Monday, March 23, 2009

Events. Media. Cute Animals. A Poll.

  • Next Kidlit Drink Night! We'll gather at the Blue Owl on Monday, March 30th, about 6 p.m. All the cool kids will be there -- except, of course, in kidlit, the cool kids are all just happy dorks. So you become a cool kid by just loving the subject and showing up to discuss it. Hope to see you there!
  • Francisco Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World, was featured in a SLJ interview here.
  • Lisa Yee is interviewed by Readergirlz in a video for Absolutely Maybe here
  • A terrific review of Heartsinger here. I'm going to be on a USBBY panel for this book at Midsummer ALA, along with the author (Karlijn Stoffels) and translator (Laura Watkinson) and Arthur. That will also be the first time, or very close to it, that I meet either the author or translator, or even hear their voices, even though we went through an exhaustive and ultimately entirely mutually satisfying translation and editing process together -- all done over e-mail and in Microsoft Word Track Changes. We hope to show some of these original e-mails and documents during our panel, so if you're at all interested in children's literature in translation or the editorial process, it ought to be a fascinating event.
  • Greg Pincus has a very cool plan for National Poetry Month in April.
  • An awesome word: schwerpunkt. I'm thinking of using this in place of the word "point" in all my talks, because it means more or less the same thing but it's so much more pungent and schwerpunkty. Find an excuse to use it today!
  • If you love Zadie Smith but haven't yet seen her wonderful essay on Obama, "Pygmalion," and her own upbringing, "Speaking in Tongues" -- you can click that link.
  • But in order to click the next link, you must (1) enjoy pictures of cute animals, (2) find insulting them for no reason potentially hilarious, and (3) not mind bad language. All good? Okay. (My favorite entry: The Tibetan Fox Thinks He's Better Than You.)
  • Best adult book I've read recently: The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I became a fan of Mr. Coates's writing after he replaced Matthew Yglesias as the liberal blogger at the Atlantic website, and this is his memoir of growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s, the next-to-youngest son of a former Black Panther, and learning what it meant to him to be a black male. I clearly am a very whitebread white woman, and reading this reminded me strongly of reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: the same constant flow of references I didn't get, but also the same wondrous use of language, particularly that very flow; the same fascinating characters and setting; and the same wonder and appreciation for getting such a full view of a life so different from my own. It is indeed beautiful.
  • The fine print on the challenge below: To qualify for the $1 donation, you must send me a digital picture of you at the end of your run (walks also qualify). All pictures must be received at chavela_que at yahoo dot com by the date of the Race to Deliver in November. Melissa has accepted the challenge, but there's still no word from John . . . If you know him, harass him.
Finally, a poll. Last weekend I gave three talks at the Missouri SCBWI retreat. Two were revised and expanded versions of speeches I've given earlier: a talk on character from the Missouri SCBWI conference in November 2007 and New Jersey in June 2008, and a talk on plot from Illinois last November. The third talk, on voice, was entirely new. None of these, you will have noticed, are on my website, and this is because it makes my life EVER SO MUCH EASIER when I don't have to write a new talk for a conference. I actually do like writing talks; I always learn something myself in the writing, and these three were no exceptions. But when I don't have to write one, I can spend more time concentrating on critiques and editing my books and having a life (particularly on weekends), which is all quite lovely. And it is nice feeling like I'm not saying things people already have heard or know . . .

So I'm wondering: On a scale of 1 to 5, if you came to an SCBWI conference, how bothered would you be to hear me give a talk you might have already read online? 1 is "Hooray! A Talk I Can Read Immediately!"; 5 is "You Are Dead to Me." The poll is in the sidebar at right. Please be honest, as the results have a bearing on the future content of both my website and my weekends. Many thanks!


  1. I've read Heartsinger and loved it and I'm fascinated by the issues of translation, so I'm definitely coming to your panel!

    I loved Zadie Smith's essay. It made me think of a recent discussion at the dinner table as to why a cousin said I have a "distinctive" accent. We decided it's because I take my language basically from books, not from the everyday vernacular. Not something I can control, but interesting. And the second section about Obama's voice(s) is great. Thank you for so many wonderful links!

  2. Thanks for the link, Cheryl. And as one who doesn't mind cute animals being told what to do, I found the schwerpunkt of that site to be quite amusing, indeed.

    Looking forward to April!

  3. I would not mind a speech from your website because I would assume that there would be more dynamics to the speech than what is on the website (i.e. a little ad-libbing, maybe visuals, a q&a session). Besides, a live presentation works much better for me than reading an essay.

