Monday, August 31, 2009

Awards? Wow, thanks!

First of all, thank you to Lazy Writer for the Splish Splash Award for those who have dazzling blogs. Also thanks to Fiction Groupie for the Super Comments Award. I need to pass the Splish Splash award on to other bloggers now, who also blink like diamonds in the sea of bloggerdom. I am still fairly new to Blogger, having been a myspace blogger for far too long, and so I am touched that you guys would include me in your bloggy embrace. I don't have an image for the Splish Splash award, but I further extend it to:

Some Blogs I Frequent Daily, and Have for a While:

1. Stephanie Faris of Stephanie's Blog (she also receives the Super Comments Award)
2. Fiction Groupie

Some Blogs I Recently Discovered:

3. Natalie Whipple of Between Fact and Fiction
4. Angie Lofthouse of Notes from the Writing Chair
5. Jaime Theler of BookMom Musings

Thank you, ladies, for dazzling me with your thought-provoking and entertaining blogs.

I can't just write about awards, though. There needs to be some meat in my post, and not just sugar. Not that sugar isn't the most important food group. Just that sometimes you need a nice and spicy chicken taco with just the right amount of cilantro and monterey jack cheese. Oh, forget it, now I'm hungry. Must. Finish. Lunch.

Oh oh oh! I know! Food-related, but then what isn't, in my world? Last night, I tried Shabu Shabu for the first time! I'm in food heaven! Yum yum yum! What's the newest food trend you've tried lately, and did you like it? I should mention that I was a vegetarian for eight years, and eating meat is a reallllly big deal for me, especially red meat. So that speaks volumes for the Shabu Shabu experience all by itself.



Friday, August 28, 2009

Have a Fun Weekend!

ImageChef Word Mosaic - ImageChef.com

In Media Res

You know how we, as writers, are supposed to always begin our stories with the main character's moment of change, otherwise known as throwing the reader into the tale en media res? I found a glowing example of this in a movie I watched last weekend, and I thought I would share its brilliance and simplicity. Since I like to have backstory clearly defined in my mind, and usually need to be reminded not to slam it on the reader, but rather to feather it in gradually, I found this helpful.

One of the opening scenes in Careless depicts the main character, Wiley Roth, returning to his apartment alone after working at a drab job in a bookstore. He goes to the kitchen, and a microwave sits on top of the freezer. He opens the freezer, and it is filled with Banquet frozen meals, minus room for five or six boxes. He opens the cardboard expertly, pokes holes in the plastic with a fork kept on top of the microwave just for that purpose, and sets the timer. Next shot, we see him reading a book on his couch, mindlessly forking the heated meal into his mouth.
Now we know that this character lives alone, doesn't cook, can't afford or doesn't choose to buy the more expensive frozen meals, and that his life follows the same pattern and routine every day. Except, of course, for today, the moment of change, when he finds a severed finger on his kitchen floor after his meal. Where does he put it? The freezer. And we are already familiar with the contents of the freezer.

The finger stands out among the frozen meals, and voila, his life is changed forever.

Now if only everything I write could work out that well. What do you do to make sure your backstory doesn't interfere with your beginning, the moment of change?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Not

I was filling out an emergency information form at work today, and one of the questions was the name of my medical insurance carrier. Instead of writing “Health Net,” I wrote “Health Not.” I did not mean to say that, but there you go, the truth slipped out.

Yesterday, I wrote a scathing letter to my primary care physician with a cc to Health Net Member Services regarding the lack of referrals for physical therapy on the ankle where surgery was performed and for treatment for the ankle that still needs surgery.

It occurs to me that I would never be allowed to display such utter incompetence and a total lack of compassion and honesty in my workplace, nor would I ever desire to do so.

Since the doctor’s office does not offer a fax number or an email address for patient usage, I sent the letter via Fed Ex, and they should receive it today. Either I will obtain my referrals, or I will use my PPO portion again to aggressively seek “care.”

