Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Can You Handle It?

Apropos of nothing, I bought a new perfume while I was home: Truth by Calvin Klein. It's a nice, subtle, slightly musky scent -- "inspired by the lush freshness of nature and warm sensuality of skin," according to its advertising copy. So if you're near me and you ask, "What's that lovely scent in the air?" I can say with pride: "That's the smell of Truth!" And no one will ever be able to disagree with me again.

(This inevitably reminds me of what might be the best exchange of dialogue ever in the Klein household. My sister was in high school, and our dear dorky dad had just forbidden her from doing something she thought was her right. So she asked, using a then-current slang phrase, "What are you smokin'?"

And Dad replied: "I'm smoking the truth, Melissa!"

The second-best exchange occurred over a Klein family game of Tripoley:

My cousin Holly to her brother: "You're an idiot, Hans."
Uncle John: "No he isn't, Holly. We had him tested.")

Monday, May 29, 2006

In Memoriam, for the Day

Velma Irene Ward Devers, of Warrensburg, Missouri. My great-grandmother. She grew up on a farm in Kansas, with eight siblings with names like "Roscoe," "Ina," and "Mildred," and she was the valedictorian in her high school class of nine. As I knew her, she was always impeccably coiffed and thoroughly accessorized; my cousins and I spent hours trying on the clip-on earrings and long strands of beads organized in egg crates in her dresser drawers.

Pearl Robertson Leonard of Lamoni, Iowa. My great-grandmother. Soft and doughy, with hands gnarled like twisted paper, she spent years on a farm using an outhouse and water pump before retiring to town. She loved birdwatching, Reader's Digest, and Louis L'Amour novels, and made excellent fruit-and-Jell-o concoctions and creamed corn.

Robert Leonard of Lamoni, Iowa. My great-uncle, a farmer, and a round badger of a man with a great bark of a laugh. I remember him shouting cheerful profanities at his cows as they followed his truck in expectation of food; his left hand trembling with Parkinson's until he trapped it under his right; and his bristly cheek when I leaned down to kiss him good-bye.

Carol Jean Devers Sadler, of Warrensburg, Missouri. My grandmother. When she took the GRE, she achieved the highest score of any student at Central Missouri State University up till that time. She loved traditional church music, bridge, and the public library; made wonderful afghans and mashed potatoes with cheese on top; read mystery novels and literary fiction; and taught me to play Scrabble and, with my mother, to be proud of being an intellectual woman. She died of breast cancer in 2003, and her daughter and granddaughters have Raced for the Cure every year since.

Monte Hydrick Sadler, of Sikeston, Missouri. My great-grandmother, a tiny, wizened woman who wore pastel housedresses and brown orthopedic shoes. When cooking, she was deaf to her granddaughters' pleas that she should sit down and rest, let them take care of things. . . . Her recipes included ingredients like "a handful of flour" and "a knob of butter (the size of a walnut)," and she boiled her green beans with bacon and salt till they melted in the pot.

Philip "Bud" Sadler. My uncle, long and lean, with shaggy blonde hair that sometimes fell into his face and an immense fondness for Bruce Springsteen. He went into typewriter repair in the late 1970s, and the times sadly got away from him; but I remember his wide smile and easy laugh, and his delight at corny comedies or when the Chiefs made a great play.

I am lucky to have lost only these five people, and lucky to have loved and been loved by them.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Three Things Seen Only in the Midwest, and Three Seen Only in New York

1. Flower chains, and the time and peace to make them;

2. Meals of entirely one color tone (Note: This was a dinner I fixed for myself and does not accurately represent my mother's cooking);

3. Me wearing a Garth Brooks concert shirt while playing croquet.

1. The Brooklyn Bridge at sunset;

2. A Dixie Chicks concert at 8:30 in the morning;

3. A dyspeptic pigeon.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Da Vinci" and Dixie Chicks

In this week's New Yorker, my sweet Anthony eviscerates "The Da Vinci Code," book and film:

>> There has been much debate over Dan Brown’s novel ever since it was published, in 2003, but no question has been more contentious than this: if a person of sound mind begins reading the book at ten o’clock in the morning, at what time will he or she come to the realization that it is unmitigated junk? The answer, in my case, was 10:00.03, shortly after I read the opening sentence: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.” With that one word, “renowned,” Brown proves that he hails from the school of elbow-joggers—nervy, worrisome authors who can’t stop shoving us along with jabs of information and opinion that we don’t yet require. (Buried far below this tic is an author’s fear that his command of basic, unadorned English will not do the job; in the case of Brown, he’s right.) You could dismiss that first stumble as a blip, but consider this, discovered on a random skim through the book: “Prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman tugged nervously at his goatee.” What is more, he does so over “a half-eaten power lunch,” one of the saddest phrases I have ever heard. <<

