Saturday, October 31, 2009

In Which Two of My Favorite Things Come Together in Random Awesomeness

Namely, A Curse Dark as Gold and High School Musical. Yes, now you can see Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez stand in for Randall and Charlotte in one of the most romantic scenes from the book . . . sort of:

Thanks to Elizabeth Bunce for the link and YouTube user demilovatoandselenaz for her enthusiasm!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How Do I Love Plot Diagrams? Let Me Count the Ways.

Also, I worship Jennifer Crusie. Fellow plot dorks, behold this link. That is good stuff. Goodbye.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Midmonth Hello

Miss you, darlings. Some quick points:

  • Hooray for Laini Taylor, whose AALB book Lips Touch: Three Times is a National Book Award finalist!
  • I love Glee with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns. No musical ever dared plot twists like the pregnancy storylines; no high school soap opera was ever this funny; no over-the-top comedy ever had musical numbers that rocked as hard as this or were as gorgeous as this. And sometimes those things jar against each other, sure, or against the odd way the writers seem to think every episode must include a non-parodic moral, but for an hour of pure entertainment, I defy you to show me something better on television.
  • The writer and blogger Caleb Crain recently defined "depth" on his blog as "a sense of the complexity of reality." That's precisely what I mean when I say I'm looking for a novel with literary depth: I want fiction that presents the complexity of reality (which could be a funny or romantic reality as well as a tragic one--indeed, most realities are in more than one mode), and writers who can make those realities tangible and meaningful.
  • Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich of the upcoming Eighth-Grade Superzero had a fascinating interview recently on the Writers Against Racism blog. (Francisco X. Stork was featured in September.) I understand the organizers are looking for more contributions from professionally published writers, illustrators, editors, and educators of all races; if you're interested, e-mail Amy Bowllan here with 350-word-or-less answers to the questions each interviewee has been posed.
  • Harry Potter fans will appreciate the cartoon here.
  • Where the Wild Things Are . . . The beginning and end in the real world felt pitch-perfect to me; the middle I was less sure about, because I'm not sure what the filmmakers intended by making the Wild Things so gabby and querulous. (In the book Max appears to leave more or less as soon as the wild rumpus ends; here he hangs around for forty minutes and discovers the compromises of adulthood, which Sendak spares him.) But a lovely film to look at all the way through.
  • And Bright Star rekindled my long-dormant college crush on Keats. Three lovely quotes:
  1. "Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?"
  2. "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of the imagination."
  3. "several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously -- I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason -- Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration."
And with that I return to being the annoying gadfly to great writers and irritably reaching after fact and reason in their novels. Happy October!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Talking and Writing, Past, Future, and Present

First off: If you missed my below-mentioned Twitter chat with Sara Lewis Holmes today, you can read the full transcript on her blog. It was a great conversation, with lots of meaty stuff about process and character -- thanks to all who stopped by! And you can bop on over to Sara's blog here for a fun writing contest to win a signed copy of Operation Yes.

I had a lovely time at the SCBWI Midsouth conference this past weekend, with lots of good hospitality and wonderful writers. If you were in my “Dimensions of Character” session, the broad structure of that talk (the create-a-character exercise chart, mostly, which I also used in “The Whole Shebang”) is on the web here. If you were in the “Principles of Plot” session, the character-based plot structure described therein is available here, and you should also check out the Essentials of Plot talk on my website. If you wanted to hear more about any of the books I mentioned in my talks, check out the “Behind the Book” tag at the right, which features past essays on several of the titles I’ve edited. And finally, my submissions guidelines are here.

I have a very full schedule of talks and conferences planned for next spring; as of today, here’s the present lineup:

  • Austin, Texas, SCBWI, January 29-30 (the same weekend as SCBWI Midwinter in New York). I’ll be doing one talk by myself and a joint session with Sara Lewis Holmes describing the creation and editing of Operation Yes. “Opportunities” with me and several other editors (including the awesome Lisa Graff) have apparently sold out already, but I’ll be around all weekend and generally do not eat people who try to make conversation with me. Generally.
  • Southern Breeze SCBWI in Atlanta, February 26-28. I don't yet know what I'll be talking about there.
  • Children’s Literature Festival in Warrensburg, Missouri, Sunday, March 14: I’ll be giving the keynote speech at the annual luncheon here—an invitation I received entirely on my own merits, of course, with absolutely no nepotism or personal connection involved.* The talk will be called “Raised by Reading,” and it won’t be a writing talk so much as a personal and children’s books reflection talk.
  • Books by the Bay Multicultural Literary Conference in Mobile, Alabama, March 17-19. This is a new writers’ conference especially for people of color, sponsored by an organization called the Multicultural Literature Advocacy Group, and it will include a summit on improving opportunities for authors of color as well as a writing and submissions workshop. I’ll be giving a plot talk and participating in the summit.
  • Carleton College Convocation speech, April 23. This also won’t be a writing talk so much as a children’s-books-and-the-awesomeness-of-Carleton talk. And I can talk about those two things for a very, very long time.
Then at that point I will dissolve into a small puddle of literary goo. But I’m looking forward to the chance to see so many friends in places I love, and also to go to parts of the country where I’ve never spoken before. I still have one slot available in my speaking schedule for autumn 2010, for a late-October or early November writers’ conference; if anyone is interested in having me then, I can be contacted through the address on my website.

Finally, because I’m now editing a bunch of novels, prepping my speeches for the Western Washington SCBWI retreat, and readying my own book for publication, I’m taking the month of October and the first couple weeks of November off from all online social media. . . . No blogging,** no Twitter, no child_lit, not much Facebook. SQUID responses will also be delayed in this time.*** I’ll miss you, but I shall have much to be thankful for when I’m back in November and all of this is done. Have a great month in the meantime!

* (My grandfather founded the Festival.)
** With the exception of good stuff related to my books.
*** Read: If you’re impatient for an answer, don’t submit until late November.