Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Weirdest Christmas Hiatus Post Ever

Yes, normally I'm so driven I literally have Ambition** coming out of my armpits.**** But as of today, I am off for two weeks' vacation in California, Missouri, and Iowa, seeing many dear friends and family. I hope to get some good thinking and writing time in while I'm gone, so I may post again******, but in case I do not: I wish all of you readers a wonderful and blessed winter-solstice season, filled with all the things you love best, and I'll see you in 2009. Happy holidays!*******
* I swear this is a real scent of deodorant and the photo has not been Photoshopped.
** Though it's still not the funniest scent name for a deodorant I've ever seen; that would be "Sweet Surrender" from Lady Speed Stick. A deodorant that shares a name with a Sarah McLachlan song*** -- good lord.
*** Admittedly, "Possession" would be worse. Though maybe not "Ice Cream."
**** I confess I bought this product solely for the opportunity to say that. But actually, Ambition doesn't smell very pleasant, and I've moved on to Wild Freesia.*****
***** I am laughing even writing this because this has to be the epitome of bloggy oversharing/navel-gazing. (Ooh look! Bellybutton lint!) But I trust you all will forgive me.
****** I finished Twilight, and I have some things to say about that.
******* And God bless us, every one.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Ars Poetica #100: I Believe" by Elizabeth Alexander

In the midst of a news report about President-elect Obama's inauguration today, I saw a reference to poet Elizabeth Alexander, who will be performing at the ceremony (along with Aretha Franklin, which is awesome). Obama is reinstating the tradition of an inaugural poem after our esteemed current president dropped it. Anyway, I had never heard of Ms. Alexander, so I Googled around and found her website, and I quite like this:

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Man in Black

If you'll permit me a brief little proud personal post, here's my boyfriend James singing "Ring of Fire" last night with his class from the Brooklyn Guitar School (video and occasional voice accompaniment by me):

James is a professional video director and editor, and he gives wonderful gifts -- for instance, these two videos for birthdays past, one from 2006 and one for this year. (And yes, those are the real celebrities.)

The signoff line in the one above kills me -- the perfect example of someone living up to his own cliche.

(James got me to walk in front of the greenscreen for this one by telling me he needed to test out the focus depth of his camera. I do still trust him -- just not with a greenscreen.)

Lastly, I uploaded some photos from Election Night at Rockefeller Center and randomness throughout the year to my Facebook account.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hooray for Elizabeth & A CURSE DARK AS GOLD!

I'm delighted to share the news that Elizabeth C. Bunce's A Curse Dark as Gold is one of five nominees for the ALA's William C. Morris Award, for a debut work of young adult fiction. Elizabeth and I are both pretty pleased, as you can imagine, though it's hard to find a book-specific way to celebrate . . . I mean, we could go out and buy ourselves dresses made from gold thread, but that seems a little creepy in context. (And Elizabeth would probably prefer to make her dress anyway!) So I simply lift a glass of cider to her across the states. The winner will be announced at the ALA awards ceremony in January.

The other nominees (and editors) are:
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore, edited by Kathy Dawson
  • Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne, edited by my excellent friend (and an author herself) Jill Santopolo
  • Madapple by Christina Meldrum, edited by Michelle Frey
  • Me, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine, edited by Stella Paskins of HarperCollins UK
Cheers to all!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

HP, Jane Austen, Twilight, Recipes, LOST, Movie Pitches, Baseball, Cassons, Words, and Old Ladies/Politics.

In other words, everything ever in the history of the world! AND the results of the great Socks vs. Underwear debate.