I love Anthony Lane. What I especially love here is his critique of that first sentence -- he is so right, and writers tell like that in commercial fiction all the time, and it has always annoyed me vaguely but I have never had a term for it, and now every time I see it I will think "Ha! Elbow-jogger!" As he goes on to note, it's a forgivable sin if the action is good, but it better be good to make up for the forced characters.

And I can be a prominent New York editor without a goatee, right? I do enjoy power lunches (which I always finish), and I can just tug nervously on my hair instead.


Rarely do I go out and purchase an album as soon as it's released, and rarely does buying an album feel like a political act. But I'd been planning to get the new Dixie Chicks CD ever since I heard it was coming out this spring -- and after I read this article in Time (only a partial available online, sorry, though it's more or less the same content here), I would have bought it even if I didn't like the music, just to support the Chicks' sales and the bravery of their songs and actions. They stick to their principles, make terrific music, and loathe President Bush -- my heroines! Get the album here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Happy List, Part VII: Seventh Heaven

Those of you who just started reading my blog this spring may not be familiar with my "Happy Lists"--occasional lists of things that make me happy or that I'm grateful to have in my life. I usually try to compile one at least once every three months; by accident much more than design, I haven't done one since last November. As a result, this list will be far from exhaustive, but here goes:

  • Clicking down New York City streets in heels
  • Torchlight processions
  • English country dancing
  • The shape of the whiskey glass I received at the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Centre in Edinburgh (where we rode in reproduction whiskey barrels through a diorama tour of whiskey-making history)
  • Guinness and the Guinness Storehouse
  • Literary pub crawls
  • Cobbled streets
  • The music of Lyle Lovett
  • Brad Pitt and Eric Bana in "Troy"
  • Midwest Airlines, especially their wide leather seats and hot chocolate-chip cookies
  • My new black Bandolino heels
  • And my little black J. Crew dress
  • Hotel beds with down pillows and comforters
  • Having my hair washed by someone else
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Jacques Torres chocolate
  • John's Pizza in the West Village, which is possibly better than Lombardi's, though I believe I need to do more exhaustive testing before I can come to an official conclusion
  • Letting a laundry basket slide down stairs, and the satisfying crash it makes at the end
  • Also pushing a shopping cart into a cart corral in a parking lot, and the even more satisfying crash there
  • Dance numbers in movie musicals, including "Dirty Dancing" (sigh), "High School Musical," and "Singin' in the Rain"
  • Croquet, particularly as played by my ruthless, cutthroat, utterly hilarious family (a version known as "Killer Klein Croquet")
  • My sister's dead-on (and also hilarious) imitations of our dad
  • Playing pool
  • Jacuzzis
  • "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and "House"
  • My little Palm Zire
  • Fresh bedsheets
  • Eating an entire saucepan of macaroni and cheese from a box all by myself
  • "A Little Night Music" and the current Broadway production of "Sweeney Todd"
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Mini Coopers
  • Long drives listening to good music
  • Making flower chains
  • The blessed Automated Postal Center at the Soho Post Office
  • The beautiful terraced loess hills of western Iowa
  • The satisfaction of discovering something true as I'm writing
  • The fact that when you delete spam from gmail, it says "Hooray! No spam here!"

Monday, May 22, 2006

FAQ #1: "Do Editors Have to Attend Conferences? Do They Enjoy Them?"

Long, loooonnng ago, as you may remember, I announced that I was going to add an FAQ page to my website and invited people to send or leave questions. Contrary to appearances, I have not forgotten about this -- I just need to carve out the time to write my answers alongside everything else there is to do on the website, blog, etc., never mind real life. So I'm going to make these questions an occasional series here, and eventually we'll have a webpage. Voila!

Do Editors Have to Attend Conferences? Do They Enjoy Them?

