Thursday, April 30, 2009

Apples to Oranges

So last night my son asked me to read to him because he has pinkeye and really isn't willing to have his eyes open for any length of time unless he absolutely has to. His current book is one of the Hardy Boys' mysteries.

As I'm reading along, my mouth is saying the words, but my head is thinking, "Yikes! Dated!" It made me laugh because my best friend in high school and I used to joke about our "Nancy Drew words": things like sedan, pocketbook, davenport, slacks. AND THERE THEY WERE! Right before my very eyes!

And it got me thinking about the difference between classic literature and dated literature. What makes a book like I Capture the Castle a beautiful, classic book, when Hardy Boys, a poor stepchild, is the object of lexicon jokes?

Well, ok, it's not really a fair comparison.

Still, it's relevant to me as a writer. I want my scribblings to be classic in fifty years, not dated. Something to ponder.

A small FYI...you CAN BUY a castle. I looked at several online yesterday as a way to extend my fictional dream. I, too, could be a destitute writer living in a castle.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reading

I just finished re-reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. The first time I read it (years ago), my sister loaned it to me insisting that I would love it. I hate to say that I didn't particularly love it. It wasn't exactly what I expected. It didn't hit me with any emotional force.

How time does change us.

I'm not sure why, but this time I felt like I had been hit by an emotional mack truck upon finishing it. Timing? Stress level? A much closer read this time around? I can't say, but I came away from finishing it with a very real sense of catharsis.

Not to mention, a deep desire to live in a ramshackle castle in the English countryside...

Monday, April 27, 2009

SCBWI

I'm back! Did you miss me? Yeah, whatever. I know.

Anyway, conference report: thumbs up. Sadly, though, I did not take a single photo. I wanted to...I almost did...but then I thought I really shouldn't take a picture of Cynthia Lord without asking permission and I just didn't have the guts to ask her. I asked her to sign my copy of Rules and that about exhausted the wee bit of moxie that I have.

Sometimes a conference is all about catching up with old friends, sometimes it's about networking, sometimes it's about the sessions. This conference was a bit of all three for me.

I got to see Julie Berry, longtime friend, as well as several familiar faces from Vermont College (Anandita, Sarah, Joanie, Ann, Tam, Trinity, Cindy, Erin).

I met some new friends at Friday night's Schmooze at the Muse (Phoebe, Erin, Alisa, Scott, Marjorie). I had a critique with Erica Zappy, associate editor at Houghton Mifflin, on Friday and had such a positive and encouraging conversation with her. I had lunch with Pam Glauber, assistant editor at Holiday House, who looks like a combination of two of my friends--sort of a strawberry-blonde version of Samara.

And then there was the meat of the conference... Cynthia Lord and Floyd Cooper were the keynote speakers and such generous and talented people they are. Cynthia Lord spoke about the plusses and perils of writing what you know. Floyd Cooper showed us his subtractive method of producing his illustrations. Truly impressive.

Jacqueline Davies spoke about creating an unreliable narrator. I learned so much and I was so persuaded by her analysis that I'm putting this on the backburner for project #3, turning one of my straightforward characters into an unreliable narrator.

I also went to a picture book workshop given by Toni Buzzeo and Jennifer Ward, in which they so clearly outlined the structure and organization of picture books. We analyzed a PB manuscript of our own for the various aspects we discussed. So valuable.

Cynthia Lord and Linda Urban gave a workshop on theme. Again, so useful for me, particularly with the piece I'm working on for my creative thesis.

Agents Barry Goldblatt, Tracey Adams, and Jennifer Laughran presented a Q & A panel regarding agents. It was great to hear these agents in person, as "listening" to them online only tells you so much.

All in all, I had a great weekend. And now, back to work!

Friday, April 24, 2009

NE-SCBWI

Off to the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference. Pictures to follow. I hope.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Muse is In

This morning, after having stewed for three days, inspiration finally struck. The clock is ticking and workshop materials will be due next month...and there's no time like post-packet to fit in writing something new.

I've been wanting to write something humorous, considering I've sandwiched fighting evil in between death and disease in the projects I've currently got going. The last three days, I've tossed aside one idea after another, finally coming to the sad conclusion that I just wasn't funny anymore. Well, yeah, I'm funny, but not that way. It was a sad conclusion to come to, indeed. Have I lost my sense of humor? Did my children drag it out of me?

