Thursday, February 25, 2010

Once Again, I am Awarded for my Brilliance

Regular readers of this blog know that I do not look upon blog awards with the kind of scorn which has become de rigueur.* I revel in them. I bask in their self-esteem enhancing glow. I wring their generous teats until I collect every sweet drop of approbation in my bottomless bucket.

But you also know that I believe GUIDELINES ARE FOR THE UNCREATIVE.

So although I appreciate Sarah Dooley and Kelly Polark contributing to my unjustifiably high ego, I will not be posting an image of the award on this blog.
And I will not be posting the rules for the award.
And I will not be passing this award on.
And I will not be following the rules, either. The quote-unquote guidelines say I am to give you six lies and a truth and you are to guess the truth. While I could, with relative ease, contrive six exceedingly imaginative lies (I'm an award winning blogger, after all), I prefer, today, to tell the truth. What follows, therefore, are six truths and one lie. I look forward to your guesses and, although it no doubt goes without saying, your slack-jawed veneration.

1. While whitewater rafting, I once heroically pulled my wife from the rushing rapids seconds before she slammed into a wall of rock.

2. A doctor once gave me a prostate exam by mistake.

3. I once hit an antelope while driving through a nature preserve in Nevada. My car was towed to the town of Winnemucca by a driver named Wiley. Like the coyote.**

4. When I was a kid I won the local free throw shooting competition three years in a row.

5. I live less than three miles from an Extreme Makeover Home Edition house.

6. The Wife and I were in New Orleans ten days before Hurricane Katrina hit. We ate beignets, toured Jackson Square, and got lost.

7. My family hosted an exchange student from Stoke-on-Trent, England, when I was in high school.


* Like most of the tools I own, foreign phrases are fun to use, even if I'm not entirely sure how to use them.
** Actually, most likely not. The coyote spells his funny.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Need Your Assistance

As I mentioned in the Wizard of Oz post, my current project stars an eighth grade girl. As I have never actually been an eighth grade girl and since I don't currently have a daughter in the eighth grade and because eavesdropping on eighth grade girls at the mall is probably not the best thing for a thirty-three-year-old man to be doing, I need some help.

Basically, I need to know how to think like an eighth grade girl.

So while I am sure it would be great fun for you to tell me everything you remember about your eighth grade selves, I'd actually rather use stuff from, you know, literature.

So if you don't mind, would you please list in the comments books that feature an eighth grade girl as the main character?*


*And just so we're all clear, I'm not looking for eighth grade girl slang or speech patterns, but more for the types of things they notice and think about.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Can We Talk Wizard of Oz?

So I'm writing a story in which my main character is a girl who basically thinks her life sucks. Her parents are extremely overprotective. She's friendless. Boys show no interest in her (she's in eighth grade). And then she's transported to another world through a toilet drain.

To make the story work, she has to want to get home. It is this desire that causes conflict.

So I was thinking, Nope, that won't work. Because if she hates her old life and this new place offers not only excitement (it does) and a boy she likes (who likes her back) then why would she want to return home?

And then I got to thinking about The Wizard of Oz. I found the script online and reread the beginning and it's not a lot different than mine. We have Dorothy who dreams of "somewhere over the rainbow" and thinks Kansas farm life sucks and her dog's about be euthanized. But when she tells her aunt and uncle they ignore her, dismiss her concerns, and basically tell her to keep out of the way.*

Eventually she ends up in Oz where, because she kills the Wicked Witch of the East, she's treated as a hero by the Munchkins. There's also Technicolor in Oz, which is pretty cool. And she makes friends, something she didn't have before.

So why would she want to go home?

You might think she wants to go home because she's in danger; the Wicked Witch of the West wants her dead. But even after the witch is vanquished, Dorothy desires to return to Kansas.

So my question is this: Given that The Wizard of Oz gets away with it, can I? Or maybe you're cool with it. An argument can be made (The Wife made it, in fact) that all kids this age (I'd argue especially eighth grade girls) think their parents are idiots and want more excitement. There's the notion of the grass being greener (literally, in Oz's case) on the other side. So maybe I'm worried about something I shouldn't be too concerned with. You tell me, is this or is this not a plot problem?**

*She's also taunted by the farmhands, who tell her to use her brains, have a heart, and find some courage. And her aunt and uncle don't put up much of a fight when Ms. Gulch comes to take Toto. Nice people.

**For a real plot problem, consider the unresolved case of Ms. Gulch and Toto. As far as I can tell, Toto's still a goner at the end of the movie. Maybe Dorothy should have stayed in Oz.

Friday, February 19, 2010

This is Me Being Literary

It's a poem. Never mind that close inspection reveals most of the lines to be utter drivel. It's art, man. Just feel it. Let it wash over you, like uh....uh...shower water. Yeah. Like shower water, man.

