Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Big Sur Rollercoaster Ride (Part One)

Much apologies for waiting so long to post about Big Sur, but I left for Disney World the morning after I got home and have been busy ever since I got back.  So, without further adue, I will finally recount my weekend of ups and downs.

As I think everyone who attends does, I went to Big Sur with high hopes.  I thought that all of the faculty only attended this workshop to discover the next big talent, hoping that the next HUGE novel will be placed in their hands, and that if they saw someone they liked, they'd stay up late into the night that weekend and sign the author right then and there, and hand them a big ol' paycheck to head home with.  Well, after speaking with several of the faculty members, I learned that this definitely was not the case.  While I'm sure all of the agents there had their eyes peeled for something they really enjoyed, most of the faculty were there because they enjoy doing these types of things and getting out and meeting new people.  But that's not to say that it's not still a valuable workshop.

The way the weekend works is they assign you two critique groups and one personal 15 minute critique.  You meet twice with each group for two hours each.  I was hoping to have my one-on-one with a specific, very big-name editor.  I didn't get that, but he was the leader of my first critique group, and I think that ended up working out better, because I got more time to interact with him.  So that evening we had our first critique group, and it was a really good group.  We all had some good WIPs that were pretty similar in genre and taste, and everyone was very involved in the critiquing process.  I got some great feedback and was very pleased.

Dinner that night was a lot of fun; Magnus Toren, who is in charge of putting the workshop together, gave a speech on Big Sur and Henry Miller, then sang some really fun songs.  I also ended up at the same table as the editor from my group, and he made a point to tell our whole table that I have an excellent reading voice.  So that was nice to here.

The next morning I woke up and went to my second critique group.  Our group leader this time was an agent, and she was great at being able to tell you exactly what was wrong with your manuscript, and gave me some awesome ideas on how to improve my opening pages.  But in this group I was the only one with fantasy, and the agent said up front she's not really a fan of the kind of fantasy I'm writing, so I didn't come away with quite the feeling of magic I had in my first group.  It was still helpful, just didn't give me that high.

Then came my one-on-one, the low point of my weekend.  My critiquer was an author, and while he was very encouraging in his ripping apart of my first ten pages, it still stung.  He basically said two of my characters were flat and uninteresting, and asked if it was an early draft (ouch).  I told him it was a somewhat early draft, and failed to mention that I had just sent this in as a partial.  So I was all depressed that afternoon.

But we press on.  Later that evening was round two with our first group, and everyone seemed to enjoy what I brought back to them this time, so that lifted my spirits.  We finished round two and after a quick happy hour headed to dinner.  And that's where the biggest excitement of the weekend happened . . . (to be continued.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Little Cousins Say the Darndest Things

I have a cousin in the third grade, who loves to read.  A couple weeks ago she was over at my grandparents' house, and they casually mentioned that I was writing a book.  Apparently that must have made a big impression on her, because not only has she decided to start writing a book of her own (go her at 8 years old!) BUT she proceeded to go to her teacher and inform her that her cousin is an author whose book is going to be published and in stores.  And now the teacher wants to have me speak in front of the class about what it means to write a book and get it published.  I certainly appreciate my little cousin's positive attitude and enthusiasm, and I wholeheartedly agree with her that I will someday be published, but I don't exactly have book deals lined up.

But I think I'm gonna do it, anyway.  Why not?  It'd be a lot of fun and great practice, and I'll be building my future fan base.  Plus, as you all know, I love to play to a crowd.  

Oh, and I gave my manuscript to my cousin Thanksgiving night and according to my uncle, she sped through it and I think finished it that night.  And apparently really enjoyed it.  So that was a nice little boost of confidence as I sit here on pins and needles waiting to hear back on my partial.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hey Heeyyy, It's Turkey Day! (my food will be annihilated)

Offspring song parodies aside, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year.  The food is sooo good, especially because everyone on my mom's side of the family is an awesome cook.  We all get together, sit around the table, and in the instant before the food comes have some nice conversation.  
Then the food is set down, and it's dead silent for at least 10-15 minutes while everyone scarfs down the deliciousness.  And finally, as full stomachs creep up on everyone, the conversation begins.  And gets louder.  And louder.  Pretty soon everyone's shouting trying to talk over the next person, and it's just great fun all around.  Then dessert comes and it quiets down a little more, but for a shorter period.  Then we watch football and nap.  Oh, what a day.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

And Now, The Waiting Game

Well, I made my first submission to an agent!  It's exciting and nerveracking at the same time.  After finishing the entire manuscript and combing over it tirelessly for stupid mistakes (I was up 'til 4 am Saturday double-checking that each period had two spaces after it instead of one), I finally decided it was finished and ready.  And I'm glad to say that I'm really proud of it.  Heck, I better be; it's been three years in the making, from concept to completion--pre-published completion, that is.