  • I had the great pleasure of being a guest on PotterCast this week for a live discussion of The Tales of Beedle the Bard at Books of Wonder. You can listen to the audio here. Thanks as always to the PotterCasters for having me on the show!
  • During the discussion, I start to articulate a theory of what I think might be a personality test based upon which tale you like the best. "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot": You are cheerful and enjoy seeing justice done. "The Fountain of Fair Fortune": You're something of a romantic and probably supported Barack Obama (since we are the change we've been waiting for). "The Warlock's Hairy Heart": You have an unexpected Gothic streak. "Babbitty Rabbitty": You also enjoy seeing justice done, but by rabbits. "The Three Brothers": You like contemplating the big questions of life. (This is only the start of a theory, mind you . . .)
  • A must-read if you're an Austen lover and/or Facebook member: AustenBook. (Thanks to Christina and Suzi for posting this on FB in the first place.)
  • A very smart review of Twilight from the British newspaper The Guardian. I'm trying to read the novel this month (after not being captured by it back when it first came out), and so far this review seems spot-on. Do people who genuinely love the book and think it's good (as opposed to the legions who know it's bad but read it anyway) actually find Bella and Edward interesting as people? Hmm. (via child_lit)
  • If you're having a holiday party, I highly recommend both this Hot Spiked Cider and the Caroling Wine.
  • LOST fans, the videos posted beneath the comic here are hilarious, and for you.
  • A list of Endangered Words (via Judith Ridge on child_lit). The voting on this is now closed, but the words are excellent: embrangle, nitid, skirr, fubsy . . .
  • A seven-year-old plots Jurassic Park IV -- this time with Nazis!
  • A fascinating essay about George Steinbrenner by my favorite sportswriter, Joe Posnanski.
  • If you love the Casson books by Hilary McKay -- Rose has a blog! (via GraceAnne DeCandido on child_lit, which is where I evidently get everything)
  • But this one is via Andrew Sullivan: Two old ladies, best friends for sixty years, blog about politics, Sarah Palin, family Christmas letters, and breastfeeding. Meet Margaret and Helen.
  • Finally, I am very pleased to see that Underwear trumped Socks for both women and men in our highly scientific poll. Thank you for confirming my faith in humanity.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Silly Poll: Socks or Underwear?

While packing for my Thanksgiving trip home last week, I flashed back to a conversation held over the breakfast table on my junior-year study-abroad term in England. We students were preparing to head out for a week backpacking around Europe, and we were all trying to marshal our dwindling clothing resources in the most efficient manner possible. Thus the conversation turned to the following question: Which was the more essential item to pack: socks or underwear?

All of the girls at the table swore that underwear was by far the more essential -- two days in the same pair, ewww. But all the boys were equally vehement that a fresh pair of socks was required every day, and you could double up on underwear if absolutely necessary. I'm curious to know whether this division is a true reflection of gender attitudes, or whether I was just dining with some particularly granola-ish boys that day.

So, if you were forced to choose between taking a clean pair of socks or a clean pair of underwear on a trip, what would you do? Please read the poll choices carefully, and include not just your choice but your gender in your vote -- clearly an incredibly scientific and accurate polling method, as you can tell. And thank you for helping me to resolve this burning question, as I honestly have wondered about it occasionally for a whole ten years now: Socks? Really, guys? Hmmm.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Query Letter Cliche Alert: ". . . Or Did She?"

About halfway through a tall stack of SQUIDs today, my intern Jemma threw down her letter opener and said, "This is the tenth letter or novel excerpt I've read that uses the phrase '. . . Or did he?' I'm sick of it! Auggh!"

. . . Or did she?

I will verify her exclamation later this week, when I need a break from the -- good grief, is it five manuscripts I'm in the middle of editing, all at different stages? Yes it is. Goodness -- and go through the SQUIDs myself, since she's done the first triage. (I also owe some back responses from October/November, I know.)

Just to be clear about this: The thing that is unfortunate about the repeated appearances of this phrase is not that they all occurred in the same batch of SQUIDs, but that, like all cliches, they're evidence of easy, lazy thinking and writing rather than the freshness and originality that will truly make your work stand out. Find a new way of creating suspense within the letter and the chapters, and go forth and sin no more.