Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Maisy Is A Metaphor

I'm not a new urban parent, so I don't know who Maisy Mouse is. Still, I found My Nemesis: Maisy Mouse entertaining because, well, I just did. In fact, I found it touching. Yes. I was moved.

However, if I'd written it my offspring would have accused me of overthinking. That's what you've got to look forward to, Shalom Auslander.

Maisy doesn't look so bad now, does she?

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for this link.

One Glorious Time Waster

Monica at Educating Alice links to an eight-minute excerpt from the HBO series Extras that includes scenes with Daniel Radcliffe playing Daniel Radcliffe playing a Boy Scout.

This is far better than any Harry Potter movie I've ever seen. (Granted, I've only seen two.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cybils Nominees Make Another List

Three Cybils nominees from the science fiction and fantasy category made the 2007 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list: Blue Bloods, New Moon, and The Last Days.

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

Reconsidering Silver City With BDT

My young family member, BDT, recently read Silver City, a Cybil nominee written by Cliff McNish. The book is the second in a trilogy.

I said of it, "The book stands alone remarkably well, in large part because the writing is so intense and the situation the characters find themselves in is so horrific." I also wrote, "Okay, it's not exactly probable. But the writing is so self-assured and, as I already said, intense, that you have to accept it."

BDT said, "I enjoyed it immensely. I did think the author seemed to take a couple of pages out of Marvel comics (they already have a Devourer of Worlds and a Silver Surfer who tries to stop him), but the book was quite good. I especially liked that I could read the second book of the series and not feel completely lost."

I think it's safe to say that Silver City was pretty well liked by both of us.

This is the second time BDT and I have compared a book we've been discussing to a Marvel comic. Realize that in the extended Gauthier family, being compared to a Marvel comic book is not a bad thing.

BDT also told me that he's requested Silver City, the third book in McNish's trilogy, from a local library.

You know I can't leave the series vs. serial issue alone. I just have to point out here that a series book that could be read on its own led a reader to another book in the series.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Great Interview With Meg Rosoff

not your mother's bookclub has a great interview with Meg Rosoff.

Pay special attention to her discussion of how working in advertising affects the way she writes and her advice to teenagers who want to write. Her description of what it's like to win a major award points out that there is, indeed, a down side. (I would have thought the down side was having to figure out what to wear to the awards ceremony, but Rosoff's down side is good, too.)

My Kind Of Fairies

Faithful readers of this blog may have picked up on the fact that I cannot abide fairies. I am cringing as I think of them. However, as it turns out, they are far more tolerable when they are drunken Scottish punk rockers.

I am vague on the glories of punk rock, but I find Celtic music to be masses of fiddles and whistles that after a while all begin to sound alike. Surely giving it a punk rock twist as the fairies Heather and Morag are intent on doing in The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar can only be an improvement.

The Good Fairies of New York is what I think of as a Zenny book. In order to enjoy it, you have to give up any need you may have for a strong linear story line and get into the moment. The Good Fairies is told in chunks that meander back and forth among a large number of characters, many of whom are named MacThis or MacThat. Each chunk, though, contains some kind of entertainment, some kind of gem. You just need to give in and enjoy them.

Heather and Morag are in New York after being thrown out of Scotland for blowing their noses on the MacLeod clan's banner. They are both fast friends and bitter enemies, and they separate, each taking up residence with a human who can see them. (I can't remember why. But does it matter? Not a bit.) They wreak havoc throughout the city while trying to bring together Heather's nasty, unattractive young man and Morag's lovely, sickly young woman, which, they hope, will mean they can take possession of the young man's fiddle because...

Well, that's a lot less important than the fact that neither Heather nor Morag knows the other fairy is plotting to bring the humans together.

Then there are the Marxist fairies in Cornwall plotting to bring down the English fairy king. And the bag lady who thinks she's a military figure from Greek history. And the advertisements for phone sex that keep turning up on the TV.

Because the plot rambles so, there's not a strong narrative drive that will make readers call in sick to work so they can stay home to read more and see what's going to happen next. On the other hand, nearly every page holds some kind of delight. (And, especially in the second half of the book, many of those pages contain some kind of copy error. Millar's copy editor failed him badly.)

In short, The Good Fairies of New York is a light, pleasant but edgie read for people who don't take their fantasy too seriously.