I became facebook friends with the agent last week (I met him at the conference) and he said to go ahead and email him directly with the first 30 pages, instead of going through their submission form, so I was really grateful for that.  Now let's just hope he likes my book!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A pretend agent query

So as I'm nearing the finish line of my novel, I'm starting to get antsy about submitting this thing, so with Suzanne's help, I drafted up a quick query letter. I thought I'd offer it up for criticism, so any feedback you can give would be greatly appreciated (and don't be afraid to be honest, I've got thick skin!).

Dear agent,

Rigg Daago is about to embark on a journey that will take him to the end of his world--and the beginning of ours.

Bolertia is the world before Earth, a world where magnificent creatures of ancient myth are living beings. Frost-giants, thunderbirds, and phoenixs all exist among Bolertia’s cloud-high mountains, thick jungles, rolling deserts and vast, tumultuous seas. But as the planet’s destiny unfolds, the fate of Bolertia falls to a single boy: Twelve-year-old Rigg Daago.

All Rigg wants is to race magic carpets, but when his sister is kidnapped he must leave behind everything he knows. With the help of some friends, including Echidna—his lifelong racing hero—Rigg braves the treacherous Drockton Darklands, finding a way through an unknown land to reach the frosty peak of Mt. Pelion. But as Rigg tries to save his sister, he discovers that someone he had trusted was behind the kidnapping all along.

Thus begins the story of how Bolertia came to an end, and Earth began.

The Quest to Solcrest is a 55,000-word novel that is set up as a proposed six part series. After meeting you at the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles, and receiving Bruce Coville’s high recommendation of you, I feel you would be a great fit for my book. It has a thick plot and concludes with that “heart punch” I heard you love.

Thank you so much for your consideration. I hope to send you the manuscript and look forward to hearing back from you.


Tyler McBroom

I know you're typically not supposed to mention it as a series, but most of my big hook (i.e., that this is the story of Bolertia's end and Earth's beginning) doesn't even begin to get solved in the first book. So should I leave that part out altogether, or is the hook strong enough to show the need for a series? Any other suggestions? Help! and Thanks!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One Big Reveal Down, One to Go

Since my post about my conclusion terror, I've disciplined myself into trying to write consistently, and learned that most of my fear was just a result of being out of practice. Once I started sitting down and writing everyday, it started to get easier and easier, and I've been pretty happy with what I've written so far in my final chapters. I don't know how many of you are registered with the NaNoWriMo website, but they send out these weekly pep talks to encourage people to stay on track with their novel for the month. This week, I received a nice little email from Philip Pullman (whoa!, I know), and I think some of his words apply to what I'm talking about here:

"The second thing you need to remember is that if you want to finish this journey you've begun, you have to keep going. One of the hardest things to do with a novel is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a sh ip when the engines stop and there's no anchor to keep it in place; when you get back on board, you have to warm the engines up, start the great bulk of the ship moving through the water again, work out your position, check the compass bearing, steer carefully to bring it back on track ... all that energy wasted on doing something that wouldn't have been necessary at all if you'd just kept going!"

Great advice, I think. Keep writing; it's the number one thing you hear from people in the business, but probably the hardest thing to actually do.

I've got one of my major plot twists revealed (the smaller of the two) and have the climactic battle and the final reveal to go. I've been pretty motivated in these last few days, and now it's time to keep that ship on course and get it done! Now everyone get back to steering your own ship towards its destination!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Conclusion Terror, familiar to anyone?

My manuscript has been at a standstill lately. Part of it, I know, is because I've started to work full time and thus haven't been able to devote the physical or the mental energy towards my novel. The other thing that's delaying me, though--and I hate myself for it because I'm always shaming other writers when they use it as an excuse--is my fear of the ending. In the past few weeks I've been wrestling with exactly how to reveal my big plot twist and make it realistic, and have come up empty. Just the other night, however, I am thrilled to say that it came to me in those tween sleep an' awake minutes; I quickly jotted it down, and proceeded to sleep much better that night.

