Thursday, February 28, 2008

Will work for food

It's occurred to me today that when you've been teaching for a few years, the delayed gratification of writing novels (you know what that means - work for years on a project without definite proof of any future economic benefits but keep going because it's your passion and you'd shrivel up if you stopped doing it) is not that different than being in the classroom. You work your ass off and are absurdly happy if someone gives you, say, a free meatball sub and chips as compensation.

It was a good sub sandwich today. I earned it after two full days of tutoring at Camp Ridge, our inhouse prep for those in danger of not passing state tests. The chips were crunchy. The pickle pretty outstanding. The bun could have been crisper. ( I hate soft buns... on many levels, actually)

Tomorrow we get Chik Fil A.

It is small wonder that delightful agent Michelle once commented that I was nice to work with because I was very collaborative. People who regularly toil ridiculous amounts of hours for the sole incentive of a chicken sandwich and fries are generally a rather malleable lot.

Or possibly just insane.
In a good way, of course.

Til next time...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two for Tuesday

1. In the process of creating the world for my MC, friends, and family in my newest book. I love this part... even if it makes my brain ache. Such a rush to figure out who these new people are - what they love, what they hate, what they need, how they really relate to one another, how they react. Also kinda cool to see what they share with characters from my other two finished books, including SPARK. SPARK's main character (the one the P Marketplace blurb describes as a "teen ballerina whose line of descent becomes her destiny") is one tough little female - brave, funny, a little snarky. ( all I'm saying for now...) WIP 2's MC is male - he's also quite the humorous guy. Newest MC also seems to be destined for a sense of humor. Guess when you have the off-kilter view of the world that I do, it's inevitable that you breed it into your characters.

2. Spider bite is on the mend, but not fast enough. Fie on you, stealth spider. Fie!!

Til next time...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

From the Heart

Seriously - where did it go? Ever notice how four day weeks feel four times longer than regular weeks? Between finishing research papers, the Houston SCBWI conference, and a trip to the doctor because of a crazy - how did I get this - spider bite, it's suddenly Sunday and time for another round of it all. And minimal progress made on my latest WIP. But I will attempt to amend that now that I'm no longer spending lots of time going what the heck is that on my leg?

As for the SCBWI local conference, it was inspiring and validating. Got to meet the fabulous Jen Jaeger, who is Michelle's colleague at ABLA. Listened to various Harper Collins folks such as Molly Oneill, editor for the new Bowen Press imprint and Sarah Cloots from Greenwillow, and the very smart Abigail Samoun of Tricycle Press. And for anyone reading this who is just on the starting stages of the adventure that is the road to publication, let me say that they all - in one way or another - reiterate the same message. Revise, revise, revise. We heard of picture books revised 20 times, authors who made deals only after 7 rounds of revisions. And have a thick skin for all the rejection that will come your way and strengthen your work. We also had the pleasure of hearing illustrator Don Tate and amazing author Kimberly Willis Holt, who read from her books and spoke of her journey and generally inspired one and all.

Holt says we should write from the heart. Editors agree. So do I. The WIP I'm waiting to hear about was about as close to my bones as anything I've ever written. And you know, it had a profound effect on me. I hope to be able to speak about all that more at some point when I know what's going to happen with this book to be. But write from the heart is advice I stand by. And when I hear teaching colleagues advise students they're preparing for our state TAKS test to just make something up and it will be okay, I cringe. But that is a topic for another day. Possibly a different blog!

In any case, I came away energized and focused. And that's what was supposed to happen. Made up for those crazy moments when the non-writers in my life tip their heads to the side, give me pitying looks and say, "Oh, you're revising again. I guess you'll learn how to do this eventually." Plus nice lunch and afternoon coffee and cookies, which please me in their own way!

Til next time...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dear Rachael

Okay, so I justified watching because I was ironing. Really. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. And honestly, an hour of Rachael Ray is quite soothing.

Except for this whole Butterscotch Pony thing.

Seems there's this six year old who wrote to Rachael last year and invited her to her birthday party. Did it again this year. (honest. there was a video of it and everything) And for whatever reason, Rachael decides to bring her as an audience member. Gives her cake. Gives everyone in the audience (who are all little kids, by the way, as the guest star today was Bindi Irwin, the late Steve's daughter, pimping her show and clothing line with enthusiasm so manic that I actually found my jaw kind of slacking because it takes a lot to out pep Rachael but if anyone can do it, it's Bindi) an MP3 player and other stuff. And then, in a display of festive excess, asks the birthday girl what she wants. To which the child replies "Butterscotch Pony."