The Good Fairies of New York was nominated for a Cybil last fall, though it was published as an adult book. Since at that point the award didn't have a policy regarding whether or not adult books would be considered (something I think should be decided one way or another before next year), it was part of our reading list. While the fairies in The Good Fairies are into sexual activity and drinking, and then there's those quite graphic phone sex advertisments, those aren't the main reasons I wouldn't consider the book a strong contender as a YA book.

Generally speaking, I think that in order for an adult book to make the cut as a "recommended" book for YA it should have YA characters. The human characters in The Good Fairies of New York appear to be twenty- or thirty-somethings. It should also have YA themes. Say, something along the lines of separating one's self from family or determining identity. The theme for the adult characters in The Good Fairies of New York would be closer to "Here I am, engaged in my life, and it sucks. A big disappointment." I don't think that's a bad theme, by the way. It's just more a theme for books about twenty and thirty year olds than it is for books about teenagers.

Older teens, the kind who are more into rock than fairies, may enjoy The Good Fairies of New York the way they might enjoy any adult book. It probably shouldn't be shelved in the YA section, though.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My Favorite Jane To Date

I just finished watching the first episode of the new Jane Eyre that's running right now on Masterpiece Theatre. I only became a Jane fan a few years ago when I reread the book after reading The Eyre Affair. Since then I've been making a hobby of watching film versions of Jane. I think this is the third, but I have to admit they can run together after a bit.

This version, though, is a standout. Other productions I've seen were pretty much just actors walking through parts. In this one, though, we see a little more about what's going on with the characters--not through dialogue, but just through the way the actors behave. You can see Jane falling in love with Rochester. You can see Rochester repulsed by the carryings on of Blanche Ingram and her family. You can see Rochester and Jane laughing at one another's jokes, enjoying one another's company.

The first part of Jane Eyre isn't my favorite part of the book. (Is it anyone's?) In fact, it almost seems to be a different story. But this television production links it to the romance at the core of the novel. When the Ingram family is carrying on about how awful governesses are, Jane flashes back to her evil aunt and the types of things she used to say to the young Jane. The Ingram abuse is nothing new to her.

Another thing--Jane draws, and in the book she draws sea scenes. This struck me as odd, because she had never been to the ocean. At the time we see her doing her drawings, she had never been away from the boarding school she attended. This film version takes care of that little drawback but, again, not with dialogue. We simply see Jane looking at illustrations in books. That's where she gets her knowledge of scenery she's never been near herself.

The weird gypsy scene from the book is revised here to make more sense. I know there are those who would say you shouldn't mess with a classic, but I do think this is an improvement on the original.

Rochester is probably too young and good looking in this production, but I'm definitely not going to complain about having to watch a youngish, good-looking guy.

I'm definitely looking forward to part two.

My Interesting Mail

A few weeks ago I received the children's spring/summer 2007 catalog from Chronicle Books. This is the first book catalog I've ever received that wasn't from my own publisher, so, of course, I took a look at it.

I'd never heard of Chronicle, but it publishes the Griffin & Sabine books, which I certainly do know about (and have read). According to its website, it focuses on "illustrated titles" and "visual books." The website also says "the company's philosophy was to publish books that were as affordable as they were beautiful."

Definitely a worthy sentiment.

I noticed that Chronicle was featuring a number of art books. As it turns out, I'm a sucker for kids' art books, probably because my knowledge of art is on a kid level. Among the titles that caught my eye:

Andy Warhol's Colors by Susan Goldman Rubin (a board book)

Charlotte in Giverny by Joan MacPhail Knight; illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This book was originally published in 2000. The paperback comes out in April.

Artist in Overalls by John Duggleby Published in 1996. The Chronicle catalog features it in both hardcover and paperback.

When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden. Published in 1998! I read it back in 2005

Notice anything interesting about those books? Many of them are older titles, definitely not new this season. And yet Chronicle is still giving them space in its catalog. That looks like some serious support to me.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'll Try Again

When Kelly at Big A little a linked to a review of what she described as a "new philosophy book for teens," my first thought was "Oops. Sophie's World." And, sure enough, the first sentence of Melissa Katsoulis's review of If Minds Had Toes by Lucy Eyre begins "It's ten years since Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World became a vital tool in the parent’s fight against anti-intellectualism in their offspring..."

I thought Sophie's World would be a vital tool in the fight against my own anti-intellectualism. Unfortunately, I barely understood a word of it. All I can recall is a description of some philosopher going to a market, looking around, and saying something like, "So many lovely things I don't need."