So in the couple days since then, I've been jotting down more notes, building a complete revelation scene, and am very happy with what I've come up with. My only problem? Actually writing it. I don't know if it's because I haven't actually sat down and written fiction for a few weeks now, so my fiction muscle is all mushy and out of shape, or if my novel's ending just isn't working right.

No. I refuse to let my brain tell itself that. I know I've got a stellar ending. I've just been far too lazy lately; sleeping in until there's just enough time to shower, eat and go to work, hanging out with friends after work, reading other books (although that has been my medicine for writer's block, so I'll excuse that). I've got just under a month until Big Sur, and I NEED to get this thing done. I'm really hoping that looming deadline will get me spurred, just like that original Nanowrimo deadine did for my first draft back in November '06. This blog stuff isn't exactly HELPING with its distraction, but it is a decent place to vent and get it out so that there's nothing left in me but to write my ending. Speaking of which, time for Rigg to get back up on that mountain and fight those frost giants!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Best Week EVER

Those people in that show on vh1 have nothin' on me.  Why?  Well, for starters, if you ask anyone who knows me well what my two big things are, they'll say Jimmy Buffett and Disney without hesitating (okay, they might throw writing in there, too).  As you have seen by my previous post, I already got to see Jimmy Buffett on Tuesday, and guess where I'm driving to tonight?

Yep, DISNEYLAND.  For the first time in almost five months.  Now, that might not seem like very long to most of you, but we're talking about a person here who during a single three month period two years ago went twenty-one times.  I tend to get the itch real bad after about two-three weeks, so you can imagine how I've been lately.  And it's Halloweentime, too, so I get to see all the fun and festive fall park dressings, and the Nightmare Before Christmas-themed Haunted Mansion.  Not to mention this will be my first time there since the new Toy Story Midway Mania ride has opened.  Super Duper excited about that one.

So how's that for a Best Week EVER? Now all I need is for some editor to happen on by this here blog and offer me a book deal.  Any takers? No?  Alright, I guess I'll get to putting those finishing touches on my book, then see what happens.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Ruined "Holiday" Averted

Yesterday was one of my two or three favorite days of the year: Jimmy Buffett concert day.   I am one of those true Parrotheads who dresses up for every concert, and can name each song before he even starts to play, based on the couple sentences he says while introducing the song.  I've seen him five times now in the last two and a half years, and love it every time.  Last night ended up being no exception, but it did not start out looking that way.

I went to the concert with Eve, my sister Melanie, and her friend Brenda.  We arrived in time for the third song or so, and made our merry way down into our seats, which were in the front of the middle section of the amphitheatre.  Awesome seats, except for one problem: of the 100 people or so in the ENTIRE crowd of about 10,000 that were sitting down, 75 of them were probably in our section.  And they were all behind us.  Not to mention I had two hats stacked on my head (a "Goofy" Disney hat stuffed onto a wide-brimmed straw hat), so I was probably getting in the way of even a few fellow standers.  A couple people rudely told us to sit down, so I turned around and politely informed them that it's a Jimmy Buffett concert; they need to stop being lame, I'm going to enjoy myself and dance to the music.  Who the crap sits at a Jimmy Buffett concert??  So one really grouchy guy tells me to "sit down, or I'll knock you down."  WHAT?!??  I was just trying to enjoy myself, and that's exactly what I did.  I ignored him once again, turned around, and continued right on dancing and singing my lungs out.

Unfortunately, the jerk went and told security on us.  This wouldn't have been a problem, except one of the four of us had a lawn ticket (we had done a little sneaky shuffling to get us all in the closer section).  Not wanting to get kicked out entirely, I bailed before security got there and let the three girls deal with it, figuring they'd have better luck than myself.  They ended up getting three tickets in a different, equally good section, but that didn't really matter because I stumbled up to the lawn and met some awesome people that we stuck with the entire night.  Way more fun than those lame-o's sitting on their bums when Jimmy himself is telling everyone he wants to see some dancin' out there.

So bottom line, it ended up working out.  BUT, I just had to rant about the lameness of a few lame jellyfish in the sea of Parrotheads, and how they almost ruined what is comparable to my Christmas morning.  They couldn't have had any more fun sitting there than they would have listening to a live album from their couch at home.  Woulda been a lot cheaper, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Extended (lazy) Absence, and What I'm Going to Do About It

Hello Everyone,

As you may or may not have noticed, I have not posted in a good, long while.  Now that I've started working full time in the last two weeks, I can blame it on being too busy, but before that I really had no good excuse.  Just Laziness.  Sloth, if you will; one of Bruce Coville's seven deadly writer sins.  Now, though, I've got a solid full time desk job where I only do real work a small portion of the day.  