Now I'm going to purposely ignore where I could go with this. A really sardonic rant on kiddy entitlement and the like.

Because what I really want to say is WTF! That is one amazing fake pony! Why did I not know about this? Three and half feet tall. Eats a fake carrot. Feigns affection when you talk to it. Runs on 6 D batteries. Why did they not have this when I was 6? Hmmm? Hasbro people, you just weren't on it. I was stuck with a much less exciting fake plastic Palamino named Snowfire. Not Butterscotch Pony!! (Hey, I like this entitlement thing. I want some of it. Now. Remember yesterday's post. It's fie on February time. Break the curse. Bring me a pony.)

Anyway, I was still dumbfounded, even as Rach stirred jelly and sour cream in the Swedish meatball gravy and was unsuccessful in getting the actor from Kyle XY to show us that yes, he really has a belly button.

Where's my freakin' pony??

Til next time...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunny Sunday

Sun is shining. Unlike yesterday when it was grey the whole day and then just as we were driving home from a later dinner out, the skies unleashed pounding rain. Of course, I still have a Banana Republic shopping bag full of research papers to deal with. But I digress.

Just finished Luxe. If you want a YA read that's fun and frothy and basically Gossip Girl set in Edith Wharton times in Manhattan, then this is the book for you. Lots of secrets and repressed feelings. Oh so delightful.

College grad son's diploma came in the mail Friday. We spent a chunk of time staring at it with goofy smiles on our faces. Yeah, I know we went to the ceremony. They called his name and everything. But honestly, they still hadn't checked everyone's grades. And as I'm a "prepare for the Cossacks, they just might ride in" kind of gal, I just had to wait to really see it in print. And to see the enclosed flyer where they offer to "preserve" your diploma in some super special $75 frame. For that price, I could take his diploma out to Vic and Anthony's for a steak, too.

Maybe the curse of February is turning. That's what husband calls it. February usually sucks in our world. Don't know why. Maybe it was that bad break up I had back in college with the rebound boyfriend who should have remained a summer romance only but lingered into the snowy months. Maybe it's the weird leap year thing where you don't even know for sure how many days you're getting from this odd little month. Maybe it's when they decided we couldn't have separate Lincoln and Washington birthdays off and gave us the decidely lame President's Day. Maybe it's the mass insanity of Valentine's Day. But I'm ready for more February good news like the diploma.

Bring it on February! Break the curse. Toss good news everyone's way. And tell that pesky rodent groundhog who saw his shadow this year that he was wrong. Fie on you Puxatawny Phil.

Til next time...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It never occurred to me...

Seriously. It really never occurred to me that it would be in any way weird for my various worlds to collide as I started this blog. But they do. And like I say, it's weird.

What am I talking about? Writing a blog that is - while admittedly a tad self-aware of its publicity purposes and attempting to be in the style of my writerly voice (oh get on with your bad self, Joy) - somewhat personal and knowing that since I still have that pesky day job and will keep having it for a good long while and that the people from that world will read my thoughts from this world.

Less long-winded version: I teach high school. That means I work with wired teens who now know how to find me in cyberspace. And since I'm writing books for them, I want them to find me. But it's nonetheless a little weird. Okay, not Michael Jackson hanging the baby over the railing weird. Or anything involving Britney or Amy Winehouse weird. (and oh, btw, does Amy Winehouse have the best voice ever and I wish she'd quit that pesky crack addiction or let her parents help her and maybe eat a twinkie or two and gain a few pounds) But it's still weird for me when worlds collide and I'm hyper aware that the same people I have to say things to like: "Do your freakin' paper. Sit down. No, you can't go the bathroom. Yes, I think it's utterly fascinating that you two have the same middle name. You saw him doing what behind the dry erase board?? Good god, I think it's another fire drill" are now the same people that know about my real life and occasionally make it very clear that yes, they do know about my real life and seem a little shaky to realize that I don't just curl up under the document camera at night and drink stale coffee and grade their papers until dawn or something like that.

So... it's a good problem to have. But it will take some adjusting. For all of us.