And, yes, that does fit my own philosophy. But Sophie's World is a big book, and I was hoping to get a lot more than the verbalization of something I already knew.

Well, clearly I need If Minds Had Toes. I'll be looking for it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Why Blog Reviews Are Important

I've recently found two new reviews for Happy Kid!. One is at Reading YA: Readers' Rants, and the other is at what is for me a new blog, The Kiddosphere@Fauqier. I was delighted to see both of them.

These are not reviews from last year that I've just stumbled upon. These are reviews that were posted in the last few days. That's important for a book that was published eight months ago.

Earlier this week while mulling over all the recent awards, I got to thinking about how books are like debutantes. They all have their season when they are introduced to society. And when their season is over, they're last year's news.

You can extend the analogy to those English historical novels in which young women have their season when they are introduced to society. Those young woman are actually looking for suitors, as are books. In the case of books, the big review journals are the suitors. Starred journal reviews are the equivalent of a marriage to a younger son who has a lot of money but no title. Good reviews with no stars are the equivalent of a marriage to a good and decent man who can support you but isn't very exciting. A book with few reviews of any kind is the equivalent of a young woman with no dowry and no connections who is pretty much ignored by all.

Awards are the equivalent of a brilliant marriage, perhaps to a prince or at least to a powerful aristocrat.

At the beginning of December, Anthony McGowan said that his book Hellbent "has sunk without a trace in the US." It had been published here only three months earlier. A book's season can be cruelly short.

Here's where blog reviews come in--They can extend a book's season.

Blog reviews aren't going to make any difference as far as finding a book review space in the big journals or getting them an award is concerned. They can, though, find them readers, which is at least as important if not more so. Blog reviews put titles and names out there. Blog reviews create name recognition. Blog reviews bring books to the attention of readers who had never heard of them, but they also remind readers of books they'd been meaning to read but had forgotten about.

Two new reviews eight months after publication? Oh, yes. I am very pleased.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Twenty-first Century Grandparents

In days of old, grandmothers in children's literature were rolypoly women who wore their gray hair in buns and baked cookies. Grandfathers built birdhouses and maybe smoked a pipe.

No more.

In yesterday's post I told you about grandparents who run a haven for fantasy creatures. Grandma and Grandpa are tough cookies because those fantasy creatures are not warm and fuzzy types by a longshot.

A set of grandparents in Gregor the Overlander and its sequels help administer a city while waiting for their granddaughter to become queen. And the grandmother is the military mind behind the place.

But the most unusual grandparents I've seen lately are the evil grandfathers in The Fetch and Magic Lessons. These guys go after their own descendants.

I rather like this, myself, but I do have to wonder if this shift in the treatment of grandparents has some deeper meaning. Probably not.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Adults Come Creeping In

I may have mentioned here before that as a result of the influence of my first (and long-time) book editor, I believe very strongly that children's books should be about children--their issues, concerns, etc. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? But it's much easier said than done.

I recently (this morning, in fact) finished reading Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. Fablehaven is the story of a brother and sister who are sent to stay with their somewhat distant grandparents at the home their grandparents inherited after their father was grown. Once there, Seth and Kendra learn that the place is a haven for all kinds of fairy tale creatures, and their grandparents (one of whom is mysteriously missing) are the caretakers.

Now I actually think this is a promising premise for a book. The discovery in each chapter of more and more creatures is exciting. The discovery that your grandparents aren't who you thought they were and the question of what this means for you ties in with what I consider a children's theme--Who am I? How do I fit into my family? What is my place in the world?

So Fablehaven has a number of things to recommend it. But I think it also illustrates how easy it is for adult issues to sneak into children's books.

For instance, aging and mortality is a concern for one particular older character, who describes her situation and her concerns. I don't want to suggest that children don't understand the problems of the elderly. But all this material is presented from the adult's point of view, not the child's. The adult is talking, the child isn't observing an elderly adult herself and drawing her own conclusions.

I was reminded of a book I was reading with a young relative a number of years ago. An adult character starts talking about her concerns about entering menopause. My young relative looked at me with an expression that said, "Wha???" We closed the book and never opened it again. Not that there's anything wrong with menopause, of course. But it was an adult's problem presented from an adult's point of view.

Another example from Fablehaven involves an adult character who uses a very sophisticated, professorial vocabulary. This is logical because we were told long before she appears that she's a professor. And I think the author was trying to use this manner of speaking as a way of giving this character...character. However, the focus was on the adult and her adult way of speaking. This reader, at least, had to struggle to work out what she was talking about in a few scenes.