Here you have it: I am going to make a decided effort to start blogging more consistently in my down-"pretending to work"-time.  I don't feel too bad for it, because in the hours that I do real work, I'm bringing in several thousand dollars for my dad's CPA firm.  So for anyone who is even still stopping by to see if I've continued NOT posting, you will see a frenzy of activity 'round here.  A veritable Rennaisance of The Singer (After my wild 8 posts in merely a month...I know, I'm a slacker even when I think I'm posting a lot).  

So stop by more often, because there should be more to see.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Subbing: The Ideal Children's Writer's Job?

I just started substitute teaching yesterday, and I think it just might be the perfect job for an aspiring children's writer. WHY, you ask? I'll tell ya...

1. You're around kids all day long, so just pick up assignments for the age of most of your characters, and you can learn a lot about how they interact with each other and their speech patterns and all that good stuff.

2. For me today, at least, you sit around and do nothing but babysit these kids all day, so on top of absorbing all their youth culture, you can either work on your book or bring one to read. So it's almost like you're getting paid to write! How many pre-published writers can say that??

3. I can't think of a 3 right now, but those 2 alone are good enough, don't you think? I do. So go out and substitute teach! It's helping the community and letting you get paid to write your book!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Most Wonderful (and magical) Time of the Year

I recently relocated my "office" (which is basically just the location of my computer). Now, whenever I write, I have a lovely stack of inspiration in the corner next to me. That inspiration comes in the form of Department 56 Christmas figurine boxes. You know the brand right? All those awesome little intricately detailed villages that pop up in all the decorative stores around Christmas, and now even Halloween. I LOVE those things. In the last couple years, I've started a collection of them, and it brings me joy each time they come out of the box. They also tend to come out of the box a little earlier each year, because I just can't wait for freaking Christmas season. The date that I crack out my Christmas CDs also inches up every year, and the last couple years it's been hovering right around mid-September. Once the weather starts changing a little bit, I just get so darned excited for the holidays.

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year, which is why that Johnny Mathis song (of which this post is titled) is one my favorites. I don't care about all the shopping; I tend to avoid the stores at all the peak hours so that I can enjoy the season for what it should be. I love everything else that goes with it: Cruising past neighborhoods covered in lights, and searching out that one super-decorated house; that wintery smell of fireplaces that fills the night air; the crisp, fresh mornings; the festive music; the natural inclination to giving that people feel in all the canned-food drives and silver bells ringing outside of malls and grocery stores; DISNEYLAND AT CHRISTMASTIME; snow (although I don't live in it, so I can't say whether or not that's a positive); gingerbread houses; frosted and shaped sugar cookies; families travelling from all parts of the country/globe just to be together for one day; did I mention the music and decorations?

I think a lot of the reasons I love Christmas correspond with my affinity for Disney, and even further, why I want to be a writer so badly. Basically, during Christmas, or while you're caught up in a Disney movie or taking in the fireworks at the castle in Disneyland, you can just let yourself get swallowed by the magic of the moment. And when you do, it's glorious. I think that's part of our goal as children's writers is to "imagineer" (to use Disneyspeak) our own little version of the magic so that kids can get lost in each of our own awesome and unique worldviews. Because if kids were a bank, they would be the one I would sign up for. The interest on your account would be phenomenal! You deposit some knowledge into their brains, and their developing minds have the capacity to turn it into years of inspiration and innovation, if they can just keep that angle of curiosity in the world. If we don't bring that little touch of wide-eyed wonder to our stories, kids won't think it is necessary to dream, and then we'll be stuck in a world of hot, sticky, humid summers, where there is no Christmas, and you don't want to go to Disneyland because it's too hot, sticky, and humid. And where's the fun in that?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Writer's 401(k)

I was perusing through my dad's "Practical Accountant" magazine today (something ever writer does on a daily basis, right?) and I started to wonder how I could relate all this financial mumbo-jumbo to writing. Well guess what: I came up with something. It's one of those "sounds nice but is really tough to get yourself to actually do" type things that are oh-so-prevalent in writing. But maybe this new spin on what is essentially "write down your ideas when they come to you" will help you to focus, because your survival as a writer depends on it.