But huzzah! Inspiration. A new story idea. Funny? Maybe. But definitely different from the other three projects I've got in the fire.

I'll likely be quiet this week, as it's spring break and this weekend is the New England SCBWI conference. Looking forward to it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

And the Verdict Is...

Positive. The Amazing and Brilliant Tim Wynne-Jones liked my excerpt from Into the Trees, my first novel-in-progress, and agreed that I should use it for part of my creative thesis. And as for Spectrum, well, it needs more work. But that was no big surprise. I'm just so very happy that he can spot, diagnose, and prescribe treatment for so many of my narrative woes.

And now, only two packets left.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another Dream

I swear that someday I'll stop posting my dreams, but I simply can't help myself right now. I dreamt last night that I was walking by this enormous Victorian house--mansion, really--and I wanted to own it. The fact that it wasn't for sale didn't phase me. I walked in and began counting rooms. I got stuck upstairs when I saw the library. Oh, the library. Ah, the library. Two stories tall, floor to ceiling bookshelves (at least I think it was ceiling--they seemed to go on into infinity), mammoth room, fireplace. And then there was the kitchen downstairs. Oh, the kitchen. Ah, the kitchen. Space. Cupboards. Pantries. Counters.

I like dreams like these.

Perhaps I was dreaming such a dream because I sent my third packet to my advisor last night? My tightly-reigned in imagination was allowed to set off in fanciful pathways, since it was freed from the chains of my various fictions.

Oh, the library. Ah, the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another One Out the Door

I just sent in my third packet of the semester. Meaning that the semester is three-fifths of the way done. Scary. Two more packets until I graduate. Two packets, and a lecture. Oh, ok, two packets, a lecture, AND a creative thesis signed off.

So onto happier news, the costumes for the Fairy Tale Ball are all settled. I am going as Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. Son #1 is going as the Beanstalk (truly, he is rather a beanpole). Son #2 is going as a court jester (type-casting, no doubt about it), and the Gingerbread Man is going as a fairy godmother. He's wearing my tiara and my son's fairy wings. He got a wand and some fake tattoos, and he hasn't shaved. Hilarious.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Clicked

After going to bed last night rather dejected because I hadn't written much of anything new for this packet (just revised stuff), something clicked for me today. Pieces are coming together. No, I haven't written 52 pages of new stuff this month like I did last month, but I am pulling it together. And that's almost as satisfying. In fact, maybe it's more satisfying, because the beginning of this draft is beginning to feel like a manuscript. Gasp.

Besides that?

I'm recovering from Easter. I made these. Don't make them. Really. You'll only regret it. Especially if you have a high school reunion quickly approaching.

Yum.

Or if you have a Fairy Tale Ball to attend this week. In costume. Even if it's with a group of second-graders. Perhaps everyone will be so dazzled by my tiara they won't notice the crumbs strewn across my dress.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Perfect Pitch

Yesterday was piano lesson day. I sat on the sofa in the adjoining room listening in as my son showed his stuff.

After playing a few notes, he turned to his teacher. "Did you get your piano tuned?" he asked.

Surprised, she said, "Yes, I did! How did you know?"

"It sounded different. I could just tell."

This might not have been a surprising dialogue, if the piano student had been taking lessons for quite some time. Or if he was old. Or accustomed to that particular piano. Or if it was wickedly out of tune.

It was surprising because it was my son's third lesson. Ever. He'd only played that piano twice before. And did I mention? He's eight.

What makes him able to hear the difference when a sound is a little too sharp and when it's just perfect? I can guarantee you that it's not genetics. Does he have perfect pitch? I don't know. I guess time will tell.

As I sit here revising and revising for my next packet (due the 16th), I'm wishing I could tell the difference between a scene that is a little too sharp and one that's just perfect. Unfortunately, my eyes are too used to seeing these particular words on the screen. The words blur together and I can't tell if they dance with the beauty of marbled colors or they squat with the reality of mud. Rainbow or mud pie? I'll let you know.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Fair Godmother

I just finished reading My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison, a delightful romp through fairy-tale land sponsored by Chrysanthemum Everstar, a so-so fairy godmother (therefore, just "fair"). When Savannah's boyfriend breaks up with her to start dating her older sister, Savannah wishes for a prince to take her to a ball and Chrissy (the only fair godmother) turns her into Cinderella--eight months before the ball.

Cute book. Well done. No loose threads. No heaving bosoms. No vampires. What more could a girl ask for these days?

Next up:The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.