This particular situation could have become child-oriented if the child characters had ever noticed Grandma's over-the-top vocabulary. If they'd ever rolled their eyes, asked each other what Grandma was talking about, had a competition to translate what she'd just said, or told her, "Grandma! Speak English!" But they never noticed how she spoke, and so this aspect of the story wasn't about them at all but about Grandma.

In spite of my reservations, I think Fablehaven a serious, well-intentioned effort worth considering. Younger readers with good reading vocabularies might be drawn into its story. But I think it's a very good example of how hard it is to write a children's book that's really about children.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

David Levithan Interview

Today Cynthia Leitich Smith posted an interview with David Levithan. (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist)

Yesterday I talked about liking interviews that provide real information, and this one does. As a result of reading it, I'm going to look for Are We There Yet?.

This is exactly what I want from an author interview--ideas for reading.

A Fifties Kind Of Guy

Someone from the child_lit listserv brought a site dedicated to Louis Slobodkin to my attention. (As well as to the attention of everyone else on the listserv.) Take a look at the books this guy illustrated. Though I can't remember reading any of these, I've certainly heard of some of them. Plus for readers of a certain age, the overall look of the books is very familiar. Very fifties and early sixties.

He was a Caldecott winner, by the way. For a James Thurber book, no less.

Be sure to scroll down to the Family Photos. Again, they are so...historic, so from their era.

A great site.

Not Off To A Good Start

Many writers who blog or keep livejournals seem to think that the world can't get enough of hearing about writers' lives. In the unlikely event that that's true, here is what happened to me yesterday.

I was going to start another draft of the second Hannah and Brandon book. Keep in mind that I received the manuscript back from my editor sometime around Christmas, so I wasn't exactly fast out of the gate to work on this. Since I was beginning something new, I was in the mood for trying to improve myself. I don't care about New Year's Resolutions, but any time something changes in my world I feel the need to try, once again, to become a better human being. (A new season, new furniture, coming back from vacation--anything like that.) So I decided, once again, to try doing morning pages. They're supposed to improve your creativity, which, God knows, I can always use more of. Or, some would say, any at all.

So I did my morning page (I rarely do more than one, though you're supposed to do three. Hmmm. Perhaps that's what I'm doing wrong.) Then I thought I'd finally read the manuscript with my editor's comments before working out because that might trigger a break-out experience, which is also supposed to improve your creativity. This meant I was working out way into the middle of the morning. I got a call from a family member, which broke up the workout, which probably explains why I didn't have a break-out experience. I ended up taking my morning shower somewhere around noon. And then I had to run some errands.

I think you're probably getting my drift.

This is what I ended up doing on the next book: I read the manuscript, I sent my editor an e-mail, and I created a new file for the new draft.

I'm hoping that maybe I can squeeze in a couple of hours of work on Thursday.

I think morning pages just cut into my day too much. What with the working out, and checking my e-mail and webstats, and brushing my teeth I just have too much to do in the morning. So I'm going to try to do something like morning pages but sometime in the evening. Since a lot of my morning pages end up being to-do lists, anyway, it hardly seems as if it matters when I do it.

Though last night I did do a few paragraphs on how new books are like debutantes.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Newbery Winners And Hope

J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends suspects that this year's Newbery winners offer a sense of hope. Be sure to follow his link to an earlier post in which he discusses children's literature and hope.

I've sometimes read that a sense of hope is some kind of hallmark of children's literature. I find that thought depressing.

A Good Word For Thelonious

Go visit Wands and Worlds where Sheila has a post up on graphic novel hybrids. She has lots of good things to say about Travels of Thelonious, a Cybils nominee that I was very fond of.

And Miss Erin, who was also on the Cybils scifi fantasy nominating committee with me, has an interview up with Jon Buller, Thelonious's illustrator. It's a good interview, too, one that brings out real information.

I hate gimmicky author/illustrator interviews where the author is asked something like, "You are a vacation resort. What kind of resort would you be?" Exactly what good is that kind of pseudo-information going to do me? I read the first question in those things and don't even wait for the answer. I'm on to something else.

Not so with Erin's interview, though. I read it all.

Where's The Dead Dog?

As a general rule, I don't hop up and down over award announcements, but I must admit that this morning I did keep going to my listserv to see if anyone had heard anything.