I don’t know of any publishing houses that mandate that their editors attend conferences -- indeed they couldn't, as our appearances always depend on the RAs who want to invite us. And most editors enjoy them, I think . . . or at the very least, we all appreciate the extra income. Speaking for myself, I like going to conferences because I like writing conference talks, which often help me think through my own standards and craft as an editor; I like meeting writers and other editors; I like talking about publishing and books; I like traveling to different parts of the country; and there’s always the thrill of possibility that I might find a great new writer or manuscript. (I’ve bought two manuscripts off critiques at SCBWI conferences.)

In fact, the only negative part of a conference for me are the writers who see me only as a path to publication and aren't really interested in anything else. These are the ones who are combative about or uninterested in the advice I give in a critique because they just wanted me to love their manuscript (if you can’t take criticism, don’t pay for it). And they're the writers who want to talk business at meals—what I’m looking for, what the latest trends are, would I be interested in their manuscript along with my roast chicken and asparagus. I completely understand the latter impulse: I’m right there, a captive audience, and the exact person they want to connect with. But when it comes to verbal pitches, I much prefer seeing query letters, because I’m interested in the writing, not just the story; and more to the point, I spend all day at a conference talking about my tastes, trends, and so on, and at meals I really want to talk about something else, be it books or kids or pets or movies or the Bush administration or the airspeed of an African swallow. (If the conversation wends its way around to publishing, that's fine, because goodness knows everyone at a conference is interested in it; but writing is made interesting through its resemblance to life, not the other way around.) So if you’re sitting next to me at dinner, you will make a much better impression on me if I remember you as “Oh, yes, she was the one who knew all those fascinating facts about chocolate-making!” than “Oh, right, he wanted me to critique his manuscript during dessert.” And moral of the story: Try to make a human connection rather than an editorial one.

Friday, May 19, 2006

On Love

(A meditation delivered at Hans and Megan Klein-Hewett's wedding, May 13, 2006. Posted by request, and adapted slightly for prose rather than oral form. [I did not actually quote the Backstreet Boys during the wedding.])

Hello, and welcome to you all. We are gathered together tonight to celebrate the marriage of this man, Hans Vandervelde Klein, and this woman, Megan Elisabeth Hewett. And this is indeed great cause for celebration.

As I was thinking about this ceremony, I started thinking about the way our culture talks about love and romance in general, and how finding love is one of our great cultural obsessions. It's the focus of whole genres of movies, of books, and especially of music, where every song on the radio seems to be about love lost and found. And quite often in these songs, the loved one could be anyone—"my heart," "my fire," "my one desire." There's not really anything unique about this beloved: We only hear that they’re beautiful and life-changing.

But this has always struck me as a little odd, for love is nothing if it is not individual. Those whom we love—our family and friends and romances—we love for the things that are only them--their thoughts, their kindness, the spark of their eyes, the way they make us laugh. And we love them for who they make us when we are with them: better, kinder, more generous human beings, more truly the people we want to be. True love begins with our showing our true selves, and it brings our better selves out of that.

Hans and Megan know this. I asked Hans a few weeks ago how they fell in love, and he told me a story that involved marching band, “Iron Chef,” the Internet, many friends, and Creighton and Iowa State—a story that could have come only from who they each are. And from that beginning as separate individuals, they’ve made a life together, not as Megan-and-Hans but something greater than both: each of them in service to who they can be together, and the growth and the joy that come out of that.

We are here today to celebrate that life together, the continuation of that growth and joy, and their taking on of each other’s burdens in times of fear or pain. The astronomer Carl Sagan said, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” These two have found each other in the vastness of time and space and the six billion other people on earth. Today we commemorate and honor that miracle, and wish them well as they go forward in their life together.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Loveliness of Doing Nothing

I've spent the last four days at home in Missouri, doing nothing. By this I don't mean I've been staring at a wall, immobile and silent; in fact I've baked cookies and banana bread, co-mowed the lawn, written editorial notes on a manuscript, had lunch with the author of that manuscript, sorted through some old papers from college, gotten a pedicure, reviewed portfolios at the Kansas City Art Institute, watched "Election" and two episodes of "Sex and the City," assisted at the recital my mom held for her piano students . . . quite a number of things. But there's been nothing I've had to do, that I was under pressure to do by schedule, assignment, or obligation, and since all of these activities were by choice, they have the lightness (almost the nothingness) of freedom. Manuscripts, deadlines, negotiating, friends to see -- I love my New York life, but it's lovely to be free of the demands associated with it every so often as well.

