Saturday, July 29, 2006

Choose Your Own Cheryl's Las Vegas Adventure

While the Sacred Code of Sin City does indeed prevent me from describing my exploits there in any great detail, I understand that I am allowed to list the elements of my five days there for all of you to piece together as you choose. Therefore:

  • Bubble bath
  • Melissa, John, and Sue, aka the three lovely people who comprise the senior staff of PotterCast
  • Emerson, Kevin, Ben, Andrew, and Jamie -- a smartass but charming group of young men who comprise the senior staff of MuggleCast
  • Lots of neon
  • Paul and Joe DeGeorge, aka Harry and the Potters
  • Brian and Brad, aka Draco and the Malfoys
  • Alex Carpenter, aka the Remus Lupins
  • A swanky suite at the J. W. Marriott Resort Hotel and Spa
  • Terrible vodka
  • "O" by Cirque du Soleil
  • A large outdoor hot tub
  • Slot machines
  • Hot pizza
  • Cold pizza
  • Conversations with drunk people
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  • Seeing 4 a.m. every morning of the week
  • An insightful presentation from Steve Vander Ark of the Harry Potter Lexicon
  • The desert wind
  • A Rum Jungle cocktail at 11 in the morning
  • People dressed as Draco and Lucius Malfoy, Luna Lovegood, Hermione, Ginny, and Harry
  • A rockin' Harry and the Potters/Draco and the Malfoys concert
  • Sudoku
  • Harry Potter trivia
  • The question "Any news on Book 7?", followed by me shaking my head, followed by the statement, "You know something, don't you?", followed by me shaking my head, nine million times
  • An approximately equal number of Harry Potter Book 7 theories
  • An excellent LeakyMug
  • A crowd of 400 singing my adaptation of "Baby It's Cold Outside" ("It's Voldemort Outside"), and John singing my filk of "New York, New York" to welcome J. K. Rowling to NYC this week
  • Some mild MuggleBoy debauchery (not involving me, thank you)
  • The "Wee Kirk o' the Heather" wedding chapel, which was neither a church nor anywhere remotely close to heather
  • The song "I'm Proud to Be An American" by Lee Greenwood
  • The Fremont Street Experience
  • Many cool Harry Potter fans
  • Palm trees

I can also report that I earned two more T's in the course of the week, thus becoming "Hottttt Cheryl"; and other than some unfortunate aftereffects of the terrible vodka, it was a wonderful vacation. Pictures to come.


Melissa, Emerson, and I flew into Los Angeles this morning and came straight to the Grove for our last Scholastic tour podcast -- and it may have just been the best of the bunch, with 350 to 400 people tossing out questions and theories, and our responses enriched by everything we learned or talked about at Lumos. Thanks to Lisa, Greg, Marilyn, and Eve for coming out to see it, and to the former three for the lovely late lunch in the Farmer's Market afterward.

The podcasts of our July 20 discussion at Anderson's and July 25 discussion in Las Vegas are now online here, and the recording of the L.A. event will be available there Tuesday. Happy listening!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Viva Las Vegas

I would tell you everything that's gone on the last three days, but -- what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Sorry, darlings.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Of Wizards, Weddings, and Wickets, in Words and Numbers

On Thursday we held the first of our "Let's Talk About Harry" events at Anderson's Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois, just outside Chicago. Melissa, Emerson, and I led a discussion with 250 avid Harry Potter fans -- a standing-room-only crowd -- ranging over Snape's villainy, Dumbledore's family, Harry's heroism, everyone's romances, the four remaining Horcruxes, the enormous list of things that have to be tied up in Book Seven, and the possible Meaning of It All. As a former English major, I loved the fact that We kept going back to the text, from Melissa and I reciting the first line of Sorcerer's Stone to a close reading of JKR's commentary on James's death in the interview to the multiple interpretations of "Neither can live while the other survives" (What does "live" mean there? "survives"?). . . . I said at one point that "J. K. Rowling has created a generation of lawyers" given how closely we were analyzing her words, but "Talmudic scholars" may be a better comparison, as we were talking not to advance specific agendas but for the sheer love of the books and words. You can see pictures from the event here and a Chicago Tribune article about it (where I'm quoted twice and it's called "The best book club discussion ever") here.

