Friday, July 27, 2007

Books and Such

Hey, I got books in the mail! Here are my cool covers from my new Picture Window Books: Surprising Beans and The Grass Patch Project.

This week, I read a series of three books, Uglies, Pretties and Specials, by Scott Westerfeld. Oooh, sci-fi, post-apocolyptic, plastic surgery fun. One of the first things I do when I read a book is to check out the dedication. Oh, did Scott endear himself to me when he dedicated to his book, Specials, to everyone who has thrown his books against the wall. Yay! I so applaud book throwing!

My hope is that every book I read will be worthy of being thrown against a wall. I love when authors rattle my cage. My dream is that I will publish books that will be thrown against walls.

What kind of books do I like to read? For me, that first chapter of a book had better turn the normal world inside out. The only writer who I allow to skip this rule is Louis Sachar (I give him five chapters). I look for a pounding pace, an impossible to put down book -- Scott W., Orson Scott Card and Eva Ibbotson have all interrupted my sleeping patterns.

The pace can slow down if the story refuses to let me stay the way I am. I read The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing this week. M.T. Anderson's books make me very uncomfortable (not that whale book) and for that I think he is a genius. So far I've wanted to toss all his books against the wall at some point.

I read local authors. Here is some news: Washington state writers rock! Two of my favorite stick with me books this year were from Washington wrtiers. Janet Lee Carey's Dragon's Keep freaked me out. I got a few chapters in and then refused to read it for several weeks because it was so creepy, but then couldn't stand not knowing what happened. Dia Calhoun's (please read her books) Avielle of Rhia haunts me, just haunts me. That terriost attack brought up a maelstrom of emotion in me.

I'm looking for great historical novels, but I don't like getting bogged down in nostalgia or an author's agenda. Any suggestions, folks?

Writers! Tell me a story. Give me someone to root for. Make me care. Transport me somewhere else. Understand me better than I understand myself.

Recent titles that have caught my eye and are on top of the to be read list: Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller, yay, Jerry Spinelli's sequel -- Love, Stargirl, The Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman, My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow, and The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelucci.

“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all”

Abraham Lincoln

“It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you waggle your ears?”

James Matthew Barrie

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

Francis Bacon, Sr.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Article, POV, Speaking Gig, Encouragment.


My article, "Phoenix Rising", is in the 2007 July/Aug issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. I could have written book about how death drives stories forward.

I thought I might share an extra thought or two about death in books for the younger set. I recently judged a writing contest and noticed a recurring problem in many of the manuscripts intended for the picture book audience. These manuscripts centered on the death of a family member or friend. For the youngest children, emotional development must be considered when introducing the catalyst of death into a story; death can create a minefield of unintended misunderstanding. Psychologists agree that younger children take explanations of death at face value and will misinterpret mild or vague expressions of loss. It is common knowledge, that children under the age of seven believe that death is reversible; they also embrace magical thinking, like believing they can wish someone to be alive. Children often connect events that don’t belong together like a death and a bad day. Most explanations for younger children will be taken quite literally. Keep these thoughts in mind as your craft your picture book stories.

Now one more bonus. Exercises to sharpen your writing. Write about your first experience with the death of a pet. Explore the emotions of that moment. Include the sensory details. Add the dialogue of the people present when your pet died. Now, write about your first experience with the death of a person. How did you feel? How old were you? What were the sensory details of that moment? Where were you? Try writing every detail of the setting. How did you feel about that death? Were your feelings different than those around you? Try expanding this exercise by asking several people you know about their first experience with death and writing short scenes about those experiences, too. The purpose here is to create an authentic, emotional account of death. This will help you achieve a realistic form of death within your stories. As with all good storytelling, pay attention to the details.


Want to learn something? Have you ever wondered if your story is in the right POV? Here is a post by Nathan Bransford (a literary agent for Curtis Brown). He wrote this post about first person vs third person. I liked this one and it really made me pull out some manuscripts and ask questions. Enjoy.


I'm speaking next Saturday at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. Come by and say hi if you are there.

Here's the blurb:

10:30 - Noon (July 28, 2007)

Young Adult Track
Marketwise for Children’s Writers.

Speaker: Molly Blaisdell
Moderator: Danielle Rollins

There is no magic formula that will ensure publication in the children’s market, but this thorough look at how to research the market will help. Many tips and strategies will also be offered that will help you generate opportunities and will set you on sure paths toward publication.