On Tuesday, after the piano recital, I sat in the grass with one of my mom's students -- an extremely bright eight-year-old boy. We were making flower chains from the copious clovers in our backyard (going for the world-record longest flower chain, as expert chain-makers like ourselves always must), and he looked up all of a sudden and said, "This is a really beautiful place."

"Thank you," I said, surprised. Our yard was gorgeous that evening: birds tweetering, the trees and grass so green they seemed ready to burst with greenness, the clovers sparkling white in the magic-hour sun.

"With the birds and everything," he said. "And making flower chains." He looked down at the clovers in his hands. "That should be a book title," he said. "The Beauty of Making Flower Chains."

And then he pulled another clover and added it to his chain.

I love that kid.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Congratulations, Hans and Megan!

Last night my cousin Hans Klein married the lovely Megan Hewett, in a wedding held in the Hewett family's beautiful backyard and officiated by yours truly. The ceremony took in total six and a half minutes: I welcomed everyone and gave a short meditation on love, then we went through the vows, rings were exchanged (with one small hiccup when I forgot to tell Megan to give Hans his ring), and by the power vested in me, I pronounced them husband and wife. Afterward there was a wonderful dinner with five kinds of cake and lots of good time with family and friends. Hans and Megan are off for a two-week honeymoon in Europe before settling down to wedded bliss in Des Moines, Iowa. Congratulations and blessings to them!

On a deeply less life-changing note, frequent readers will note that the dress I am wearing is not the brown linen dress I purchased for the occasion two weeks ago; rather it's the black J. Crew dress I bought in January, with a little lace installed in the front to de-emphasize the ministerial cleavage. And it was a pleasure to be part of such a meaningful and beautiful event, and I'm cheerfully available for all future weddings, baptisms, and other ceremonies of importance.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bizarre Spam of the Day

Subject line: "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need."

I'm always up for hearing interesting religious viewpoints, so I click and get:

Ad: " VIAGRA CIALIS LEVITRA $1.62 PER DOSE," with an illustration of a brunette woman wearing only a come-hither look, glasses, hose, and a white button-down shirt hanging open to reveal two bare breasts.

And beneath this:

Filler copy: "soilless buckboards pocky had reached his destined limits, it had become evident to everyone in the course of that year that his career was at an end. He still filled a position of consequence, he sat on many commissions and committees, but he was a man whose day was over, and from whom nothing was expected. Whatever he said, whatever he proposed, was heard as though it were something long familiar, and the very thing that was not needed. But Alexey Alexandrovitch was not aware of this, and, on the contrary, being cut off from direct participation in governmental activity, he saw more clearly than ever the errors and defects in the action of others, and thought it his duty to point out means for their"

Thus we have a religious appeal, a pharmaceutical offering, soft-core porn, and Anna Karenina all in one e-mail! It's spam, sure, but I'm impressed by its range.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Useful Vocabulary; or, a Zucker Man Unbound

I was reading an old Entertainment Weekly recently and came across an article on David Zucker, the comic brain behind "Airplane!", the "Naked Gun" films, and now "Scary Movie 4." It was an interesting and well-written article, as indeed most of EW's are, but my favorite part was a sidebar on Mr. Zucker's personal filmmaking lingo -- for instance, "floocher dialogue" is "Filler lines recited by foreground characters to enable the audience to focus on a background joke."

I love this sort of stuff, partly because vocabulary like this is such a fascinating little piece of insight into someone's world, and partly because I can always find something useful in it for myself (here I am TOTALLY stealing "transplant and whack" and "schmuck bait" from Mr. Zucker). A few terms of my own:

  • "thunk-thunk": describes any picture-book manuscript that gives us the problem (thunk) and then the solution (thunk) with no action between to show (not tell) how the character arrived at the solution.
  • "mirror moment": the moment in the first two chapters of a novel where the main character catches sight of himself or herself in a dark glass or mirror and catalogues his appearance for the reader's benefit. This isn't intrinsically bad, but it is a little cliched; I was browsing the paperback of The Da Vinci Code the other day and was amused to see on page two of the text: "The past year had taken a heavy toll on him, but he didn't appreciate seeing the proof in the mirror. His usually sharp blue eyes looked hazy and drawn tonight. A dark stubble was shrouding his strong jaw . . ."
  • "tater tot moment": a moment that shows the main character's emotional vulnerability and connects the reader with the character; adapted from the scene in Millicent Min, Girl Genius, where Digger throws tater tots at Millicent
  • "killing your babies": Many writers know this term, where you have to cut writing you love from a larger work because it's not working within the larger work, and eyes on the prize, the goal is to make the larger work work. Best line on this ever: My friend Katy once sent me a paper to edit with the words, "You have to make like Herod on the Holy Innocents on this thing."
I'm also enamored of two terms stolen from Jennifer Crusie: "infodump," where the writer is too-obviously planting backstory information for the reader's benefit (especially dangerous in a first-person book); and "TDTL," or "Too Dumb to Live," to describe a character whose utter lack of common sense and/or tenuous grasp on obvious reality causes the reader to lose all respect for him or her.