  • Time Melissa's and my flight to Chicago was supposed to leave Newark: 10:45 a.m.
  • Time we actually left the ground: 2:40 p.m.
  • Number of Continental Airlines employees who recognized Melissa: 1 (HP fan Tom McAfee of the Newark Airport Presidents' Club)
  • Books finished on airplane: 1 (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn)
  • Slices of Lou Malanti's (correct name?) Chicago-style pizza I had before the appearance: 2
  • Time discussion began: 7:05 p.m.
  • Time the lovely Jan from Anderson's slipped me a note asking me to wrap things up, which was also the first time I paid attention to the clock since we started talking: 8:30 p.m.
  • Time discussion actually ended: 8:45 p.m.
  • Number of autographs I signed: 30 (approximate)
  • Number signed as "Hottt Cheryl": 1
  • Time I collapsed in bed: 10:45 p.m.

Friday I flew from Chicago to Kansas City for a day of preparation and anticipation: picking up my sister's wedding dress, last-minute Walgreen's and Sam's Club and Hy-Vee runs, a manicure for Lis, a pedicure for me, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, my final dress fitting. Lissa and I slept in the same bed one last time, and she said it felt like Christmas Eve; she wanted to go to sleep quickly so tomorrow would be here faster.

  • Time my alarm went off: 5:15 a.m.
  • Time my flight left for Kansas City: 7:45 a.m.
  • Page of the copyedited So Totally Emily Ebers manuscript I was on when arrived in Kansas City: 258 (of 293)
  • Toenails painted: 10
  • Cost of pedicure in Belton, Mo. (excluding tip): $18
  • Cost in Brooklyn, N.Y.: $15
  • Cost in Manhattan: $25
  • Pans of excellent brisket consumed by attendees of the rehearsal dinner: 3
  • Time I collapsed in bed: 11:10 p.m.

Saturday Melissa and I were both awake by 5:15 and out of bed by 6. My mother made her trademark fabulous waffles, and our Iowa cousins arrived a little after 7:30 for a superfast game of Killer Klein Croquet: off the post, through one wicket, across the yard to the other post, winner take all. Hans made it first, to Melissa's extreme disappointment; besides the fact that possession of the Klein traveling trophy (an extremely ugly statuette of a frog playing croquet) thus returned to the Iowa Klein family, she wanted to take the trophy with her on her honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta. But soon she and I were off to the beauty parlor for our updos with the other bridesmaids, then to church for make-up and dressing and pictures, and then . . .

The wedding. It began with a slideshow (prepared by Lissa) of she and Joe growing up, first separately and then, for the last five years, together; I heard later that the tears in the audience started with the first pictures of blond little Joe and curlicued little Lissa. The mothers lit the candles, then we four bridesmaids and the flower girl walked in to "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," and once we stood on stage, Melissa came in to Mendelssohn's Wedding March. She was gorgeous, not only because of her glorious princess-y wedding cake of a dress, her upswept hair, her perfect makeup and natural gorgeosity, but because she truly glowed with happiness and joy at marrying Joseph Jackson at last. My father put her hand in Joe's and our pastor spoke briefly about marriage. As Melissa recited her vows, her clear strong voice grew deeper and more breathless, as it always has whenever she talks about things she truly believes. And I found myself thinking again about the power of language, that as they said "With this ring, I thee wed" -- six simple, common words -- they transformed from two separate people with separate desires and needs to one couple committed foremost to each other, always, for as long as they both shall live. A friend of Joe's read Corinthians 13; a friend from church sang "How Beautiful"; they lit the unity candle, were pronounced man and wife, and kissed with a passion that probably would have been frowned upon by Baptists of generations past. The ceremony was traditional, easy, beautiful, and so happy, tears notwithstanding.