Health Not. Yeah, that’s about right. Sorry if I seem a little bitter, but I never knew how the primary care physicians seem to exist in order to prevent care instead of provide it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brains Devoured

Zombies ate my brain. I was in a meeting all day today, and not one of those fun ones where people talk about books and writing, but one where they ask me questions relating to database restructure. Hopefully, my grey matter will regenerate overnight. ~hits pillow facedown~


Zombie Letters from e-zombie.com

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Editor's Day at the Santa Ana Zoo

I am so excited that I am recovered enough from surgery to attend this year's Editor's Day at the Santa Ana Zoo in October, hosted by SCBWI! Last year, I could barely walk. Now I can still barely walk, only with the boot and the crutches, but it's a better situation, and I think I can make it through a full day of walking around by that time.

I heart SCBWI events. It almost killed me not to attend the big conference in LA. I mean, it was just down the street! Or freeway. Whatever--it was close, and I didn't go. I was there in spirit, though.

So now I get to go in October and I'm giddy! Why? Because! That's why! So there! Oh, you want real reasons? Okay!

1. OC SCBWI puts on great events. The speakers and the editors who are attending this event are top-notch, and every word they say should be memorized and applied to my writing. The digital recorder gets new batteries for this day, for sure!

2. One of the speakers, A. LaFaye, is not only one of the best children's writers ever published, but was my instructor at Cal State for four years, and the person single-handedly responsible for my MFA. Okay, I did the work, but she told me about Spalding, encouraged me to apply, and wrote a letter to help me be accepted. I think that's a lot, don't you? She was always patient and supportive and knowledgeable, and without her I would not have come so far with my education. She made learning fun, and helped me to realize that not only could I become a better writer, but that I already was one. I owe her much, and hope that someday I can be as positive and influential an instructor for others like myself.

3. A couple other Spalding alumni will be there, too, possibly, so that makes it even better! I get to see Nancy! And possibly Christine! Yay!!! And I get to network with new people from SCBWI, who are always so positive and helpful. Really, it's a great crowd.

4. It's a week before my birthday, so it's my present to myself.

5. It's at the zoo, and we all know I'm an amateur zookeeper, so it will be nice to see animals that OTHER people care for, instead of me!

Speaking of animals, my son is awake now. I'm going to hunt down Harry Potter showtimes and see if I can convince him to shower and get dressed before Noon on a Saturday.

If you are in the So Cal area, I strongly encourage you to attend this event! You can join SCBWI and receive a discount on registration, and the membership alone will be worth your money, even if you don't attend. As a matter of fact, if you are a children's writer, I think it's the law that you join. Or, at least, it should be!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For

I wanted a dream that I could use to start a story, or just for a story idea. I didn't count on an epic dream involving mysterious characters in the snow and possible zombies. The anti-hero is almost too dark. He scares me, but not the heroine, who is better than me, and is gutsy and clever, and she will persevere. And zombies? Hey, that's nothing! It will be a fun story to complete.

I guess I should pay more attention to what I think about before going to sleep. I was discussing eating somebody's brains as opposed to their heart. You know, that classic question of, "If you were a zombie, what body part would you prefer to eat?" We've all asked ourselves that once or twice. Right? Right?

So I have another YA metaphysical thriller begun in a Word document on my desktop. If I have to dream, I might as well get some use out of it all!

Actually, the reason I'm dreaming is because I'm not writing enough. If I didn't dream so vividly, the creative energy would explode in a sticky rainbow of goo all over my desk. I guess zombies are better than that. They will save me from the goo, because now I will be writing more than before.

If you were a zombie, what body part would you prefer to eat?

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Keep on Blogging

As a follow-up to yesterday’s entry, the dreams from this morning were not as conducive to fiction as the one from yesterday.  All I could remember from the time before the dogs woke me up at 1:22 a.m. was thinking that a giant, juicy spider was lodged between my little toe and the one next to it, and was biting me repeatedly.  Then, two and a half hours later, when I finally went back to sleep, I dreamed that someone was sitting next to me and biting my ear.  When I pushed them off of me in my dream, I woke up to a perturbed cat who wanted breakfast.  Another day in the life of an amateur zookeeper begins.  That reminds me, I really need to make arrangements to get the lizards back from my friend’s house in the mountains.

 

I’ve been reading a bunch of new blogs lately, and commented on a couple, but will comment more when I’m not at the day job.  Breaks and lunches only last so long and sometimes I actually do eat during my lunch break, too.  Chew, comment, swallow, that’s how you do it, right?  It’s nice to see so many different perspectives out there.  You’re worth the time in my busy life.  I love feeling connected to other writers.

