Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hey, Page 121 - It's ON

There's a paragraph in my manuscript that's won an embarrassing amount of staring contests against me this past week. And this paragraph (and the page it's on, and the scenes it folds into) does NOT care about deadlines.

In fact, it's helped me procrastinate in new and exciting ways. I cleaned out a linen closet, shredded a mountain of junk mail, ate an entire bag of sour watermelons, and read two books in under a week. Page 121 has effectively knocked the wind out of any and all writing productivity. At one point this weekend, I walked away from my computer and started flossing my teeth.

My self imposed deadline is quickly approaching (71% finished!), so tonight I did what I had to do - what I should have done days ago instead of rearranging my cleaning supplies. I hit "print."

This isn't for everyone, but pen to paper just works for me. No blinking cursor, no easy access to my Google Reader - just pages that I can flip and fold while I read, and mark up with my happy blue pen.

Writing a book is one of the most mental things I've ever done, so I'll take whatever mind tricks get me through the painful parts. If all it takes is a little printer ink, then I'm in luck - and page 121 is going DOWN.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

OCD Alphabet Soup

Hurricane Irene has nothing on this bowl of alphabet soup, artfully arranged by artist Urus Wehrli.  And if you were ever wondering about letter distribution, well there you go. Apparently Qs get the shaft.

Check out more of Wehrli's fun (and tidy) photography here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unmatched Parentheses

One of my favorites from XKCD - sufficiently haunting for this stormy Saturday evening:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cupcakes and Art on the Road: Tim Burton at LACMA

I was in San Diego over the weekend, so a trip to the MET wasn't in the stars. Instead I took a lovely Surfliner ride up the coast to see my bestie Jessica in LA before she took off for two months in Johannesburg. The majority of our four hours together was spent in traffic, but we did make it to the spectacular Tim Burton exhibit at Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Here's Jess, striking a pose outside the exhibition:
 They had unique movie props on display, like this topiary from Edward Scissorhands.

As well as almost 200 of Burton's private sketches, movie notes, and letters. I was really drawn to this character, who showed up a lot:
I've always appreciated the creativity, wit, and playful darkness in Tim Burton's oeuvre, but never with this much detail. Sure, I've seem Batman and Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, but taking them in all together really connects the dots and showcases the color and vibe of his work.
There's quite a row of food trucks outside LACMA, but most were of the savory sort, and didn't sell cupcakes for a post-museum sweet. Maybe I'll grab two this Sunday when I return to Cake and Shake and my normal MET excursions :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Forbes Top Earning Authors List

Many kidlit writers are representing YA and middle grade on Forbes' list of highest earning authors. Check it out here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Progress Report

Plugging along towards my revision goal - this week I'm 66% through, and reading parts of my WIP that I haven't looked at in *months* !!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oh, the Openings You Will Write

First lines are definitely tricky. So are first pages, first chapters, first WIPs... And I'm sure you've spent as much time obsessing over these things as I have.

There was a little kismet in first line advice over the last few  days - really helpful info from three great sources:'s First Line Contest (with analysis on the winners)

--Jennifer Hubbard's Favorite First Lines:
1st person
3rd person

--How to Write a Killer First Sentence (WriteOnCon Tips from Jodi Meadows)

If you're interested in digging up more great openers, head to Amazon and utilize the "Look Inside" feature. You can read the first several pages - but most importantly, the first line and the first page.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monk Scribe on a Dragon

Every week I go to the MET. And then I eat a cupcake. This week in Cupcakes and Art:
I've been taking the MET wing by wing, and currently I'm all over the purple-y section: European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

One of my favorites is this little brass guy, a 12th century monk riding a dragon:

The actual symbolism of this piece (in this time period) is lost on me. It could mean many things. But as a writer, I took one look and thought: PROCESS

Writing is so solitary, and insanely up and down. And often times, you feel like the control you have over your own manuscript is as steady as dragon thrashing around.

But then there are those moments when you are in complete control. You're on schedule. Your critique group loves your stuff. You're like this calm, cool monk perched atop a dragon as though it's a chair at your favorite cafe.This guy seriously has all the wild beasts in writing tamed. At least for now.

During my last couple visits to the museum, I stopped by to say hello. He's turning into my writing mascot. I'm also possessed by a question. What in the world is he writing? Because he's been writing it for centuries.