After the wedding, there was a cake-and-punch reception in the church basement for all the guests. Lis and Joe fed each other cake, the best man (Ryan) and I signed the marriage certificate, and after a cheerful hour and a half of socializing, Ryan, Melissa, Joe, and I crowded into Lissa's Mazda for the drive to the Lake Winnebago Yacht Club. (We stopped at a Casey's General Store on the way so Joe could get a Red Bull. Getting married drains the energy out of a man.) A friend of Mom's ferried the happy couple across the lake in her motorboat, so they arrived at the reception in the glitter of the magic-hour sun on the water. And then it was eating, and drinking, and dancing, and toasting, and old friends, and new family, all evening long. The musical highlight of the evening was the father-daughter dance, performed, for probably the first time in the history of father-daughter dances, to "Hey Ya" by OutKast -- a song my dearest dorky father loves, and he and Lissa indeed shook it like a Polaroid picture. The bride and groom departed for their honeymoon around 9 p.m., she in a little black strapless satin dress, he in khaki shorts, flip-flops, and a "Game Over" t-shirt; but still, absolutely, made for each other.

  • Number of bobby pins used in my updo: 38
  • Hours the updo lasted, through the wedding, energetic dancing, one night's sleep, a strenuous game of croquet, and a 3.6-mile run: 34
  • Number of bridesmaids (including me, the maid of honor): 4
  • Total number of years my 21-year-old sister has known her bridesmaids (excluding me): 48
  • Number of people who think "Maid of Honor" would be an awesome name for a superheroine: 1 (me)
  • Minutes the wedding lasted: 37
  • Attendees at the wedding: 275 (approximate)
  • Attendees at the dinner reception: 216
  • Total money made during the dollar dances: $96 (approximate)
  • Major League Baseball teams represented at the reception: 1 (the Kansas City Royals, whose logo appeared on the groom's cake)
  • Current American League ranking of the Kansas City Royals, out of 14 teams: 14
  • Number of people who believe this reflects badly on the couple's chances: 0

And Sunday? Sunday was indeed a day of rest, with the exception of one more epic game of Killer Klein Croquet -- a full game this time, circling all the way around our house, with Dad, Uncle John, Aunt Carol, Holly, Bob, Hans, Megan, and moi conquering some of the hardest wickets since our *last* game of Killer Klein Croquet. My two-and-a-half-year-old cousin Preston was occasionally directed, manipulated, or outright bribed to reposition balls or even push them through wickets, and every one of us ran afoul of at least one especially difficult gate. In the end, though, the trophy returned to the Missouri Klein family, though it will travel rather farther afield . . .

  • Number of participants: 7
  • My rank after three wickets: 7
  • My rank at the end of the game: 1
  • Miles the Klein Traveling Trophy will traverse from its current home in Missouri to my apartment in Brooklyn: 1,216
  • Next scheduled Killer Klein Croquet match: October 14, 2006, in Prospect Park.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Racing for the Cure

(a post meant for friends, family, and any interested New Yorkers)

Some statistics:

This year more than 212,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Women living in North America have the highest rate of breast cancer in the world.

A woman stands a 1 in 8 chance of developing invasive breast cancer within her lifetime.

40,000 will die from the disease this year alone.

And in 2003, one of them was my grandmother.

For all these reasons, I am once again coordinating a team for the Komen NYC Race for the Cure on Sunday, September 10. It will be a New York Carleton Club team, but I would be delighted to have non-Carls join the team (search for "New York Carleton Club" in the team listings) or contribute. Many wonderful and life-changing women in my life have undergone treatment for breast disease -- my aunt, my second-grade teacher, my dear high-school Quiz Bowl coach and English teacher -- so this is a deeply personal event for me. While it is hard to express appreciation without devolving into cliche, I offer my most honest and generous thanks to anyone who supports the cause: Thank you, very much.

And take care, everyone.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

I was listening to iTunes on Friday -- Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," an excellent song for a most excellent night -- when my laptop fell from its unsteady perch and went BOOM on the floor. It's working, but v e r y s l o w l y, so I type this from an Internet cafe in Park Slope while waiting for Dell technical support. I will be posting only intermittently over the next two weeks anyway due to the tour/my vacation: friends and family to see; my sister's wedding on Saturday (it -- and she -- is going to be gorgeous); tour appearances in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles; five days in Sin City with hundreds of Harry Potter fans . . . It promises to be a crazy-wonderful time. I hope to see or meet many of you on the way, so if you read this and I don't know you, please come up and introduce yourself.

