Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympic Commentary (if Bob's not doing it for you)

So. About the Olympics.

Are you watching? We are, and if I'm not careful, they start killing me. I'm just not built to stay up until midnight and rise again at 7:30 (or so).

And they're kind of time-investment equivalent of watching the extended version of LOTR and half of the special features. Maybe more. But the Winter Olympics are my favorite. The athletes, the Americans at least, generally have really good attitudes and are easy to root for.

I love Shaun White - he's the kid who shows up in your kitchen, miraculously, around mealtimes, and frequently needs rides home from school. And I mean that in a good way. He's also the kid whose hair you desperately want to Samson-ize, but that's another story.

My sister, 17, declined to marry little Shaun (who's trying to switch his moniker from "The Flying Tomato" to "Animal" [see: The Muppets], but to me, he'll always be "Tomato Boy"). However, she did give a thumbs up to little J.R. Celski, whom we are very glad did not bleed out way back when, and has a killer scar. (Did I mention that we choose spouses during the Olympics? We do. It's fun. Try it some time. I picked Joey Cheek in Torino, and married a man shortly after who looks quite similar, just cuter, and with a better last name).

Really love watching the speed skating. Danny and I have long conversations over how we could be terrific speed skaters - we're both built for it, with the legginess and all (I like to think my back would approve of all the bent-over-ness if I were in competitive shape).

We had great fun during the men's figure skating. Specifically: we had fun making fun of Yevgeny Plushenko.

Granted, this is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. Look at this picture. He needs a haircut. You can see his pores from here. And his yellow teeth.

And I can't tell, but I'm going to venture that he hasn't shaved in this picture. Hard to say. But he didn't shave during either of his skates last week, and it made me mad.

He's at the Olympics. He was planning on winning. He didn't even shave for the medal stand. That's tantamount to getting married unshaven.

Mind you, I am a fan of men's facial hair. Danny grew a goatee during our engagement, and I love love love it. There is also a place for attractive male scruffiness. But random unshaven-ness? On the world stage? Really?? Because it makes him look like a nerf-herder. Who wants to be "like Dick Button."

Note to Yevgeny: I think Dick Button shaved. Just throwing that out there.

Be aware that if this kid had a good attitude, I would let certain amounts of unshaven-ness pass without commentary. But he doesn't have a good attitude. He has a very, very bad attitude. As evidenced in this picture.

We've got sweet little Evan Lysacek who's worked his little heart out to be as well trained as he could possibly be, and manages to be on the medal stand looking good-hearted, despite the glittery snake around his neck (blame Vera Wang for that).

Then there's Yevgeny, who looks like he's planning on making contact with his buddies in the Russian mafia to rectify the situation.

Or go all Tonya Harding on him. It could go either way.

I hope Evan sleeps with one eye open. Because he really deserves to keep that gold. Like Scotty Hamilton.

Now, my absolute favorite Olympic moment, by far, is Lindsay Vonn crying after she found she had won gold in the women's downhill. It wasn't the normal Olympic, I-did-this-for-my-country teary, it was complete and utter tears, streaky mascara and all.

I have to be honest here. I'm a crier. I am. Especially if I'm tired, or hungry, or frustrated, or whatever. There are a few dozen contributing factors.

Lindsay Vonn of the USA talks with her husband Thomas Vonn after todays  training for the Alpine skiing Women's Downhill at Whistler Creekside during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on February 15, 2010 in Whistler, Canada.

I loved when Lindsay's being interviewed, and the interviewer points out her husband. Lindsay goes and sees him, and where she had it almost held together, the moment she saw him she lost it altogether on his shoulder. He did that great "I don't know what to do with you when you're crying in front of cameras" man pat.

I made Danny watch that part. He got a good laugh at it. And truly, we weren't laughing at Lindsay. We were laughing at me. Because I would do the exact same thing. Except wear mascara on my bottom lashes. That'll get ya every time.

Up next? Ladies' Figure Skating Long Programs. Ski jumping. Likely more speed skating.

Debating whether or not to write the Olympics into Simply Sara. I think it would be cool to get an Amish-woman's opinion on the subject. Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mood Swings

Best of times...worst of times...who needs artificial hormones when you've got publishing?

The two weeks since my last post have been a wild, wild ride. The signing at Powell's? Good times. And honestly, my favorite part was getting to see people I hadn't seen in a long time. Did not sell many books, but I sold some, a couple to total strangers. But we got to hang out, chat, and catch up while in a bookstore.

I love bookstores.

Funny highlights: on shelves behind where I sat, there were stacks of books from a previous signing, and the title was something suggestive, like, "How to Be a Bad Girl." I really don't remember. My mom probably does, though, because it really, really bugged her. The experiencing of publishing has given me a certain capacity for zen, but my mom took matters into her own hands and covered each Dirty Girl book with a copy of Plain Jayne, thus preserving the photo op.