After conquering half the purple-y section, I headed to the Cake and Shake truck and got the Heaven Split - a banana cupcake with chocolate hazelnut mousse filling, and caramel frosting:

The banana taste is most dominant, and it was best at the chocolate-y middle, when you had the combo of caramel, mousse, and banana. On a scale of 1-Tropicalia, I give it an 8. Definitely would have it again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Revision Milestone

A few weeks ago I set a goal to revise my middle grade story by the end of Labor Day weekend. I've been pretty good at staying on track - it's a wonder how much goals and deadlines can shift everything forward!

Today I decided to calculate what percent I've accomplished, and the number was fabulously round.  I'm 50% through!!!

It doesn't make for a very interesting pie chart, but I'm stoked nonetheless. Here's to the next 50%

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Long Lines and Summer Heat Won't Stop People From Seeing Antlers and Feathers

Every week I go to the MET. And then I eat a cupcake. This week in Cupcakes and Art:

When I showed up at the MET yesterday, there was a confusingly long line. It snaked around the museum, and into Central Park. Six or so frantic museum guards were working the velvet ropes. One told me that the wait to get inside was close to three hours. I hit my quota for long lines this summer, so I turned on my heel and was off.

As I headed into the park, a guy driving a truck stuck his head out the window.

Driver (in thick Jersey accent): "What's there an audition going on or something?"

Me: It's the last weekend of the McQueen exhibit.

Driver: Lady, that line is huge!

Me: No kidding. And it's hot out here.

Driver: Let me tell you something - that line goes all the way back to the bandshell. These people are nuts!

Then the light turned green and he took off.

Here's some coverage of the madness on Gothamist. And a couple more photos I snapped:

There are some things worth being "nuts" over - and this event is probably one of them. I got a chance to see the McQueen exhibit already, and it was terrific. But with a 3-hour wait, no cupcakes and art this week for me :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fun With Camel Case

I have an irrational love for title case. Five days a week, when I show up to the office and put on my editor goggles, I'm like a title case hawk.

But some of the non-editorial folks I work with generally aren't the wordy type, and have interesting ideas about capitalization. So when a coworker showed me this site:

I nearly fell off my chair. It's the ANSWER! The truth!! And it reduces all the back and forth emails about titles in a snap.

The site also has a couple case options that might come in handy if you ever need to convert text. I never heard of camel case before, but I'm thrilled that it exists.

And as for "shortened" - well, that's just a nice, regular, correctly spelled word for the rotten, crunched, insulting thing kids these days call text speak. It's also called Textese, which is the most hideous word  I've ever scanned from left to right. Something inside me weeps a little when 'two' is replaced with 2. For the love of Scrabble! Why?!

So, in short -
Title Case:      Stop Hurting My Eyeballs with Text Speak, You Jerkface!
Start Case:     Stop Hurting My Eyeballs With Text Speak, You Jerkface!
Lower Case:   stop hurting my eyeballs with text speak, you jerkface!
Camel Case:   StopHurtingMyEyeballsWithTextSpeak,YouJerkface!
Shortened:      Stop hurting my eyeballs w/ txt speak, U jerkfac!
Password:      $+0p hU7+in9 mY e`/e6@!!$ 

Savage Beauty's Fairy Tale Couture

Every week I go to the MET. And then I eat a cupcake. This week in Cupcakes and Art:
Savage Beauty

Part of the reason I go to the museum so often is for inspiration. There's no lack of it at the MET right now. I took work off one day to view one of the most popular special exhibits in the museum's history: Savage Beauty. Bumping through the crowds to catch a glimpse of Alexander McQueen's most gorgeous creations, I saw dark, complicated villains (hello crazy feather outfit!), sassy damsels, futuristic warriors...

I saw steampunk, dystopian, sci fi, and fairy tales.

I'm almost positive McQueen wasn't thinking of kidlit when he was designing. But like a writer, he was influenced by historical periods, life observations, and emotional truths. It was neat to see how all those things were expressed in a totally different medium.

The curation of the exhibit was amazing - and completely set the vibe. One McQueen quote really caught me: "It's the ugly things I notice more, because other people tend to ignore the ugly things."

After the exhibit, I got the Tropicalia from Cake and Shake:

It's a Tahitian vanilla cupcake with pineapple mousse and salted caramel frosting.  The pairing might sound a little strange (McQueen would approve!), but it's definitely the best Cake and Shake I've tried so far!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Androidify Your Book

Aside from Words With Friends, the best app I have on my Droid Incredible is Androidify. And it's not because I secretly wish I still had dolls to dress up, I promise.