Would anyone in the New York area be interested in gathering August 2 after the JKR reading for a postmortem drink and discussion? Melissa and Emerson and I aren't doing an NYC appearance, so this might be a nice informal substitute. (Are other people already planning these kinds of meetups? I have no idea.) E-mail me at chavela_que at yahoo dot com if you're up for it (subject line "Harry Potter and the __(you fill in the blank)__") and if we have a quorum, I'll coordinate something.

In the meantime, I leave you with the famous list of "Children's Books You'll Probably Never See" to which KTBB alluded below:

  • You Were an Accident
  • Daddy Drinks Because You Cry
  • Strangers Have the Best Candy
  • The Little Sissy Who Snitched
  • Some Kittens Can Fly
  • Kathy Was So Bad Her Mom Stopped Loving Her
  • All Dogs Go to Hell
  • The Kids' Guide to Hitchhiking
  • Why Can't Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet Be Friends?
  • You Are Different and That's Bad
  • Pop Goes The Hamster....And Other Great Microwave Games
  • The Tickling Babysitter
  • Babar Meets the Taxidermist
  • Bi-Curious George
  • The Boy Who Died from Eating All His Vegetables
  • The Pop-up Book of Human Anatomy
  • Things Rich Kids Have, But You Never Will
  • Fun Four-Letter Words to Know and Share
  • Controlling the Playground: Respect Through Fear

Happy summer!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bizarre Foreign Children's Books of the Day

As part of my job, I review foreign publishers' catalogs and ask them to send us copies of books that sound like good candidates for translation. None of the picture books below qualified, but I loved their descriptions so much I typed them up and e-mailed them to a few of my friends. Here they are for your reading pleasure (and I swear to God I did not make any of these up).

Milo is the most handsome gnu in the world. His mother tells him so non-stop. He often asks himself what he's got that the others don't. So Milo decides to take part in a beauty pageant for animals. The first prize is a trip to Paris. But nothing is going as planned. In the crowd of candidates, Milo feels a little alone. And no longer so handsome. Suddenly, he sees a little penguin with his young refrigerator.
A drama is at hand.

From all appearances, there is a shell; it's a slug and a snail. However, how about if we trace the slug's ancestors? A poem with a unique viewpoint of a slug.

One day, after school, Bud finds a strange potato on the table. Bud runs after the potato and falls into a fantastic world swept away by a huge vortex. Bud wants to know the name of the potato but it doesn't have any name. And so Bud begins to travel with the nameless potato in search of its lost name all around the world.

Big Brother Egg is the eldest of the pack. While all of his younger brother and sisters have already turned into baby chicks, Big Brother Egg does not want to hatch. He wants to stay in his eggshell forever. But it's high time that he grew out of his shell. . . .

"A heartwarming fantasy with full of clarinet sound!" What is best ever for me is a life with cat. One evening there came a cat. She loved the sound of my clarinet. As listening to my tone, she got bigger and bigger, first larger than bed, then larger than house! You will be fulfilled with joy by the growing cat as you read on.

"Oh my! My leopard-dots panty is gone! It was in my drawer!" a kid shouts in his room, and from here the colorful story begins. First, it's a baby lion who puts the panty on his head to be like his father. Then it's a thick and large snake who takes a nap in the panty hanging down. Up next is a flamingo. Wow! She is wearing the panty as a necklace for her wedding. Then a baby otter wears it like a swimming glass. Very hilarious!

A Puppy Poo forsaken at the corner of an alley. Everyone avoids it saying "Dirty Poo!" One drizzling spring day, Puppy Poo meets a young dandelion plant who needs fertilization. Puppy Poo joyfully breaks itself down and soaks into the root of dandelion. This self-sacrifice finally blooms a dandelion bud into its full glory. A moving and lessonful story illustrated by Sung-gak Chong.