Also, my friend Janell came, bearing mini pies (one lemon meringue, one apricot raspeberry, ala Jayne). Mind you, we were at the Beaverton Powell's, so she had to walk though quite a lot of mall before reaching the bookstore, and got lots of terrific looks carrying miniature pies through the mall.

But that's what friends do for each other. They carry pies through malls.

Oh, and getting the pies home, Danny went into uber-engineer mode. I saw the look on his face and knew the situation was well in hand. True enough, he stuck one pie under the chocolate bowl, and other some other was all very clever.

I regret I have no pictures of any of this for you. I charged up my camera battery and everything, only to leave the battery in the charger. Problem.

Anyway, signing over, we've been watching a lot of Olympics. More on that later.

Once the signing was done, I got to (briefly) focus on writing, then move on to final preparations for teaching a class at OCW about writing ensemble casts in fiction. The conference was tons of fun - loved seeing friends and meeting new people. Loved hearing from Robin Gunn (I've decided her voice reminds me of Shelley Long. I mean that in a good way. Shelley's very happy to listen to, and so is Robin.) Enjoyed teaching, though I really could have used a microphone - I wound up having to pretty much yell my material. Honestly came home hoarse. But it was fun, and I'd do it over again in a heartbeat.

With a microphone.

That was Saturday. Sunday, we taught 18 four-year-olds, attended service, and came home. At around 4pm, Danny turned in his graduate project. Like, the one that's taken over our lives. It looks like this.

And this:

For the second shot, I layered the bridge into a photo Danny took while doing the planning. Yes, that's me in the black coat.

Anyway, things stayed busy until Monday afternoon, at which point I found myself dead tired and frustrated with the amount of book left to write and an overall feeling of hopelessness...

...which is usually indicative of needing to do more synopsis work. Amazingly enough. I got on the phone with a friend to ask her about concussions, and at her suggestion we got a couple other of my process-readers together and had a planning party.

I don't know if anyone else does this in fiction - in the film and TV industry, it would be referred to as a spit-balling session. Basically, you sit around and throw around ideas. Great fun. In my head I'd decided to use 3x5 cards. Now, I've never used 3x5 cards, but I knew that I needed to get plot points out and then organize them. I came home with a stack dictating the next quarter, easily, of the book, with one random card waiting to find its place.

Wherever I do my writing (be it the couch, desk, or chair), the cards come to. And while, sure, I could write them out onto a computer file, I like the freedom of physical cards and the fact that if I wanted to write words in a circle, I could without some kind of word-processor gymnastics.

If you're stuck, try the note cards. They're great for sequencing. For big-picture stuff, I like sketchbooks without lines. I have a great sketchpad left over from art school with good, heavy paper that I probably shouldn't use for this sort of thing, but I love it. I can map out a plot structure or timeline, or write little snippets and connect them with squiggly arrows.

I love squiggly arrows.

And the great thing is that it's totally non-linear. I've tried to do that kind of work on a computer, but it just doesn't work for me. There's a lot of freedom to be found in a notebook. We took mine out to dinner, Danny and I, and worked at some of the big questions over Red Robin.

So between that and the planning session, things are looking good. I've moved from some very Anne-like depths of despair to complete elation over colored note cards.

A phrase that Robin said last week resonated with me - "fly, little heart." I think I start to feel trapped. I feel like I've lost all courage and hope. It's a scary place to be. But after investing the time away from writing and doing the planning work, I'm hopeful.

Looking forward to flight.

P.S. Hoping to post the cover of Simply Sara soon!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Crazycakes the best word I have to describe the last 48 hours. Truly.

The contributing factors, I think, are:

1. The signing at Powell's (Cedar Hills) this Sunday (2pm).
2. The fact that Powell's is in Portland, and therefore requires travel.
3. Simply Sara's new release date and the ensuing start of production.

Add those together and you've got me on the phone with my agent while sitting in a dentist's chair. Seriously, I feel like one of those weirdo workaholic Manhattanites who close deals via Bluetooth at the deli counter. Except I don't have my Bluetooth, because it arrived today while we were out of town, and I have to tell you that it's very, very useful to be able to call your editor or agent back while driving. Or ironing. Or washing dishes.

Today the craziness continued while at a meeting planning for this summer's OCW Coaching Conference. The aftermath included me agreeing to be the assistant director, which I did not anticipate but am excited about. For the first time we're really working at getting high school and college-age conferees to come; that's my project to organize. I'm SUPER excited about it because that was me - 14 years-old, tall, scrawny, and ready to learn everything I could about writing.

While at this meeting, I got the cover for Simply Sara in my inbox (the joys of a Netbook). I love it! Honestly, I think it's fantastic. Warm tones, blue skies - there's even a Portland Cityscape at the top! I'm very pleased.