Is everyone familiar with what a 401(k) is? I'm not even sure I know exactly what it is, but I think it's this account that you put money in and it accumulates and then when you're done working you have plenty saved up to use. And if it's not, then let's pretend it is for the sake of this ramble. Well, my friends, the same saving principle applies in writing. When you are writing your first draft, you (if you're like me) riddle it with cliches and horrible dialogue, basically just working on hammering out that story arc. Also (if you're like me...I guess I'm assuming everyone writes like me. Maybe a mistake, but go with it) little nuggets of (what I consider) awesome dialogue or scenic description or emotional details sprout into your mind as you ramble about your normal day.

Here's where the 401(k) plan comes in. And it's not: Save up a bunch of money so that when you retire you can finally work on your book and then get published when you're 85. While there's nothing wrong with that, this isn't what my plan entails. Think of your manuscript as your 9-5 job (which you work on do, don't you?) and those little nuggets as the money in your retirement account (because it really is those unique lines that make your story come to life and eventually earn you those royalty checks). Your Writer's 401(k) is the little notebook that you MUST always have with you. If you regularly put those nuggets in your Writer's 401(k), then when it's time to retire from your bland first draft and do the stuff you really enjoy, you will be able to draw from your Writer's 401(k) at your heart's desire and have an infinite wealth of brilliant writing material. Makes sense, yeah?

So open your Writer's 401(k) today, and let your manuscript live its later stages in comfort!

(disclaimer: 401(k) plan does not include funeral costs for your novel, because it is implied that you will never give up on it!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Olympics, a Gold Medal Distraction...but Hope is on the Horizon

Why, oh why did the Olympics have to come right after the conference? I go to the conference, hear some great sessions, meet some awesome people and get super fired up to come home and crank out my novel so that I can send it off to an agent or two. I start off great, getting a couple chapters of full rewrites done a day. Then the Olympics really get going, and any night-work I might have gotten done gets otherwise pushed to the side as I watch to see if Michael Phelps is going to dominate yet again. I don't even know why I watch, he doesn't even come close in any of his races (knock on wood! don't wanna jinx him) After all this missed writing time, he better get those eight golds! I should write him a letter chronicling my sacrifices. Fortunately, I do not have a job yet, as the school district I'm gonna be subbing for does not start for another week or two, and water polo season doesn't begin until after labor day, so I try to get a few pages a day done--mostly I've kept it up. I just signed up for the Big Sur Children's Writer's Workshop, so I now have a doable, but still challenging, deadline.

Oh, and Eve was kind enough to read and edit some of my manuscript this week, so I returned the favor. From this MS exchange was borne what we deemed "Trolley Car Motivation." Let me explain this revolutionary method. Ya know those little cart things that ride on train tracks that you push up and down to move along? Well, I know they're not called trolley cars, but I don't know what they are called, and trolley car works for me. So to move those along, each person has to push kind of against the other person, and it results in you both moving forward. So you push the other person to finish their manuscript, then give them feedback on what they've done, they return the favor; and you both move forward! Isn't that inspirational? I think finding a fellow trolley car motivator is essential for getting anything done in this businesss, otherwise it's just lonely.

So thankfully I've got a couple things keeping me on track, otherwise I might get lost in the heat of an intense badminton battle, or an insanely elegant equestrian romp.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

a writing exercise with series potential

Last weekend when I was out for a walk across the street, I ran into and was lucky enough to chat with Bruce Coville for about ten minutes. It was a great talk, and the guy is brilliant...anyhow, we got to talking about how important the first couple pages are, and even more so, the first paragraph. He recommended to me that I should pick up a bunch of books and read their first paragraphs, or better yet! write them down, so they stick better in your memory. So today I just went and checked out a few books at random and copied down there first paragraphs, then at the end of the list, I wrote out mine, just to see how it stood up. I will let you be the judge, as I have copied and pasted them all here for your reading pleasure/learning experience (I know you'll all take a vast amount of knowledge from the little piece that I've included of my own work. No? Okay, fine.) I'm going to try to do a few of these every couple days or so, so if you enjoy looking at them, let me know, and I'll continue to post them!