The trees are bleeding color,
Yellow, orange, dark red.
The sky above is granite.
Cold raindrops pelt my head.
There's a river in the gutter,
flowing swiftly toward a drain,
And the sidewalk is a puddle
of dimpled, mirrored terrain.
The worms have left their harbor;
They've come above to die,
And somewhere leaves are cooking
Smoke twists into the sky.
There's sorrow in the air today;
it quarters discontent.
Arriving on a bitter wind
comes summer's last lament.

In answer to your question, I have no idea why someone is burning leaves in a rainstorm. Seems foolish to me too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Poem For My Peeps

Found this one in the vault. I don't think I've posted it before.

When I get bored I pick my nose.
It's really very fun.
I dig real deep and poke around.
My work is never done.
Today I found four boogers.
They were gooey, they were green.
I wiped them on the carpet,
So they could not be seen.
But when it was time for recess,
I had not a moment to lose.
I ran across the carpet.
Now there's boogers on my shoes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let's Debate Grammar

Is the following a complete sentence? Why or why not?

Brian said.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Are Agents Telling the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth?

So I've been researching agents. I've been particularly interested in what they have to say about query letters, seeing as a story doesn't really matter all that much unless you can get one of them to read it. A lot of agents say something along these lines* (and by "something along these lines" I mean "these exact words."):

I’m not asking for anything out of the ordinary—just a concise letter that clearly establishes the writer or illustrator as a professional, shows me that he or she has a strong handle on their work, how their work fits into the market, and what their background is.


When I get a query letter, I want to know a few specific things: 1) What kind of book is it? 2) Is it fiction or nonfiction? 3) Is it your first book? 4) Two to five reasonably-lengthed sentences describing the plot. 5) What’s your educational background? And do you have anything in that background that makes you particularly qualified to write it, or gives you a platform?


I'm not really one for gimmicks.

But it seems like this advice is maybe, just a little bit, I don't know...lacking. Sure, if you write a "professional" query letter that's free of grammatical errors and conveys the story succinctly you will avoid having your query letter passed around an agency and laughed at. You won't immediately take yourself out of the game. But I just have a hard time believing query letters that don't jump out of the pile and scream Pick Me! are going to lead to much of anything except a polite rejection letter. And here's why I think that:

Chris Rylander's query letter (Click the link. It's one of the funniest things you'll ever read. You'll need to scroll to the purple words.) As Chris explains on his blog, the query was for a book in a genre that the agent didn't even represent (which is one of the things every agent complains about), but it caught the agent's attention and Chris signed with him.

Shaun Hutchinson started his query "Dear Agent: It is our duty to inform you that your death is scheduled to occur on the early morning of October 17, 2008. Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated. Have a pleasant day."

And there's a writer who reads this blog (and really likes Guinness) who snagged his agent with a query written in...wait for it...first person (gasp!)

When I try to picture what a day in the life of an agent is, I get an image of a person sitting at a computer, clicking on email after email and reading query letter after query letter. I'm sure a professional letter is appreciated, especially when compared to what is surely quite a lot of garbage, but does a merely "professional" letter truly stand out? Will it really grab the attention of a glass-eyed agent?

I think it's doubtful.

And so the question is this: Do you, as a writer seeking representation, take the conservative approach and write something that will be guaranteed not to turn someone off, but will probably also not set an agent's imagination ablaze? Or do you take a risk and do something out of the ordinary, knowing that some agents will roll their eyes and hit delete, but others will sit up in their chairs and say, Hey, now here's something different.**


*There are notable exceptions. Daniel Lazar, for instance, openly admits here that the phrase "museum of fucked up things" caught his attention in a query letter. (I like it too.)

**Obviously, the above question is probably moot if you write the next Hunger Games trilogy. Books with such awesome premises stand out on their own, which is why we who struggle to write queries hate their authors so much.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Update on the YA

I'm not going to be one of those writers who posts every time he gets rejected, but since a lot of you read my YA manuscript and since I made my initial submission public, I thought you should know that I received word today from the agent to whom I sent it.

He passed.

He had reasons and stuff.

So here's the bad news: I have to write an actual query letter now.

And here's some good news: Agent Kristin Nelson is on the prowl.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I can't decide between two works-in-progress, so consequently, I've been working on both and finding that unsatisfactory.

I give Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist a six on the 1-10 scale. Too much stuff going on inside the characters' heads and not enough actually happening for my taste. Also, Nick and Norah's voices were clever, but maybe just a little too clever. I believe "cloying" is the word I want.

I loved Under the Dome.

I'm taking the Colts.

Anita let me look at her baby. I enjoyed it.

Know what's good? Cheese and meat mixed together.

I agree with this. You should too.

Speaking of the works-in-progress, anyone want to read twenty or thirty pages and tell me which one you like better? Instead of making a decision myself, I'll let you all make it for me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rejected Blog Idea

The other day I had what I was pretty sure was the best idea since Harry Burnett Reese figured out how to combine peanut butter and chocolate in the shape of a shallow cup. But I waited, because like many great ideas, this one scared me a little.