If you have other useful terms for writing, feel free to leave them in the comments. And ten points to the first person to identify the author of the title alluded to in the headline.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Also, from the Shameless Book-Promotion Department:

I talk about working on My Senator and Me here: From the Editor's Desk.

M:I:iii = ALIAS:VI

I went to see "Mission: Impossible III" on Saturday, and while the movie was okay on the whole, its chief entertainment value for me lay in cataloguing its many similarities to my late lamented "Alias." They share a screenwriting team and a director, so this isn't plagiarism -- either J. J. being a little lazy or the man can't help himself:

  • Beginning a moment of high tension, then the credit sequence, then flashing back to three days before the moment of high tension
  • A party sequence where Our Spy Hero has to lie awkwardly to the normal people about his supposedly boring job
  • Greg Grunberg!
  • Multiple exotic locations identified by on-screen text
  • An overly talky tech guy whose digressions make everyone look befuddled
  • A deep-voiced, square-jawed African-American man in power
  • A scene in a gray, windowed conference room where the agent gets dressed down for going beyond his responsibilities
  • A flashback where a female operative has to assemble a gun blindfolded
  • A gorgeous female operative wearing a stunning dress at a swanky party has to do something awkward and embarrassing with the villain to buy time for the spy mission
  • A nerdy but well-respected character actor playing the villain
  • A MacGuffin with a pretentious code name (though "Rabbit's Foot" pales next to "The Covenant," "The Passenger," etc.)
  • An extremely painful scene with Our Spy Hero strapped in what appears to be a dentist's chair
  • Explosive capsules ticking away in people's brains
  • Much jumping out of windows
  • Much identity switching
  • A chase through a poor area in an Asian country with lots of people going about their daily business getting in the way of Our Spy Hero's progress
  • The stakes are personal rather than moral -- that is, we care because Our Spy Hero's _Insert Relative Here_ is going to _Insert Suffering Here_, not because the world will come to an end
  • Deeply untrustworthy handlers, so "He's working for the very people he thought he was fighting against!"

And of course . . . The actor who plays Our Spy Hero is married to another celebrity; has been given a joint nickname with that spouse; has a new baby daughter with an unusual name; and, when s/he smiles, seems to have more than the standard number of gleaming white teeth.

Talking Plot Points, and Considering Submissions

Voila: The Essentials of Plot, the talk I delivered in Kansas City last week.

As I say in the introduction, this is a stripped-down version of "Aristotle, Austen, Plot, and Pleasure" -- the plot talk I gave at Asilomar -- where I basically cut out all the personal stuff (a long introduction on how I fell in love with Jane Austen) and replaced all the Pride and Prejudice examples with examples from contemporary children's literature. I think I will still post "Aristotle, Austen," at some point as a tribute to Owen Jenkins (who indirectly taught me pretty much everything in the talk) and for the pleasure of my fellow P&P fans, but this version is much tighter and easier to follow altogether, I do believe.

I also created an Aristotelian Plot Checklist to show how all the theoretical stuff in the talk can be applied to your WIP. Again as I say in the introduction, this checklist is very much my own editorial WIP, so if you use it to check over your novel, I'd love to hear what you find useful and not. The same for the talk: Feedback is enormously welcome! My e-mail address is on the talk page, or of course you can comment below.

On a completely different subject, I'm putting together new submissions guidelines to try to make my process faster and more efficient for everyone involved (especially, yes, me). The current guidelines are query letters only, for everything, but I find I really prefer to see samples of the writing itself, which usually saves me from requesting things I don't like. So this is what I'm considering going to:

Picture books: Query letter + full text
Novels: Query letter + two chapters + synopsis (in that order)
Other: Query letter + five-page sample of writing (five poems, five pages of nonfiction, etc.)