  4. Thank you for sharing the essay by Ms. Zadie Smith! She expressed so well how we are a collection of voices. President Obama is a vibrant collection of voices. His voice truly portrays today's United States of America! Cheryl, you and I, are more 'white bread' in our voice, but still, we are a collection of ancestry, parentage, and life experiences. IF I COULD BOIL MS SMITH'S ESSAY INTO ONE PHRASE (IT WOULD BE A GREAT INJUSTICE!) 'VOICE' IS DETERMINED BY MULTIPLE EVENTS NOT SOLELY BY DNA. It is well past time this nation gets past it's history of pigeon holing people as 'check one' - Black, White, Hispanic! (I happen to be Dutch - where is my 'check one'? Beyond that, we need to get past the divisiveness that is 'Black', 'White', and 'Hispanic'. (I secretly wish I could pirate this essay to my uber conservative friends to read. But, alas, I'm sure they would only skim out what they want and fwd the edited pieces over & over in emails to their other rabid conservative friends ad nauseum.) Towards the end of her essay, Ms. Smith had a sentence I jotted down, " Flexibility is a choice, always open to all of us." Thank you Ms. Zadie Smith!! Thank you, Cheryl!

    Aunt Carol

  5. I'd say a 2 on your scale. I always want notes from a good talk so I would be pleased to know I had access to them online.

  6. Love to know the speech is accessible on-line. It gives me the freedom to truly listen during the presentation without the distraction of note taking. I'm attending the VC retreat this weekend, and looking forward to your thoughts (on-line or otherwise : )

    Thanks. elly

  7. I read Marcelo in the Real World over the weekend--wow. Beautiful and thoughtful and filled with difficult moral choices and thought-provoking discussions of religion. But it was Marcelo himself who kept me reading from the first chapter and his love for those ponies, to the end. That was a book I was sorry to to finish (and one I made my best friend buy--she loved it, too.)

    As to your speeches, having them online works for me, and I think many people would appreciate being able to concentrate on you speaking rather than scrambling to write down everything you said. One suggestion: as you write these speeches, perhaps you think of a couple of examples you might use, but then you settle on one or two? Maybe you could include a different example in your speech from the one you posted on-line? Thanks so much for posting your editorial advice--it's incredibly helpful, and so generous of you.

  8. I just read Marcelo in the Real World. Wow. I love how all the stakes and motivations are so neatly set up without the reader realizing what it means until--bam. Just--wow.

    Regarding the talks, I agree that it's good to have them written down. I'm sure I couldn't take notes fast enough, and I'd want the whole thing to contemplate later. Writing is not an aural skill for me, and while I would very much enjoy the talk, I'd want to go back and see it with my eyes so I could apply it to my ms. I mean, I've read the ones you have up more than once as I go through and try to apply them to my mss, so it wouldn't bother me to have both versions (spoken and written). To make things different, you could, I don't know, have part of the talk a discussion that would be totally different for each place you talk? Because I think that after hearing a talk on one of these topics I'd have questions I wanted to bring up (not the kind of question that asks, which hoops do I need to leap through to get this editor to like me, but the kind that gets to the heart of writing/revising).

  9. I'm delighted I'm not dead to anyone yet.

  10. Aw, shoot, NOW I'm dead to someone.

  11. I'm actually torn between the two sides. On the one hand, it is nice to have notes easily available as no one can remember everything people say in talks. They also know that editors are incredibly busy and don't always have time to make new sessions. One the other hand, most SCBWI members do a lot of due diligence and may have already read your talk. In such cases, they will be very disappointed to pay good money to hear something they've already read. I think the best solution is to give the already written talk, but try to add a lot of fresh, new examples or visuals and to take questions.

  12. i say 1. I think in person you get more.

    But i wanted to say 5 - just so I could say "you are dead to me" :)

    Did anyone really pick that one?

  13. So when you used schwerpunkt, did someone say, "bless you"?

  14. I've had two classes as a grad student that were taught almost word-for-word from a thick set of notes the professors handed out at the beginning of the year. (Basically a second text book.) One class I liked, and the other I didn't -- it had nothing to do with the fact that I could get the exact information elsewhere. For me, it's all about the performance and possibility of interaction.

    It's also important to consider the setting of a conference, where there are at least five things going on at once. For someone like me who struggles to choose this workshop or that roundtable discussion, it would be really nice to know that at least one thing I might have to miss is easily reachable online.

  15. I agree with Editor, as long as you add something fresh here and there, and we have the opportunity to ask questions, I won't hold it against you. Being able to read through your talks (I even printed one out to go over with a cup of tea far away from the glowing computer screen) is truly helpful.

  16. Poll: Hee! At the conference where I met you a few years back, you gave the same talk that I'd read on your blog. I think it was the "falling in love" one? But you weren't dead to me. I was too busy worrying about my upcoming critique!