Location: Emerald Ballroom F


It's raining here in the wilds of Woodinville today, and I'm hard at work on my novels. I'm so glad that people believe in me. I'm always confident about my writing. I'm a born storyteller. But selling my work? This is something that I have no control over. I got a long string of "nos" this week. All the wobbling eggs just stopped. All of them.

I take a deep breath and keep on writing. Have I come to another dry desert? Will anyone give my work a look again? The scary part of that question is the answer may be no. I have to keep all that out of my head and fill up with words of others.

"I have a lot of faith in you, and your energy, and passion to write."

"I know a day is coming when I will say I knew you when."

"You are a worker bee and that means you get the job done."

" You are like Hootie and Blowfish, like they were this small band with hundreds of fans. playing at colleges. Then, whoa, their day came and then they had millions of fans, and then that backed off and they had thousands of fans. You will be like that."

"I loved, loved, loved your book."

"I stayed up all night reading. I just couldn't stop."

I'm so glad for all the people who have encouraged me. It really helps warm me up on the blah cold days.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What I Meant to Say, A Good Movie, A Good Book

Another week has rolled around. I'm rewriting a novel right now. The rewrite is going well -- I think. I like my books, but I find that everything I write is hopelessly flawed -- a little like the writer. My storytelling is flawed with my own way of thinking. I always circle around ideas until I finally find a place to land. My deepest hope is my words will bring my readers to what I meant to say. I find that when communicating with others misunderstandings abound. I'm going to continue to stumble foward and hopefully find my way through the maze to connection.

I saw a good movie this week, Neverwas, and I wanted to give it a plug. I loved Neverwas. Great actors: Aaron Eckhart (his mom is a children's book author in real life), Nick Nolte, Ian McKellan, Wiliam Hurt, Alan Cumming -- lots of strong performances. The story was intimate -- about a man coming to understand the love of his mentally ill father. The father committed suicide when the son was a child. I might have connected with movie more than most because I'm a children's writer and because a few people I have loved have taken their own lives. If you watch the movie you'll get the harmonic there. This is a real gem. Look for it.

I read a reissued book by Eva Ibbotson this week that just shocked me. It's called A Countess Under the Stairs. I love it when a writer takes my breath away with the beauty of language, the life she breathed into what would be formulatic fiction in anyone else hands, her take on a time in history that few seem to explore. Eva is slowly making her way on to my all time favorite author's list.

So now a for some inspiration to help keep keep you on the path.

All from Ursula K. LeGuin:

"My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”

“The important thing is not the finding, it is the seeking, it is the devotion with which one spins the wheel of prayer and scripture, discovering the truth little by little. If this machine gave you the truth immediately, you would not recognize it,”

“comfort was allowed to come to them rare, welcome, unsought: a gift like joy."

Friday, July 06, 2007

Stranger in a Strange Land

I read Robert Heinlein's sci-fi classic, Stranger in a Strange Land, back in the early 80s. This is the story of guy out of place on Earth because he was not messed up by American corporate culture (corporate businesses, churches, schools, government) -- he was raised on Mars. "Stranger in a strange land" is also a quote from the Bible. Moses felt that out of place feeling as he sojourned in the desert for 40 years before returning to Egypt to set his people free. Misplaced people have the unique perspective and often have the opportunity to shed light on the world around them.

I'm an out of place person myself-- a stranger in a strange land. I really don't get corporate culture. It totally confuses me. I'm a throwback to the days of artisans. I'm a throwback to Thoreau. What is really important anyway? The right clothes? The right schools? The right friends? I'm dedicated to discovering the "essential facts of life". It's why I liked these books: Feed by MT Anderson, the Mortal Engines series by Phillip Reeve and House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. These stories are a little grim in my opinion, but the writers are asking questions and exploring the consquences of the world that ulitmately we create, and I believe that is so important.

Personally, I tend to skew toward a more hopeful view of the future. I know, it may seem crazy, but I really do trust the next generation. I'm counting on them to do better than my generation. To be more. I'm deeply moved by kids that seem to care more about the world. They can see beyond the borders and boundries that we seem hopelessly entangled in. It makes me think of a little story at the end of Walden, Thoreau tells us about a bug:

"a strong and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer's kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts — from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; which was heard gnawing out for several weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this?"

I am rooting for that bug! I'm hoping for a warm urn that will set this generation on a journey that will flood our world with impossible hope and life. I hope that my books will provide some of that warmth. I hope that you bring some of that warmth to your work this week.