Someone has. Everyone is going to be announcing the various winners, so I won't make you go through reading them again. As far as the Newberies go, I haven't read any of the books and hadn't even heard of a couple of them. (That's good. I like being surprised.)

But, you know, over the years the Newberies have developed a reputation for going to books about characters overcoming adversity. (I was going to say books of a depressing nature, but that's probably not at all accurate.) Not that there's anything wrong with that. Overcoming adversity is good. Very, very good.

Look at the situations for the honor books and winners, as described in reviews.

Honor books:

A dead dad

Dead parents

An autistic brother

The winner:

A dead mom (That's a classic. You can understand why it beat out the others.)

I know I'm sounding snarky, and I apologize for that. The Newberies are about the quality of the writing, and I'm guessing that it's very high for these books. I don't believe the committee members would go out of their way to select a book that wasn't well written.

But these books definitely sound like "Newbery books."

Nonetheless, there are a couple of titles among them that I am interested in reading. And one of them I wouldn't have heard of if not for this morning's announcement. So the award has done its job by bringing a title to my attention.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

An Honest Day's Work

I'm going to be speaking in March at the New England Roundtable of Children's and Teen Librarians conference. The program's theme is "Leave 'em Laughin' – Humor in Children's and Teen Literature."

Conferences almost always have themes. On a couple of occasions other writers have suggested that I submit a proposal to some conference in order to appear as a speaker. As a general rule, though, I don't get the themes. I can't figure out what they mean and can't imagine what I would say about them.

I can come up with a little something to say about humor, though. I might use slides. That remains to be seen.

You Only Get One First Time, Part 2

Last night I finished reading The Amulet of Samarkand, the first in the Bartimeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I enjoyed it, but I didn't get the same rush I got when I was reading Ptolemy's Gate, the third book in the series.

Once again, there may be a few reasons for this.

1. Perhaps Stroud gets better and better as he writes this series and the final book in the trilogy is the best.

2. Knowing how everything ends may undermine the beginning of the story.

3. Maybe being able to just sit and read Ptolemy's Gate for hours last month as part of my Cybils duties drew me into the book in ways that reading while eating, while on the exercise bicycle, and before going to bed just can't.

4. Finally, it may very well be that you can only be shocked and awed once. It happened with Ptolemy's Gate, so it just can't happen with The Amulet of the Samarkand.

I bought my own copy of Amulet, and I plan to buy the second book in the series, too. Then I'll have the whole set. I can't wait to recommend it to the young ones in the family.

You Only Get One First Time, Part I

I rarely read books over again, and when I do, years, sometimes decades, have passed between readings.

That's probably just as well.

Yesterday I was in a car for around thirteen hours, so we listened to Gregor the Overlander. I usually use car time for listening to books I wouldn't otherwise read, thus at least exposing myself to books I feel I should be familiar with but don't want to take the time to read myself. I had already read Gregor, though. But I thought the family member I was traveling with would like it. Since I'm a big fan of this series, I already knew I liked it.

Well, not so much yesterday. I didn't dislike it, but it wasn't as great as reading it myself back a few years ago.

Now there are probably a number of reasons for this. 1. Listening to a book being read while you're trapped in a car is definitely different from reading it yourself at your leisure. 2. I had already formed images of the characters and the reader of this version couldn't meet my expectations. Boots, for instance, is a risky character. She's only two years old, and two-year-olds can be...cute and sappy. In the books she works, but given voice here she was...cute and sappy. My favorite character, Ripred, has a hard-edged wit on the page. He's the anti-hero of the Underworld. On the CD he sounded like a poser. He sounded like someone pretending to be Ripred.

And, finally, I already knew what was going to happen. All those breath-taking deaths and saves--they're only breath taking once.

I was right. The family member I was traveling with did like the book. We'll probably be listening to the second book in the series on some future trip this year. I'm not exactly looking forward to it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My Westing Game Experience

Leila at bookshelves of doom is quite seriously excited about the prospect of a sequel to The Westing Game. She has reminded me of my Westing Game experience. Doesn't everyone have one?

I read The Westing Game as an adult. I think I got a young relative interested in it, and we both read it at the same time. (I'm going to stop being coy here and admit it was my son. I prefer not to mention my family, but it does fit in with my story, so I'll let it go this time.) I remember finishing the book and thinking, Why don't kids ever read books like this in school?