In the island far south, a baby was born with a sound of fart. She grew up to be a nice girl and her great fart would often save people from wild animals. Then she was asked to save people from the monster that comes for babies when the moon is full. On a full moon night, she set out for the sea to face the monster, with her powerful fart her only leverage.

Rubbing his sleepy eyes a little boy gets up to pee. But he bumps into the toilet that was on his way to an excursion. The toilet says he was late already and could not help him! The chase starts. The boy follows the toilet to the station and jumps on the Toilet Express. Dynamic illustrations with that familiar feeling of holding to go and the relief that follows is humorously described.

Children always ask adults "Why?" and one of the most frequently asked "why?" is "Why do they drink?" This question leads to other questions like "Why do their faces turn red?" "Why do they keep on saying the same thing?" "What happens in their body when they drink?" "Why they come to themselves after some hours?" No one can readily answer these questions, so let's look into the mystery of alcohol!

P.S. If you love Jane Austen, don't miss Melissa W.'s work of pants genius in the comments on the topic below.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Pottercast episode #47, "Pants," is now downloadable here. In this episode, I talk about my legendarily terrible job interview with Arthur; editing Harry; two possible theories on the infamous gleam of triumph in Dumbledore's eyes at the end of Book 4; Millicent Min, Girl Genius; special Pottercast submissions guidelines; the "Harry and the Potters" concert, and my secret second career as a filker (a.k.a. how I earned the extra T's in "Hottt Cheryl"). We also quote the classic "Lines from 'Star Wars' That Can Be Improved by Substituting 'Pants' for Key Words" and issue a challenge to listeners to come up with their own similar lines from Harry Potter. For inspiration (and because it's just too much fun not to post again), here's the original list:

  • We’ve got to be able to get some reading on those pants, up or down.
  • The pants may not look like much, kid, but they’ve got it where it counts.
  • I find your lack of pants disturbing.
  • These pants contain the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it.
  • Han will have those pants down. We’ve got to give him more time!
  • General Veers, prepare your pants for a surface assault.
  • I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my pants back home.
  • TK-421 . . . Why aren’t you in your pants?
  • Lock the door. And hope they don’t have pants.
  • You are unwise to lower your pants.
  • She must have hidden the plans in her pants. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally, Commander.
  • Governor Tarkin. I recognized your foul pants when I was brought on board.
  • You look strong enough to pull the pants off of a Gundark.
  • Luke . . . Help me take . . . these pants off.
  • Great, Chewie, great. Always thinking with your pants.
  • That blast came from those pants. That thing’s operational!
  • A tremor in the pants. The last time I felt this was in the presence of my old master.
  • Don’t worry. Chewie and I have gotten into a lot of pants more heavily guarded than this.
  • Maybe you’d like it back in your pants, your Highness.
  • Your pants betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially one . . . Your sister!
  • Jabba doesn’t have time for smugglers who drop their pants at the first sign of an Imperial Cruiser.
  • Yeah, well, short pants is better than no pants at all, Chewie.
  • I cannot teach him. The boy has no pants.
  • Attention. This is Lando Calrissean. The Empire has taken control of my pants, I advise everyone to leave before more troops arrive.
  • You came in those pants? You’re braver than I thought.
  • Yesssss. The hate is swelling in your pants.

Melissa, John, Sue and I had a great time recording this Pottercast, and I hope you all enjoy it! (And yes, Mom, I'll download and burn a copy for you.)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Home Improvements

I was avoiding doing actual work this afternoon and updated my website instead: corrections on the main page; new links to the catalog copy on the Books I've Edited page; and at long last, Aristotle, Austen, Plot, and Pleasure: What a Dead Greek Philosopher and a Classic English Novelist Can Teach Us about Writing for Children. Woo-hoo.

I also put a new blog on the sidebar of this page -- one I've been reading for a long time, but have thus far been too lazy to add -- the lovely Betsy Bird's Fuse #8. Betsy is a member of child_lit and librarian at the Donnell Central Children's Library of the New York Public Library system, and she still somehow manages to write an insightful book review a day (and post many other fun little kids' books tidbits as well, including an ongoing list of Hot Men of Children's Literature). Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And Continuing the Wizard-Rock Theme . . .

Two big announcements:

First, per this post on TLC, I am going to be a guest host on this coming week's Pottercast. There's a call-in section, so if there's something HP- or writing-related you haven't asked me yet -- why are you holding back? Dial the number, leave us a question, and maybe we'll answer it on the air. This should be tremendously entertaining, and hopefully have lots of good book discussion too. (The big question for this week's show is "What do you think the gleam in Dumbledore's eye at the end of Book Four meant?" Which means I better solidify my theory fast . . .)

Second, a trip that has been long in conception but is even greater in excitement: My dear friend Melissa Anelli of the Leaky Cauldron, her sometime husband Emerson Spartz of Mugglenet (a.k.a. the two fans chosen to interview J. K. Rowling on the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last year), and I are going on tour later this month to celebrate the paperback edition of Half-Blood Prince. At every stop, we'll discuss the book, how it changed things from Book Five and sets us up for Seven, the literary construction of the series, and our personal journeys with Harry . . . and I will laugh at Melissa and Emerson as fangirls and fanboys beg them for autographs and sing tribute filks. (I've seen this happen.) Here's the wheres and whens:

July 20, 7 p.m.
Anderson's Bookshop
123 West Jefferson
Naperville, IL 60540

July 25, 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Summerlin
Crossroads Commons
8915 W. Charleston
Las Vegas, NV 89117

July 30, 1 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
the Grove at Farmers Market
189 Grove Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90036

We will be creating podcasts of all three appearances -- but if you live near Chicago, Las Vegas or L.A., that's no excuse not to come out and see us. (Lisa, Greg, Marilyn: This means you!)

So there's huge Potter fun bustin' out all over . . . Voldemort can't stop the rock!!!

In Which Cheryl Becomes a Wizard-Rock Groupie

Melissa A. and I went to the Harry and the Potters concert tonight at the Knitting Factory, with Draco and the Malfoys as the opening act. The concert rocked. No, wait, correction: It RAWKED. Terrific music, hilarious lyrics (or even just song titles: "Stick It to Dolores," "Cornelius Fudge is an Ass," "In Which Draco Malfoy Cries Like a Baby"), and an absolute passionate dedication to the spirit of love and of rock -- where Voldemort, of course, is the Man. They were awesome, and they are coming soon to a library near you.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Just in Time for My Sister's Wedding . . .

Certificate of Marriage
This is to certify that
Mr. Knightley & chavelaque
were married on
July 02, 2006
Marry Your Favorite Character

(Gacked from AustenBlog.) "Why Mr. Knightley instead of Mr. Darcy?" you may ask. He's less stiff, more humble, and he knows how to handle clever type-A women. Plus I'll take Jeremy Northam over Colin Firth any day.

Hee hee. In fact, this is so fun and silly I feel compelled to become a bigamist:

Certificate of Marriage
This is to certify that
Stephen Maturin & chavelaque
were married on
July 02, 2006
Marry Your Favorite Character

and a trigamist!

Certificate of Marriage
This is to certify that
Jonathan Strange & chavelaque
were married on
July 02, 2006
Marry Your Favorite Character

Stop me before I marry again!!!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Cell-Phone Question for the Collective Brain

I am thinking of switching my cell-phone service from Virgin Mobile Pay-as-You-Go to a regular monthly plan service. The leading candidates right now are Verizon (to which some family members and friends belong), Cingular (which also carries a few of my friends, and I'd get a neato phone with iTunes), and T-Mobile (which none of my friends have, but which offers the most minutes for $39.99, and I'd probably get a pretty pink Razr -- happy girliness abounding). Has anyone had any especially positive or negative experiences with these services (or phones)? High taxes? Hidden fees? Poor coverage? Dropped calls? I'd especially love to hear from New Yorkers about your experiences.


Summer Bliss

A good book, a cool drink, red toenails, and time to enjoy them.

Happy holiday weekend! Posted by Picasa