Til next time...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Landry, Tyra, and all the rest

So, I'm loving Friday Night Lights. I'd missed most of it last year and I've been catching up with Season 1 on DVD. Then I had to stop watching entirely since my latest WIP is in large part a football book I'd started before I'd ever watched FNL, and I simply couldn't watch for fear of having any of it leak into my head. But now that I'm in revision mode, I treated myself again. Started watching this new season, and catching up on last season again. And so, I say again -Loving. It. If you haven't watched - watch. If nothing else I give it kudos for presenting Texas football and Texas life in a realistic, subtle manner. (soap opera plot lines non withstanding, since hey, can't be without those!) None of this Tom Hanks doing a fake drawl like in that stupid Charlie Wilson's War movie where all those big stars weren't really acting much, just being BIG STARS, or JR/Dallas stuff. Just real people with real hearts and messy, wonderful lives. I'm already aching for the outcome of the Landry/Tyra relationship. Cause you know this probably won't turn out okay. And Smash has a lot of growing up to do, lots of hard, hard lessons. And Tim Riggins trying to get Lyla back... gotta love Tim Riggins. Okay, everyone loves Tim Riggins. (okay, yeah, I had that bad boy syndrome when I was in my teens... ended up marrying mine actually.. which is another story entirely...) All that pain and heart... And Coach and his family... Great stuff. Check it out.

Til next time...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The things they ask, continued

Posted the other day about the being interviewed by the newspaper crew at school. They ended up writing a really, really nice little article that I now have up in my room. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside... and then the neurotic part of me kicked in and I felt guilty that I had only finished one more book and now I'm outlining a new WIP, lest I become an ungrateful slacker.

But as I was yammering about in the comment section of Sunday's post, when people hear you've written a book, they really do ask the darndest things. Has anyone else heard any of these?

  • So how much are you getting paid? (Gee, would I ask you your salary?)
  • Why is it taking so long to come out? ( I attempt to explain the workings of the publishing industry and their eyes glaze over)
  • Oh.
  • Really. Interesting.
  • What's it about? (and then when you answer, they look around the room like they're not interested)
  • Do you think people will read it? ( Gee, no. I was rather hoping they'd ignore it. Doh!)
  • Can you quit teaching now? (Wild, maniacal laughter on my part. No one gives up their day job that soon!)
  • Is it like Harry Potter?
  • I like John Grisham. Is it like that?
  • Oh. It's a book for teens. I don't read those. (Well, too bad. You're really missing out on some wonderful books!)
  • I don't have time to read, but if I did...
  • Will you give me a copy? (Actually, no. But you can buy one)
  • I have this great idea for a book. Can I tell you about it. (If you must)
  • I have this great idea for a book. Will you recommend me to your agent? (Well, it doesn't exactly work like that)
  • I have this great idea for a book. Will you write it with me? ( Uh, no.)
  • I'd write a book if I didn't have so much else to do. (Gee, would you really?)

And on and on in that vein. Of course there are also lots of great people. And great questions. And people who are so excited and giddy that it makes me embarrassed with happiness. And I know it's all part of it. But yeesh.

Til next time...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Superbowl Sunday stuff

It's the husband's favorite day of the year. Football. Snack food. Football. And everything that goes with that.

Two years ago, it was the day I finally decided to get off my hind end and started seriously querying agents about Spark. The day that began the journey that's ended up here and now where I'm actually moving that same book toward a publication date. So what did I tell myself that day? Well, I guess the first thing I told myself was, gee, this computer room looks like a great place to hide from excess testosterone on tv. But beyond that, I really do remember thinking that if I didn't put myself out there - really, really out there - then I'd never know what could happen. So I took a deep breath and did it.

Went to a baby shower yesterday. Lots of the requisite oohing and aahing over teensy clothes and hooded towels and a kick ass invention called a swim diaper! Not sure how this works, but it sure sounds good that said baby could wear a diaper into the pool and not have it swell to the size of a cow's head as it does its job soaking up liquid. And lots of eating girlie food like egg casseroles and mimosas.

Also lots of small talk, something I'm never good at. In my world it always ends up like it did yesterday:

Woman at my table: (forks up some cheese grits) So you wrote a book. That's great.
Me: (pokes at far too cheesy hash browns) Yes. It's coming out next year. It's called Spark and it's a young adult novel.
Cheese Grits Woman: That's great. I want to take this class on how to carve shapes into fruit and vegetables. You know. Like on cruises. Like when they carve heads into the watermelons.
Me: Really? Good for you. (sucks down glass of peach ice tea and ponders what to say next)

Til next time...