 

Writing is such a paradox.  Writing is lonely, because we sit and pound out the words, shunning showers and balanced meals, and we can forget that other humans exist.  Yet, we also must network and expand our horizons to understand the full gamut of human emotion and experience, so we know many people, and we live and love, and are tons more social than the average bear.  But never both at one time.

 

I guess blogging is the middle ground.  Writing, yet connecting.  That’s what makes it special to me.  What keeps you blogging?

 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Putting a Gag on the Inner Critic

Me, sitting down to type, mulling through piles of ideas in my head.

Inner Critic: You can't write that!

Me: Why not?

Inner Critic: It's not literary enough! It's too personal! It's too deep! It's too shallow! It's not funny! It's raunchy! It's not for kids! It's not even for adults, that one, really, you should just ctrl-a and hit delete, for the good of mankind, go ahead, do it now, I'm waiting. You know, there's always the fireplace. Remember when we burned those books of poetry you wrote in 1985? That was a nice, warm night. We could do that again. S'mores sound good right about now. Hey, got any popcorn? We could watch a movie. Something that someone wrote that other people enjoyed and has passed the test of time and numerous audiences. Or you could just find a formula and follow that or, I know! Write an outline. Write several outlines. That way you don't have to fill in the blanks.

And then we could eat chocolate!

Me: Gets old sock, and menacingly approaches Inner Critic.

Inner Critic: What are you doing? Anna? Anna?

Me: Smiles.

Inner Critic: Shrieks in terror,then shuts up.

Me: Sighs in relief.

Inner Critic: Mumbles unintelligibly from the corner.

Me: Starts typing the first thing that comes to my head, no matter what it is, for the sake of opening up the door to every single opportunity, creatively, that comes along.

_______________

The moral of the story is: just freaking type. You'll get some good gems out of it. Others you may not wish to keep. What you think others will like, you may not end up liking.

Write what you would like to read, or to see on TV or in a movie.

Write what makes your kid laugh. Just to see him smile and hear him laugh. Isn't that enough of a reward?

Someday, other kids may laugh, also. And if they don't, well, at least he did.

Just don't let your inner critic make a pincushion out of you and paralyze your fingers, like mine did.

She looks good in the sock. I think she'll wear it for a while. It suits her.

________________

Inner Critic: (mumbling) I'll get you! And your little dog, too!

Me: You can have the dog. But that's another story.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

I'm feeling the crunch of the economy. Right between my teeth. Personally, I prefer creamy, but my son insisted on using up the extra crunchy first for our sandwiches today. He is on a field trip to a nearby lake with his summer day camp class, and needed to brown bag it today. I thought that since I was making his lunch, I would have the same lunch, and it would be ALMOST like having lunch togther. Nauseating, I know, but no matter how much he resents helping me around the house, or with anything at all, because of my leg, I still miss him. So, kid, cheers, because this bite of PB&J is for you. I'll be digging it out for hours.

And now the song is stuck in my head, too.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Night of the Living Crutch

I haven't been as available to the blogosphere as usual lately, and that trend shows signs of continuing indefinitely, so I apologize to any fellow bloggers who may feel slighted by the absence of my comments. I shall attempt to make it up to you in bits and chunks, as time will allow. And thank you for permission to ramble.

And now for some random anecdotes in no particular order:

1) Halfway to the doctor's office, I realized that I had forgotten to bring my brain, I mean, my crutches. Chivalry being alive and well in my world, my son offered to be my "living crutch." When the doctor arrived to the exam room, he asked where my crutches were. My son piped up, "It's Night of the Living Crutch," and even though it was daytime, we all enjoyed a nice laugh because he thought of that all on his own!

2) If you order the Volcano Box from Taco Bell, get a big drink, and situate yourself close to the water for refills. It tastes good, though.

3) No, I haven't done any writing lately. Or reading. Or blogging. My mind has completely surrendered to Robot Chicken. Thank you, Seth Green!

4) If you sent me a children's book to review, I ransomed two of them from the post office yesterday. They traveled as far as the kitchen table, and await my attention. I have to admit, I'm excited to write my first reviews. Please look for them soon!