After a couple of days I rejected the idea because it was sure to cause controversy and might make some of my loyal readers angry and could even get back to some powerful people who could break me.

However, because I am nothing if not giving, I am offering this idea to anyone who wants it. Here it is:

I was going to call it the HOTTEST WOMEN OF YA and it would have been pretty much exactly what you think. After hours of exhaustive research (Google images), I was going to post pictures and perhaps some commentary about the lovely ladies who pen potential Printz prizewinners. I would of course encourage recommendations for other ladies in the comments. Then I thought there would be a battle between the HOTTEST WOMEN OF YA to determine the HOTTEST WOMAN OF YA, complete with voting and impassioned arguments and maybe even payola. At the end, a winner would be named. Maybe I'd have even created a fancy award for the HOTTEST WOMAN OF YA to post on her blog.

But like I said, I'm not going to do it. Someone would take it the wrong way. Someone always does. They'd call me sexist and say I was "objectifying women" and all that. I imagine their leader as Ursula K. Le Guin, but I wouldn't put it past Laurie Halse Anderson (who would have probably been a contender, incidentally. Just sayin'). Or maybe Philip Reeve. Those Brits are sensitive gents.

The photo above is of Ann Brashares. Its appearance in this post is purely coincidental. I swear.

A Couple of Opinions With Which You Should Agree

Those Newbery Award stickers should have the year on them.

Also, I'd like to suggest a form of censorship. Dear school librarians, do not order any more I Spy books. Because you know who checks out I Spy books? Kids who can't read. And guess what? I Spy books aren't going to help them get better at reading. They're going to help them get better at finding hidden objects in ridiculous pictures. And while I'm sure that's a valuable skill for a, I would rather they practice that at home.*

Thanks for the books, Myra.

*Not really. I'd rather they read books with more than thirty words in them at home, but I'm trying to appear reasonable here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The One Word Response Award

Thanks to Larissa for presenting me with the prestigious Over the Top Award for Blogging Excellence (I added that last bit). Unlike Tracy, I accept and am grateful for all awards, even if they have been passed around more often than that one girl in high school who the girls all despised because a. she was disgusting and b. although you didn't want to admit it, your boyfriend probably would take a shot if he thought he could get away with it and c. you secretly wondered what it would be like to be that girl and although you never would, it was kind of fun to pretend and the fact that you never would made you hate her even more. Damn her.

And if you're a guy then I'm talking about that girl who, in response to a snide remark from your girlfriend, said, "She is gross. I don't understand what guys see in her," but you actually thought, "Well, I mean, if she wanted to and, you know, if I didn't have a girlfriend, and, I guess if nobody found out, then..."

That award.

Here it is:

See those lips?

I have to answer the following questions using only one word, a feat which I am sure will prove extremely difficult for me (I like words. Too much. Like right now, for example.). Then I have to tag five people, and because he only accepts awards from me, I will be tagging Tracy Edward Wymer.

Your cell phone: Ignored
Your hair: Cowlicky
Your mother: Brave
Your father: Supportive
Favorite Food: This (See what I did there?)
Your Dream Last Night: Forgotten
Your Favorite Drink: Duh
Your Dream/Goal: Publication
What Room You Are In: Mine
Your Hobby: This
Your Fear: Midgets
Where Do You See Yourself in Six Years: Mirror
Where Were You Last Night: Alibi
Something That You Aren't: Pyromaniacal
Muffins? Sure
Wish List Item: Invisibility
Where Did You Grow Up: Who says I did?
Last Thing You Did: Write
What Are You Wearing? Glasses
Your TV: Off
Your Pet(s): Incarcerated
Friends: Few
Your Life: Enjoyable
Your Mood: Aloof
Missing Someone: Reagan (Hell, I'll take Clinton again.)
Vehicle: Impala
Something You Aren't Wearing: Beret
Your Favorite Store: Schuler Books and Music
Your Favorite Color: Blue
When Was the Last Time You Laughed: Tonight
Last Time You Cried: 2007
Your Best Friend: Wife
One Place You Go Over and Over Again: Bathroom
Facebook? Rarely
Favorite Place to Eat: Here


I award: TEW, Anita, Chris (because he needs to blog something), Ben Esch (even though he won't), and Laura Pauling (need a link)

My "Office"

This is where I write. It's a couch. That's the kitchen behind me. You might notice the yellow rubber gloves. The Wife uses those for washing dishes because she doesn't like wrinkly fingers. She gets angry at me when I knock the gloves into the sink because then they get wet and I guess that sort of defeats the purpose.

Other things of note:

The pink tray on the left side of the picture is Little One's "princess" tray.

That's a dictionary on the whatever-you-call-that-kind-of-table. I'm old skool that way.

The dangling cord is from a string of Christmas lights. Probably should take those down some day.