And speaking about the Netbook, I micro-blogged (I refuse to say "tweeted") about it but hadn't blog posted...the story on that is that my laptop monitor was wigging out on me, causing me to wig out because I knew we were heading to Portland and I couldn't go a weekend without working, and I couldn't borrow Danny's computer because he needs it, and we found ourselves with a half-hour window while waiting for Danny to get a haircut, during which we traveled five minutes to Staples and walked out with an Acer Aspire.

(Sorry. Longest non-Melville sentence ever? Possible.)

While I'm in love with its cuteness, smallness, and handiness, I have to say it's not a replacement for a proper laptop/desktop. Sometimes, it's useful to have a screen larger than 8 1/2 inches.

Oohh...headache. Pain. Wrapping this up... So, Powell's signing...anyway, picked up two boxes of books, so there will be lots this weekend and next. I'll pick up the chocolate for the signing tomorrow.

Until then...who knows?

I might try to relax.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sara in the Fall

I'm tired. Not talking run of the mill lethargy, but honest to goodness near narcolepsy. But there's big news around here, so I'm going to push through.

If parts of this don't make sense, you've been warned.

I found out last night that the release date for Simply Sara has been shifted from Jan 1, 2011 to September of this year. Which is great, because it means that a few people might remember Plain Jayne when Simply Sara comes out. The trickiness lies in the fact that:

1. Writing Sara has been like typing through molasses. Thick, unsulfered molasses. That's been in the fridge, cold, for some unknown reason (I warned you, I'm tired). Mind you, it's a good book, and those who read and critique the early stuff (who are not the the sort to spare deserved criticism) have thus far agreed, but it has no intention of entering the world at anything resembling speed. So the fact that

2. I'll probably be eyeballing a cover for Sara sometime next week; dealing with early production and likely working on a synopsis so this puppy can go into a retailer catalog while figuring out how to market both books at the same time is

3. Just a bit overwhelming.

4. But everyone needs motivation. And this is the literary version of an extraordinarily sharp object poking in your back.

Did I mention that this release time is really great? Because it really is. One of the (many) reasons is that there's a fair amount of Christmas content in the first third - since SS picks up right after PJ, and that's mid-November, I think. Pretty sure. I'll check later. Anyway, as a reader, I think I'd enjoy reading about Christmas before Christmas, rather than after, when the tree is dried up and the lights need to come down. Before=magic. After=I don't know what. I just know that it was a lot to be writing Christmas scenes after Christmas, because I was really ready for all of the holidays to be over!

Oh. And a fall release means it's so totally available for holiday shoppers. Yay!!!

So, the lesson here is that writers who write for publication truly have at least two jobs. Not talking about what all they do to pay the bills or raise children or clean the house, but the actual process of writing for publication.

The secret is it's not just writing. It's assisting as much as possible with the production process, with marketing, and doing the editing so the book that winds up on shelves (or online retailer's warehouses) is the best possible book. There's a lot of non-writing that goes into this, but it's important. You don't get to sit in a hole and write, not if you want that lovely warehouse space.

In the end, it's a good thing. Because all of the production legwork means you get a lot more exercise.

And you know what exercise means?

That's right. You get to rationalize the cupcake.

P.S. I'm sure there are all sorts of typos in this blog. Don't worry. I'm sure my mom will catch them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thoughts on and for Oscar Whiners

There's a lot of Oscar hate floating around. I don't get it.

I've watched the Oscars faithfully ever since I attended my aunt's Oscar Party while in Maui. My attendance was a forgone conclusion, since we were staying in her condo. I was sixteen. I wasn't into film, not yet, but I loved watching movies.

And I loved clothes. Loving the Oscars was a natural development.

I grew up, some. I went to college. A multi-media course introduced me to foreign and art films. The public library circulated DVDs for free. I got hooked on film.

In my mind, to love film is to love the Oscars. They're a celebration of the silver screen, of the best of Hollywood, of movie making.

No, they're not fair. The award of "Best Film" isn't necessarily for the best film of the year, but the best buzz, the best momentum. The best out of five (now ten) films, but not necessarily the best overall.

Whatever. To the people who beef about the unfairness of it all, I have three words.

Get. Over. It.

Award unfairness is nothing new. They were unfair when Judy Garland lost to Grace Kelly in 1954. Accept it. Deal with it. Move on.

Instead, revel in the good moments. Halle Berry's win over Sissy Spacek and Nicole Kidman in 2001, Marion Cotillard beating Julie Christie in 2007. Glen Hansard and Market Irglova (now the band "Swell Season") winning best song, "Falling Slowly," from Once. Jennifer Hudson winning Best Supporting Actress for Dreamgirls. Roberto Benigni, Best Actor for Life is Beautiful (and the leaping that ensued, now classic footage). Adrian Brody for The Pianist. Shakespeare in Love for Best Picture.

The Oscars aren't perfect. But they're a lot of fun.

Still not feeling the love? Click away -

Hugh Jackman's 2009 Opening (with Anne Hathaway)