Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Was an A+ Student, Long Ago

So I'm home sick with a wicked sinus infection - so dire that I wasn't able to fly, while my family is on the other coast visiting relatives. I can't even raid the fridge or drink all the scotch, which is what I would normally do when they're gone, cause I'm, y'know, sick and all.

Been pounding away at the ol' manuscript, but there's only so much pounding a person can do between naps, know what I'm sayin? So I thought I would do the unthinkable and...

organize my office.

That is something I've been meaning to do ever since we moved in eight months ago. It truly is the chore of last resort, when I'm too sick to do any of the things I ordinarily do to avoid it.

So I just started a few minutes ago, and already I'm stuck. The first box I pulled off the shelf has a binder containing my papers from TWENTY YEARS AGO when my husband was getting his MBA at Wharton and I was working at the computer center and taking an English class at Penn. Y'know, for kicks. (Being at Penn with no friends was kind of like being sick with a sinus infection, except that I got to run up and down the museum steps recreating the scene from Rocky.)

Anyway, I wrote an essay called "The Role of the Executioner" which lays out my very anti-capital-punishment views. Which is sorta funny since all these years later I write about vengeance and, you know, killing and all.

But here's what was written on the front of the essay by my prof, who I remember as being very hot in a sort of East-Coast-intellectual, old-guy way.

Anyway here is what he wrote (where I've used italics, please imagine vigorous double-underlining)

A superb job on every level -- with the ideas themselves in the effective prose style that so ably presents them, in the choice of example, in the use of [some word I can't read - he has elitist-professor handwriting], rehtorical quesion, breakdown, analysis techniques that buttress [buttress! He said buttress!] the argument, in the presentation of counter-argument, itself as a strong device in supporting your views, in shaping, organization, development, all of which make the narrative so expertly guided to effective conclusion."

OK, I freely admit that this whole post was just a lame little exercise to cheer myself up. Gee, I was hella smart, wasn't I?

- or do you think he was just trying to get into my pants? Cause I was so hot back then???

Okey-doke, that worked - feeling much better! :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wrapping Up the Year in Style

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! In the midst of the baking, shopping, wrapping, and celebrating, I received some really nice end-of-year mentions.

There's a full list on my web site here, but highlights include landing on several reviewers' and bookshops' "best-of-year" lists, as well as a nomination for an RT Reviewers Choice Award. I'm thrilled, of course, and grateful to everyone who gave A BAD DAY FOR SORRY a read this year.

See you in '10!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting the Job Done (Mysti Version)

I recently co-taught a workshop called "Finish That Book: Passion and Productivity for Writers," in which we proposed a structured way to find and utilize spare time in your day for the writing process.

I've had to re-think that based on something my friend Mysti Berry said yesterday. She's taken up writing before work, a time-tested practice of novelists with day jobs. But Mysti's closing in on wrapping up the first draft and she had this to say:

"It's so much easier to write every day than to TORTURE myself about not writing."

I think that pretty much summarizes the best way to get the job done: Make the alternatives so unappealing that writing becomes the least of all evils.

If you have to choose between writing and heating up the leftover lasagna and getting a pedicure, well, it's pretty clear what's going to win.

But how about if your to-do list includes: clean grime from sliding door tracks, update insurance paperwork, and return passive-aggressive relative's phone call?

Hmmm, then the writing becomes several factors more appealing.

And it works best of all if you are a guilt-driven person as I, and apparently Mysti, are. Self-torment of the "you suck, you didn't get the job done" variety is always worse than just writing the f'ing words.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Survivor: Sea Of Publishing

What a strange year to have a fiction debut. Sometimes I feel like I'm scrambling into a sinking boat, as traditional reviewing venues and booksellers slip into the bottomless depths.

Kirkus reviewed me a while back, and as of today they're history.

I made the San Francisco Chronicle Best-Seller list right before it bit the dust.

As I plan my next book tour, some of the stops I'd hoped to make don't exist any more.

It's kind of cool to be caught in the middle of a changing business model. It's like riding a very exciting dangerous monster wave. Lots of people aren't going to make it, but those who do are in for a hell of a ride.

And that's enough of the ocean-going symbolism for today, I think.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Buying Books For Teens?

Shopping for teens is darn near impossible. Their tastes follow trends that strike adults as incomprehensible, and the fleeting nature of their interest makes the job all that much more difficult.

If you like to buy books, as I do, here's a couple of thoughts to keep in mind:

1. Their world is different from the world we inhabited at that age.

Kids today, like it or not, have different ideas about intimacy, relationships, and sex. It's reflected in the books they like, particularly those with a romance at the core. Now you can rail against and find fault and place blame for what seems at first like a devaluation of a traditional relationship, or you can consider that it is a complicated departure from past ways of thinking, with benefits and challenges.

And it's reflected in what is selling now. Consider:

Saint Martin's Press has a new line out that will target older teens and twenty-somthings. Agent Kristin Nelson has this to say: "...a line for publishing smart, upmarket fiction for this target audience where sex and relationships are simply part of the question. In other words, it’s not so much about the happily-ever-after, which is the focus for a romance, nor is it about the sex—explicit or otherwise. It’s more about the story that will speak to older teens and twenty-somethings."

2. Kids want to read about what troubles them - whether it affects them, their friends, or kids they barely know.

Carrie Ryan, author of the wonderful Young Adult Novel THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, says it far more eloquently than I could here. We do our kids no favors by trying to shield them from the darker side of growing up. There are many wonderful "issue" books for kids that explore problems with sensitivity and insight.

Remember that buying a book for a teen is NOT the same as buying a book for yourself. Heck, odds are they wouldn't like what you're reading, either....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Means You!! (awwww, no it doesn't)

This just cracked me up:

You can get it printed on a T-shirt - order from the nice Ninth Moon folks here. (And thanks Martha for the suggestion.)

I act all tough and so on about my writing time. But the truth is, for those darn kids of mine, the door's pretty much open.