5) I received an absolutely lovely postcard from Russia in the heap of paperwork the post office finally allowed me to touch and keep for myself. You'd think I was a ... nevermind, that's like shouting fire. I had to show them the boot and the crutches were real before they would believe it was really me, and they wouldn't even help me carry it all to the car. Anyway, thanks to Kit, I now must locate and appropriate some Russian finery such as crown jewels and wear them to an author's interview. Can't wait, want them now!

So, what duties have you been shirking lately in order to eat fast food and watch Adult Swim, I wonder? Or if not Taco Bell and time lapse photography action figures, what are the sins that allow procrastination on your end?

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Movies Based on Books from My Childhood

Kid: Mom, there are lots of movies about books when you were young that are...well, they're GOOD!

Me: Yes, movies sometimes start that way, you know.

Kid: How?

Me: As books!

I know, it's hard to imagine. And I do think I have a glisten or two of youth left in my frail bones.

Today we watched The Phantom Tollbooth, starring Butch Patrick, produced in 1969. I explained to my offspring that this was what the world was like the year I was born. Not cartoonish and containing magical tollbooths or dogs with watches growing out of their sides, but rather with telephones with cords, and avocado green floral-inspired wallpaper that will seem to suck you in to a cartoonish netherworld if you stare long enough.

After the movie, we talked about enjoying the life you have and not being bored and lazy for no reason at all. We chatted about how Milo learned to appreciate all the wonders of the world around him, and how maybe the world my kid lives in isn't so bad, either. We agreed that it was ironic that Milo, the great time-waster, ended up becoming best friends with time itself.

Then he wanted to see another movie inspired by a book from my youth, which is apparently over, gone forever, blown away as dust in the breeze.

I remembered mentioning at a previous residency for grad school this great children's book I read as a child about two kids who hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and how I found that adventurous and brave and daring when I read it, but I couldn't remember the name. At the time, the other students insisted this book was called From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I thought they were incorrect. I remembered a much shorter title. But then again, by any name, it was a good read. So I looked it up on Netflix, and I found it on Play it Now. We watched that one, too, which inspired the quote from my son above.

They were right, and I was wrong. Then I imdb'd it, and voila! It wasn't always called by that long, yet unforgettable, title. The book was, yes, so I don't know why I couldn't remember that. But the movie was originally called The Hideaways. I knew it was something different. Now I have seen the Lauren Bacall version, and I want to see the Ingrid Bergman version. I wonder if that's on Netflix Play it Now, also? I love Netflix. Have I mentioned how I love Netflix? I have Youtube to thank for the first movie, though. I hope I don't get anyone in trouble by mentioning that. What impressed me the most was that there are also available on Youtube videos of a guy reading The Phantom Tollbooth, chapter by chapter. From a book. Even though there is a movie available.

Now, if you will excuse me, I do wish to finish the book myself, even though I have already seen the (not true to the book) movie. I explained that to my son, also, and he just shrugged, and said, "They did the best they could."

I thought he was going to be an engineer or an artist when he grows up, but now I know otherwise. He will be a screenwriter, because that is where his sympathy lies.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Tribute to The Phantom Tollbooth



I decided to re-read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I don't remember a lot of it, so I'm re-discovering as I go along.

Do you remember Milo and Tock? Milo is "every boy," or "every child," and he is consumed with boredom and laziness. Ennui rules his every breath. (I just like that word. Say it with me: ennui. Don't you feel sophisticated?) Tock is a Watchdog. Literally. A watch and a dog. But he goes "tick" instead of "tock." Milo assembled the Phantom Tollbooth from a mysterious box in his bedroom and drove into the Lands Beyond, starting with Expectations, where all you can do is wonder. Just ask the Whether Man! Milo's travels then expand to the Doldrums, where he arrived by letting his mind wander and by "not thinking at all."

For procrastinators everywhere, I present a quote from Milo's visit to the Doldrums.

"As you can see, that leaves almost no time for brooding, lagging, plodding, or procrastinating, and if we stopped to think or laugh, we'd never get nothing done."

"You mean you'd never get anything done," corrected Milo.

"We don't want to get anything done," snapped another angrily; "we want to get nothing done, and we can do that without your help."


Yay! Oh, me, me! I can do that, too!