The Monster’s Ring, by Bruce Coville
Russell Crannaker glanced up and down the alley.
He was alone.
Perfect. He could practice in peace.
Putting up his arms, Russell staggered forward. He rolled back his eyes so only the whites were showing. Then he began to moan.
Fantastic! He was going to be great as Frankenstein’s monster–the best ever.
Russell relaxed and grinned. Halloween should be all right this year after all. He moaned and lurched forward again.
Frankenstein. Boy, would he love to actually be Frankenstein’s monster for a while. Then he’d show that Eddie a thing or two. He could see it now: Eddie kneeling in front of him, whining, begging, pleading for mercy.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry
It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

The Snow Spider, by Jenny Nimmo
Gwyn’s Grandmother gave him five gifts for his birthday, his ninth birthday. They were very unusual gifts, and if Gwyn had not been the kind of boy he was, he might have been disappointed.

The Oracle Betrayed, by Catherine Fisher
The Procession was at least halfway down the terraces before Mirany stopped trembling enough to walk properly. It was hard to see clearly through the eye slits; the mask was too big, the slits too far apart. And in the sweltering heat, the dust rising in clouds, the flies, the shimmering mirage of the road, everything was bewildering. She flipped hair out of her eyes, tight with dread, her whole body sheened with sweat. Just as the back strap on her sandal started to chafe, the Procession shuffled to a stop. They had reached the Oracle.

Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The tired old carriage, pulled by two tired old horses, rumbled onto the wharf, its creaky wheels bumpety-bumping on the uneven planks, waking Peter from his restless slumber. The carriage interior, hot and stuffy, smelled of five smallish boys and one largish man, none of whom was keen on bathing.

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
I remember the day the Aleut ship came to our island. At first it seemed like a small shell afloat on the sea. Then it grew larger and was a gull with folded wings. At last in the rising sun it became what it really was–a red ship with two red sails.

Holes, by Louis Sachar
There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. There once was a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred years ago. Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland.
There used to be a town of Green Lake as well. The town shriveled and dried up along with the lake, and the people who lived there.

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer
The Prologue: How does one describe Artemis Fowl? Various psychiatrists have tried and failed. The main problem is Artemis’s own intelligence. He bamboozles every test thrown at him. He has puzzled the greatest medical minds, and sent many of them gibbering to their own hospitals.
The first chapter: Ho Chi Minh City in the summer. Sweltering by anyone’s standards. Needless to say, Artemis Fowl would not have been willing to put up with such discomfort if something extremely important had not been at stake. Important to the plan.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the way because of the air-raids. They were sent to the house of an old Professor who lived in the heart of the country, ten miles from the nearest post office. He had no wife and he lived in a very large house with a housekeeper called Mrs. Macready and three servants. (Their names were Ivy, Margaret and Betty, but they do not come into the story much.) He himself was a very old man with shaggy white hair which grew over most of his face as well as on his head, and they liked him almost at once; but on the first evening when he came out to meet them at the front door he was so odd-looking that Lucy (who was the youngest) was a little afraid of him, and Edmund (who was the next youngest) wanted to laugh and had to keep on pretending he was blowing his nose to hide it.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity–Good. His dad had the pickup going. He could get up now. Jess slid out of bed and into his overalls. He didn’t worry about a shirt because once he began running he would be hot as popping grease even if the morning air was chill, or shoes because the bottoms of his feet were by now as tough as his worn-out sneakers.

Wolf Brother, by Michelle Paver
Torak woke with a jolt from a sleep he’d never meant to have.
The first had burned low. He crouched in the fragile shell of light and peered into the looming blackness of the Forest. He couldn’t see anything. Couldn’t hear anything. Had it come back? Was it out there now, watching him with its hot, murderous eyes?

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper
“Too many!” James shouted, and slammed the door behind him.
“What?” said Will.
“Too many kids in this family, that’s what. Just too many.” James stood fuming on the landing like a small angry locomotive, then stumped across to the window-seat and stared out at the garden. Will put aside his book and pulled up his legs to make room. “I could hear all the yelling,” he said, chin on knees.

Double Identity, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
My mother is crying.
She is trying to do it silently, but from the backseat of the car I can see her shoulders heaving up and down, her entire body racked by sobs. I look out the window at the darkness flowing past our car, and all the pinpoints of light on the horizon seem far, far away. My mother always cries, now. In the beginning, back in the summer, I used to try to comfort her, used to ask her–stupidly–”Is something wrong?” And she’d force her face into some tortured mask of fake happiness, her smile trembling, her eyes still brimming with tears: “Oh no, dear, nothing’s wrong. Would you like some milk and cookies?”

