tickle your funnybone...
it'll rock it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Way to Get the Chills -- Jay

When I got home last Saturday, a package was waiting on my doorstep. Inside was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. Not only was there an autographed copy of Brooke Taylor’s debut teen novel, Undone…but on the back of the book was my very first blurb!

Why is it so cool to see my name on someone else’s book? I don’t know, but it is! When I showed my wife, she got the chills, too.

Along with a copy of the book, there were several bookmarks and postcards, such as this…

The full blurb reads: A beautifully intense story. Brooke Taylor hooked me with the very first line and never let go.

And to whet your appetite, here’s that first line: Kori came with a warning label—a black T-shirt that read: DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR ABOUT ME.

What’d I tell you!

- Jay

Dork Admission: Yesterday, I was in a bookstore and stumbled upon several copies of Undone on the shelves. I showed off my debut blurb to a few shoppers…completely forgetting to tell them about my own book one aisle over!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Back in the Saddle -- Robin

No doubt, we had fun at the national SCBWI conference. But the highlight for me was Sunday at the Golden Kite Luncheon when Lin Oliver gave a moving tribute to Sue Alexander.

Lin told the story of how SCBWI came to be. She and Stephen Mooser were friends who had just graduated from college in the early 70’s and they had been asked to do some work for an educational publisher. Neither one of them knew much about writing for children, so they tried to find an organization to answer their questions. But there were none. So…they decided to start their own. They ran an ad asking for writers to join their new organization called the Society of Children’s Book Writers. And the first person to answer that ad? Sue Alexander.

Over 35 years later, looking around that glamorous ballroom full of nearly a thousand people, it made me want to cry. I am so proud to be part of an organization so thriving and full of amazing supportive people. Sniff!

The conference inspired me and motivated me (as it does every year) to get back in the saddle and push harder and harder to write the best story possible. Which, for me, meant getting back to revising my middle grade novel, The Happiness Project.

You may remember that I spent quite a while revising that puppy with my new, lovely, Elite Uni-Ball red pen...

And I assumed I had gotten the manuscript into really good shape. But my critiques from Jay have been rolling in (apparently he’s partial to fine-tipped black pens)…

Umm...yeah. I have a lot of work to do.

So thanks to the folks at SCBWI for putting on a fabulous conference. Nothing but love. And I also want to say thanks to my critique partners, but really…that’s more of a love/hate thing.

Nah, let’s face it…it’s mostly love.

- Robin

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Final Photos from SCBWI

One more pic from Jay's workshop on suspense. Do you recognize the book he's reading? It's only the greatest tale of suspense ever written!!!

Laura Rennert, agent to two Disco Mermaids, hosted a get-together in the X Bar for her clients, many of whom were meeting for the first time. Cool authors! Even cooler agent!!!

This is the crew we hung out with through most of the conference. At least, it's as many as would fit at one table for the Golden Kite luncheon.

See y'all in less than a year!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Day 2 at SCBWI

It was standing-room only at Jay's first non-panel SCBWI workshop. Isn't this the most beautiful audience you've ever seen?

As part of Jay's workshop, he used a Powerpoint slide exposing Bruce Coville's fear of happy-faces. (And yes, it made sense in context. Kind of.)

Of course, the real reason we go to these conferences is to have tons o' fun with others in the children's lit. world. Here's the view from our hotel room, looking down at the Paint the Town Red party.

And here we are, getting ready to make our grand entrance and feeling more nervous than in any previous year.

Jay and the tallest (and nicest) guy at the conference, David LaRochelle.

Robin and Eve and lady in red, Suzanne Young.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Day 1 at SCBWI

Soon after arriving in L.A., Katie and Sarah Frances presented us with Y'all hats, direct from Mississippi.

Lunch with the Mississippi gals, Rita Crayon Huang, Lee Wind, Will Ferrell, and John C. Riley.

Toasting something very cool (more on that later) with Suzanne Young and Katie.

Jay's first time speaking on the main stage with Yuyi Morales, Paula Yoo, John Rocco, and Lisa Yee.

Jay kickin' butt at the first annual skipping contest through the hotel lobby. (We had to yell "Guffaw!" at the peak of each skip. Don't ask.)