Aside from the 1961 writing style (annoying dialogue tags and an unnecessary adverb), I quite enjoy this so far.

Sometimes, when writing, I feel like scratching my head in confusion, as Milo does here at the entrance to Dictionopolis.

"I never knew words could be so confusing," Milo said to Tock as he bent down to scratch the dog's ear.

"Only when you use a lot to say a little," answered Tock.


Oh, I would never do that. Never. No writer would ever do a thing like that. Not even if they have a word or page count deadline looming the next day and they needed to pad a few pages with dialogue about sipping tea. Never I would use extraneous or superfluous language to fill a page. Unnecessary, nonsensical, additional, avoidable, repetetive, random, redundant, exorbitant, and/or haphazard dashes of linguistic irrelevance are not in my writer's toolbag.

Not me.

While in the market at Dictionopolis, Milo and Tock run into the Spelling Bee and the Humbug, who disagree and cause a mess. Or maybe Milo causes the mess, because he is blamed for it.

The Humbug throws out this little gem to the Spelling Bee:

"A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect," roared the Humbug, waving his cane furiously.

I'm just going to ignore the dialogue tag and the unnecessary adverb. But really, I spell things correctly 99.99999999% of the time. I believe my intellect functions adequately, possibly more than adequately, depending upon many factors, including sleep, and pain levels. This statement from the Bug to the Bee seems to me to be similar to the old adage, "Those who can't write, edit." I have done both, and both are challenging positions. And believe me, without a writer, there's nothing to edit, so both sides should just quiet down.

Speaking of arguments, when Milo and Tock find themselves sentenced to prison for six million years for making the mess, they meet a Which. Not a witch, but a Which. Her name is Faintly Macabre, and her job in the past was to pick which words for used for what purposes. She was jailed because she became stingy and decided to keep the good words for herself. They eat them, you see, and most are quite tasty, juicy, and sweet. Now the only things Faintly is allowed to eat are sugar-coated punctuation marks, such as commas and exclamation points.

The best bit of advice the Which passes on so far is this:

"An ill-chosen word is the fool's messenger."

A bit of writerly wisdom, indeed. Of course, this proverb was intended to make the people of Dictionopolis stop using so many words so the Which could eat them all.

Here's my bit of wisdom to all writers everywhere today: Don't let the Which eat your words. Type them as fast as you can! You can always edit later. Don't keep the words inside, even when you visit the Doldrums. As Tock said to Milo, "It's bad enough wasting time without killing it."

And as Milo recognized when he escaped the Doldrums by starting to think again about anything, anything at all, "how much could be accomplished with just a little thought."

For instance, I didn't think I had anything to say in a blog this afternoon. Hm. And I've only read through chapter five so far!

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Monday, August 3, 2009

FrankenAnkle Strikes Again

Just call me FrankenAnkle. Go ahead, it's got a good ring. It sounds better than FrankenFoot, although there is technically nothing wrong with that name, either. It's slightly less exciting than the WereVampire, which is a character in a book my son and I thought of together and is more or less written in our heads. You see, a werewolf was bitten by a vampire, and, well, that's pretty much the story. He rampages through town, the mob chases him out with burning torches and spiky-sharp pitchforks, and even the children put their DS's in their pockets to participate in the madness and mayhem.

But it's not Halloweeen, you say? You're right. It is only Halloween in my sock. Underneath the silver glitter and purple argyle lie the hideous scars that only a mad scientist could love. Even with my clever disguise, the pain reminds me of their presence. So it's no use to hide them or pretend they do not exist.

The good news is that someday they won't hurt at all anymore, and instead of looking as if I am a rag doll pieced together by somebody's well-meaning blind grandmother in the dark, I will appear as if moonbeams have kissed my skin and gentle fairies have blessed my foot with the power to walk again.

In the meantime, I guess I'm free to fiendishly roam the streets at night, wearing my Borg Boot of Doom, stealthfully clanking along with my crutches, searching for victims to die of fright when I slowly peel away my sock and expose ... nah, I wouldn't do that to YOU! No pictures today.

Coming soon, to a bookstore near you:

FrankenAnkle Takes a Shower

FrankenAnkle Drives a Car

FrankenAnkle Sleeps Through the Night

FrankenAnkle Goes Back to Work


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