Along with endless entertainment when I don't get a seat on the train, it's also been a fun way to draw up characters in my WIP. I'm a terrible artist, but my Androidify skillz are hot.

Here's a depiction of a main character in my middle grade story - the salty Captain Peculiar:
 Of course it's not exactly how I describe her, but damn close enough!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Measure for Measure in the Park

New Yorkers do many crazy things, but the whole Shakespeare in the Park ticket frenzy is my favorite. It involves:

1) slunking out of your comfortable bed around 3 or 4am
2) gathering in an orderly line outside Central Park with beach chairs and coolers until it opens at 6am
3) sitting in line - sometimes with no shade - until 1pm in HOPES of a free Shakespeare in the Park ticket

It's completely worth it. I stuck it out for the first time last year to see The Merchant of Venice (with Al Pacino!), and knew this would become a tradition. The theater is beyond amazing, and I adore how quirky the whole process is. On my first attempt at tickets in 2010, I showed up at 6am, only to be laughed at as I walked and walked and walked past the mile-long line of people who got there before me. 

The next weekend, I was armed with the rules that a veteran ticket waiter bestowed upon me. There is a big 'no cutting' policy. It's strictly enforced by both line monitors, and the people around you. This gets tricky when meeting friends - if they don't get there when you do, you have to go in the back of the line to sit with them.

There's also food delivery to the line from nearby delis and pizzarias. This is convenient, because you can't leave your spot for more than 10 minutes. It's common to see a delivery person looking frantically for 'John by the second water fountain.'

Last Saturday we did it all over again, and saw an awesome production of Measure for Measure:
There was no Al Pacino, but the entire experience was just as magical. I never read the play before, but can't wait to sit down with it now. "Some rise by sin, some by virtue fall." I am in love with that quote, Shakespeare! In LOVE!

Since the season is over, I can't spoil the surprise by telling you they played "Sympathy for the Devil" at the end. And it made total sense! That song either inspired or set the tone for the stage direction.

If you're a New Yorker and haven't gone yet - don't hesitate next year. You live in a shoe box. You pay $2 for a Snapple. You are prone to foolishness! The city has toughened you up and warped your sense of normal enough to make it a good idea. I promise.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Visions of Revisions Danced in Their Heads

Some good tips from Query Tracker on revisions in this post:

I especially like this one:
"Know where you are weak. We all have weaknesses. And we all have strengths. We also have things that fall in between. For me, some of my weaknesses include overusing "that", not conveying exactly what I saw in my head, sparse setting, and too many metaphors. I was going to list some of my strengths, but feel really weird doing that, so we're going to move on to the stuff in between."
 I didn't realize half my poor writing habits until I:
- Read my WIP out loud
- Gave it to readers / a critique group for the first time
- Counted the number of times I typed "very" in a chapter

Writing self awareness has been key for me, and requires constant vigilance! It's the Mad Eye Moody way.

Hello World!

Well, I done did it! I registered my name as a domain. I scoured google for blog templates. I put all my reservations in my back pocket, and just went for it.

Wait, reservations? About a blog? 

Yes, I haz them. Between my career (the 40 hour a week one), writing a book, and the occasional freelance project, I've wondered how I could possibly start up a blog without completely distracting myself. And time? It's precious, people! At this very moment, I'm writing a blog post instead of revising my WIP.

These two fantastic pieces also give convincing arguments why a blog is kinda maybe not so much the best thing always:
Yet at the same time, social media and writing blogs have inspired me every day. Not to get all Richard Simmons on you:
But since I started scribbling down my middle grade novel in March 2009, I've been carried through this insanely solitary process by the jazz hands of the blogosphere. When I obsessed over word count, or formatting, or pulled my hair out when I realized I wasn't supposed to double space after periods, there was always an answer. And just as often, someone who made the same mistakes and lived to joke about it.

At first it was just a little sparkle, urging me to join the conversation. A sudden inspiration, a link I liked, or a discovery about the process. I joined Twitter, which is really like the haiku of blogging... but always wanted to burrow a little deeper in social media - as well as my own literary jaunt.

This is exciting to me in the most silly way, given the thousands of fabulous blogs out there written by kidlit folks. Despite working at an internet company, I'm a pretty shy person on the web (nary a FB update from moi!). Aside from Twitter, my online presence is wallflower-y at best. Let's also file that in the reservations folder ;)

But in the words of Dr. Leo Marvin, it's all about "baby steps." And here I am, baby steps to my very first blog (w00T) post!

Until next time!