The Keys to the Kingdom, Book One: Mister Monday, by Garth Nix
They had tried to destroy the Will, but that proved to be beyond their power. So they broke it, in two ways. It was broken physically, torn apart, with the fragments of heavy parchment scattered across both space and time. It was broken in spirit because not one clause of it had been fulfilled.

The Bolertia Tales, Book One: The Quest to Solcrest, by Tyler McBroom
No upcoming magic carpet races, no Vernazza Entrance Exam results, and no dead Lorelei. Rigg’s thoughts concentrated fully on the excitement that lay before him, and the fun he knew he would soon be having. He had reached his twelfth birthday, and for the most part life was pretty good. His parents might not always pay attention to him, but he had a loving younger sister and some really close friends. Some time soon he would be finding out how well he did on his magic tests, and after he passed those he would be going to the Vernazza School of Magic. And now that he was twelve, he would finally get to compete in a magic carpet race.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Plotting: The Architecture of Missing an Awesome Speech

Can anyone who went to it please send me their notes on Bruce Coville's plotting session? I wanted to go, but ended up learning about query letters instead. Which was good, don't get me wrong, but I keep hearing about how freaking awesome Bruce's speech was. So...notes, please? Anyone? :)

Extra! PCPD Epidemic Sweeps the Nation!

A new disease has spread across the continental United States, and looks to potentially capture the world as well. Post Conference Partum Depression, or PCPD, as it becoming more conveniently known, is a severe form of delusional depression. When asked how such a paralyzing disease could have entered our land, doctors indicated that the bacteria that the disease grows from was likely born from a small mass of fun that gathered in the lobby every night at the 2008 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA. Symptoms include spending countless hours cycling through everyone else's blogs to read different spins on the exact same event, refusing to wear anything but red, making pillows with everyone's faces on them and sitting around in a circle to talk with them, aimlessly wandering lobbies of local hotels looking for fun people to talk to, and culminating in a series of creative bursts of energy. If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, I am very sorry, but there does not seem to be a cure for this tragic disease arriving on the horizon of the foreseeable future. The only therapy suggested for PCPD is to continue to keep in touch with other sufferers of the disease. May fortune shine upon you and let the disease avoid your residential area.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My First Post (aka "The Conference")

I've never done this whole blog thing before, but someone told me it was necessary that I start one (Suzanne) because of the whole networking thing. So here I am. Why title it "The Singer," you might ask? I think it is reasonably evident for anyone whose been to either of the last two SCBWI Summer Conferences, but the reason I chose "The Singer" is because on Sunday and Monday of both years (the two days after the luncheon where I sang), if anyone I didn't know approached me, the first words out of their mouth were "Aren't you the singer?" Whether it was in the LA Ballroom, the elevator, or the most social of male gathering places, the bathroom, those four words were almost invariably the first four spoken to me. So, for better or worse, in the world of children's books I think I might be forever branded as "The Singer."

And now, onto my own brief summary of the conference. Eve, Robin, and Jay have the comprehensive list of highlights, and I am severely lacking in pictures, so my summary will probably be much weaker than everyone elses, but whatever. I headed into this conference quite skeptical that it would not live up to last year's, I really did. It was my first conference, and between my getting up on stage and several awesome speeches and breakout sessions, not to mention a really fun Silvery Moon party, I had a great time. I wasn't sure if I just got lucky that it was a good year, or if this is how it always was. The one thing I was definitely excited about, though, was that I was staying at the hotel this year, instead of commuting.

So when the time came, I picked up soon-to-be roommate Paul from the airport and we cruised on over to the hotel. I knew from that first night that I had nothing to fear about anything not surpassing anything. I was flung right into a great group of beautiful women and fun(ny) guys. How can you beat that? Throughout the weekend, we all had some pretty riotous times, and after a guffawing skip race, a quarantine for oxboxiousness, a discussion of the sexual habits of mermaids (it's all about the subtle holes), dancing and dancing and dancing (my jeans were still sweaty when I got home on Monday night...ew), the development of a new gravy serving product, a botched Sinatra imitation, a freaking hilarious "dinner show," a group picture book reading with a twist, five Beer:30's, many more drinks after the Beer:30's of every evening, and even more enticing, exhilarating, and extremely entertaining conversation, the conference came to more than surpass last year's. So thanks to everyone I got to hang out with over one of the most epicly fantastic weekends I've had in a good, long while. Oh, and I learned some stuff about writing, too.