(Writers still have to send query letters because (a) query-writing is a good exercise and (b) it hopefully keeps me from being mail-bombed with picture-book texts and sample chapters from people too lazy to write query letters.) I will respond with a form letter to any query not appropriate for me; and if I ask to see the full text of something and it doesn't work for me, I will respond with a form letter unless I want a revision.

Does this sound fair? Comparable to what other houses are doing? I've always tried to send a thoughtful this-is-good/this-didn't-work letter to anything I requested and then decided to reject (and truly there is no better editorial training than writing personalized rejection letters); but this conscientiousness has resulted in a backlog that makes me feel guilty and the poor writers anxious, so I hope this new response policy will speed things up. Writers: What do you think?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Honey, I'm Home!

And celebrating minutiae as always. So in the last two weeks:

  • I saw "Avenue Q," which is funny as hell and also uncannily accurate about twentysomething life in New York (especially if it actually involved puppets).
  • I played Super Scrabble for the first time, and won, although I inadvertently played three phonies during the game. Super Scrabble is fun but a bit unnerving, as the board is so big and the tiles and extra-points spaces so numerous that you don't play defensively -- you just try to score as many points as you can. So if you don't mind abandoning strategy in favor of making goofy words, it's a good time.
  • I finished editing So Totally Emily Ebers and sent it off to Lisa.
  • Recipe Discovery of the Week: Beeramisu.
  • My mother, who is a wonderful woman, gave me Milk Chocolate Caramel McVitie's as a late Easter present. The chewy caramel surprises me every time I bite into one, but it nicely balances the crispiness of the digestive biscuit and provides a pleasant variation on the McVitie's experience.
  • Melissa pointed out that I have ascended to the #1 spot in a Google search for "Cheryl Klein," beating at last that Re/Max agent in Savannah, Georgia and the talented MFA lady out in California. Thanks to everyone who helped me on the way to victory! But I must remember, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. . . .
  • My sister and I watched "Dirty Dancing." I had forgotten both how hot and how good that movie is -- when I was in fourth grade and my mom fast-forwarded through the sex scenes, I loved it for the dancing, but this time I saw it as a wonderful feminist coming-of-age movie, especially because of the sex scenes. . . . Baby quite actively chooses to lose her virginity to Johnny and never regrets it, and the movie cheers her on all the way. Curtis Sittenfeld has a spot-on essay about the movie here that I especially recommend to anyone writing girl-centered YA.
  • I bought a pair of elegant black heels that are rather stable as well, so despite wearing them for pretty much four days straight, I have not yet broken my ankle! Hurrah!
  • Lissa and I also went to the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, which was hilarious: They sold a mini-cooler-sized mug called a "Bubba Keg," and also something called a "Jerky Gun," so apparently you can kill your deer and turn it into jerky right there in the woods.
  • Partly because of my vast amusement at these products, my sister accused me of thinking all Midwesterners are hicks. Far from it. Some Midwesterners are more open-minded and thoughtful than some New Yorkers I know, and vice versa; neither region has a monopoly on intelligence or taste. However, it must be said, I do not think one could purchase a product called a "Bubba Keg" anywhere in the New York tri-state area.
  • I found a Hot Minister dress -- brown linen with spaghetti straps and a ruffle around the knee, both completely demure and subtly hot. My sister contended that it's not formal enough for a minister to wear to a wedding; however, with her next breath she asked if she could wear it to her college graduation, so I suspect an ulterior motive. Stay tuned.
  • I hung out with Elizabeth Bunce and Erin Murphy and we toasted "Charlotte Miller."
  • My second-grade teacher, high-school librarian, and very favorite high-school English teacher came to hear me speak at the Missouri Writers Guild conference.
  • I met Lizzy, totally unexpectedly! And she is very cool, as could be surmised from her comments.
  • The "Falling in Love" talk went over really well. The plot talk went okay, though I felt a little off-balance -- partly because it was hard to tell whether the audience was finding it useful or I was just confusing them, and partly because I was giving it barefoot since the heels hurt my feet. Anyway. I think my next talk might bind up the character chart, the plot checklist I developed to go with the plot talk, and assorted other notes and be about novel revision. Or maybe I'll talk about voice, since someone asked me about voice during the Q&A and I found I didn't know what to say. (I'm not yet booked for any conferences in the fall, hint hint.)
  • And I will try to post both versions of the plot talk this weekend.
  • Stephen Colbert completely embarrassed the president.

And three exclamation-worthy events of the day: