Friday, February 22, 2008

Title and Tittle-Tattle

Some days, I think about retitling this blog "The Usual Crazy," as that would more accurately reflect the everyday state of my mind than the calm verdure of a Brooklyn Arden. I aspire to that verdure, though. The trees there would be gorgeous and arching and delicate, like the sycamores over Poets' Walk in Central Park, and everyone would lie on blankets reading books or toss Frisbees to happy dogs or do yoga. Mmm.

  • Returning to real life: I just accepted an invitation to speak at SCBWI-Illinois's fall conference in Chicago on November 15, 2008.
  • I'm also going to be speaking at SCBWI-New Jersey the first weekend in June. I don't know what topics I'll be covering for either one, so your suggestions are appreciated.
  • Actually, for June I was thinking I would do an updated submissions talk, since I haven't done one of those in -- yeesh! -- four years; or I would give the character speech again, since I haven't put it up on my website and therefore I can still use it. But I am a glutton for writing punishment, so if someone gives me a better idea I'll probably get all excited about that and go after it.
  • Elizabeth Bunce's A Curse Dark as Gold is garnering marvelously good reviews, including a star from the BCCB. Yay Elizabeth!
  • Last Friday James and I went to the movies together. We both saw a film about attractive young people in New York City, only his involved a rampaging, greedy monster without any apparent motive for the destruction, and mine involved Bill Clinton. (Republicans, you can thank me for that opening later.) His was Cloverfield; mine was Definitely, Maybe (not to be confused with Lisa Yee's next novel Definitely Maybe -- hers doesn't have a comma, and that makes all the difference). While D,M was a little contrived, it was both non-cloyingly sweet and yet admirably realistic about the occasional pain and confusion of romantic relationships -- the fact that you grow into and out of some people, and sometimes the timing isn't right, and there can be more than one true love for you in life . . . Altogether, a charming, nicely grown-up romantic comedy; and when James and I met up again outside the theatre afterwards, we were both perfectly satisfied with our selections. You can read an interview with the screenwriter/director of D,M here.
  • I'm off to Chicago this weekend to visit my dear friend KTBB, who's in the country for a medieval history conference. We plan to see the Chris Raschka exhibit at the Art Institute and eat pizza while watching the Oscars.
  • My Oscar picks: "No Country for Old Men"; Daniel Day-Lewis; Julie Christie; Javier Bardem; and, let's see, Ruby Dee, as the surprise sentimental vote. The thing I'm most looking forward to is the musical performance of the song from "Once," though. Love "Once."
  • End of procrastinatory rambling.


  1. Well, I know one thing that is frustrating to those who have been to more than one conference is the lack of material for intermediate and advanced writers. Submissions info is good (and necessary) to know at the beginning. But at some point I find myself craving something deeper, more craft-oriented. So I like the character topic suggestion. As a non-beginner myself, here are some craft issues I'm struggling with (I may understand the surface theory, but that doesn't mean I know how to put it in practice):

    The first chapter--how to get in both WHAT THE MC WANTS and what is working against him/her, AND suck the reader into the immediate action


    How to create a character who is at the same time vulnerable, flawed, and heroic. Also, how to hit the sweet spot when it comes to revealing character emotion (for example, I tend to show tons of raw data in my fear of telling, and readers tell me they need a few more clues for interpretation; other people have the opposite problem)


    Or anything else you see as an important developmental step for those who are in the almost-but-not-quite category.

  2. Hey, I loved Once! When we finished it, I wanted to watch it again ... honestly, I think I related so strongly to the movie because it's the "artist's dream." To be identified as one of those ridiculously talented types, you know, the kind of artist who makes producers sit up in the chairs or total strangers play guitar or women stop on the street and say, "This guy has it!"

    In terms of conference topics, I'm pretty interested in process, so I would like to hear a talk on how different writers work. You know, how they approach their actual craft. 'Cause I think it's different for everybody, so it would be hard to generalize across the business, but there are things to learn from different approaches to the same goal (producing a book). And you know a lot of writers, so I can only imagine you've got great stories about process. Who writes in the middle of the night? Who's an obsessive outliner? Who has to rewrite fifty gazillion times before the story emerges? Who identifies so strongly with their characters they begin to talk like them? When do other writers work, what do their spaces look like?

    You know ... 'cause if I know anything, it's that writers love navel-gazing.


  3. My wish would be for a talk on beginnings and endings.

    I know that there are many things that need to be in a book between those two items but if you don't have a zippy start then the reader will most likely wander off and a satisfying finish is key. Who hasn't read a book that was deliciously good until a wimpy ending left a bleah taste in your mouth?

    Your vision of calm verdure sounds lovely. Hang on to that thought. It’s something to aspire to.


  4. Oh, I'm jealous of a weekend involving the Chris Raschka exhibit -- enjoy!

    My vote also goes to the character talk in June...

    Brooklyn I come. Today, though, I'm feeling very Ezra Jack Snowy Day Keats, and I'm relishing it.

  5. Thanks for the link! It really made my day.

  6. I got what you're saying this time! Thank you so much!
    Anne (Ánh)

  7. I want to go to the Arden :( It's finally gotten to the point where I hate hate winter and wish the sun would come flaming to earth, just to melt the snow.

  8. I'd like to hear your thoughts on epiphanies and endings. We hear a lot about beginnings, especially with the first-page-mania at conferences. What I struggle with are the deep insights and revelations that are supposed to come during and after a character's journey. How does one avoid corny and contrived when digging for a deeper meaning?

  9. Thanks for the link! It made my day, too. :)

  10. I have to agree with rosegreen regarding lack of intermediate/advanced conference material.

    I'd also love to hear about first person vs. third person POV for YA. Which is better, and why?

    Or, what are the elements that bring a character off the page, make him/her become real? I.E., how do you translate the character worksheets into a real person with a real story?

    Pacing sounds like a great topic, too.

  11. Oh yeah, I'm voting for the fall SCBWI Illinois conference. :)