Wouldn't you know it, very soon thereafter--maybe even the next day--said son comes home and announces that they're going to read The Westing Game in class. I become all excited, very much the way Leila at bookshelves of doom is excited now. So time passes, and I ask my son how everyone is liking The Westing Game. I am, of course, expecting to hear that they are loving it. Instead, son says that the other kids find the book confusing and keep asking him what's going on.

Though my children are, of course, brilliant, to be quite honest his classmates were asking him about the book because they knew he had already read it. So he had a leg up on the rest of the class on this one. Especially since I had been reading it at the same time and am not shy about boring my family with my insights about whatever I'm reading.

The plot thickens when I happen to meet the mother of one of those classmates and the subject of The Westing Game comes up. (I cannot imagine how.) She says, "That book isn't easy, you know."

And her kid was brilliant, too. Brilliant as in being identified for smart-kid- enrichment and winning some kind of award from the superintendent that the Gauthier family barely knew existed.

The point of this story? I'm always concerned about whether kids like the same books the adult kidlit community does, so I found this incident worrisome. That's all. But it made me think. And still does.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reading On The Internet

Back in December I kept finding great things to read on-line when I didn't have time to read them. So I made hardcopies to take on vacation with me last week. Two particularly good finds:

1. Revisiting the Classics by Colleen Mondor at Bookslut. I mentioned this article a while back but didn't get a chance to read it myself until last week. Colleen discusses a number of books that are new spins on classic stories. She opens with The Looking Glass War, which has had a very mixed reaction from readers, and covers books that rework a couple of Shakespearean plays and a comic book series on Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I am particularly interested in Straight On 'Til Morning, which Colleen eventually "follows J.M. Barrie's original design."

The article concludes with "It is a mystery to me how could anyone possibly be angry or insulted that...any of these new books were written. Love them or not (and I know some of you are still proudly brandishing the originals like shields), you have to respect this willingness to take a creative chance."

While I agree with Colleen, I have to say I know at least one person who would argue these writers aren't taking a creative chance because they're using someone else as a crutch, that reworking someone else's original idea isn't creative at all.

I think reworking a classic is a creative and acceptable work of art (or an acceptable attempt at one) because once a story has been around for generations, once it has become such a part of the culture that people who haven't even read the original recognize references to it, it is no longer just that original story. It now represents something, it now brings up feelings and images that are independent of the original creator. Those feelings and images are, themselves, fresh material.

Supposedly a young Beddor read Alice in Wonderland and found it a little girlie for his tastes at that point in his life. That reading experience was his, and he should most certainly have the right to act upon it by creating a tougher version of the story.

How would I feel if a hundred years or more after my death another writer reworked one of my books in the manner of the books Colleen discusses in her column? I should be so lucky.

2. Nine Stages of a Novel The Creative Lifecycle of a 'Garth Nix' Book by Garth Nix. This is a fantastic description of what it's like to write any book. I'm going to go back and study Stage Three and Stage Five again because they're the hardest part of writing for me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Revisiting Samurai With BDT

I haven't been rushing to post new insights on the Cybils books I've read and reviewed because the young relative who is doing this with me started a new job, and fifth graders can be time consuming. He's not going to have as much time for reading as he did between Christmas and New Year's, so I want to stretch out the material I've collected from him.

Nonetheless, the time has come to talk about Samurai by Jason Hightman again. BDT's impression? "A very good book, though I could have done without the constant screwing up and bickering, though I suppose that all deals with differences in culture, which would be something I would bring into a classroom discussion."

I found that very interesting because while I found the young protagonist's screw ups realistic but trying, I really liked the screw ups and bickering among the adults. The main character's father just doesn't get along with anyone. He has the stereotypical nag-the-son thing going, but in addition to that he squabbles with the Samurai warriors, he fouls up their plans, he just simmers and seethes. He has a woman friend, and I think it would be worth reading the first book in the series just to find out how he managed that.

By the way, BDT liked Samurai enough that he went out and found a copy of that first book, The Saint of Dragons.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Use Of Obscenities In Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Doesn't that title sound like it belongs on a term paper? The kind of term paper you'll find embarrassing years after you write it?

Yesterday I went on record as liking Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. And I do. But I couldn't help but notice a really impressive use of a particular word. One that begins with f and ends with k, and isn't folk.

Now, there are some legitimate reasons for authors using such language.

1. They want to shock their readers for some reason, perhaps even to create a humorous response due to the surpise of hearing a particular character use the word. I don't think that's the case in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist because it appears three times on the first page, so by page 2 I wasn't shocked anymore. There was no shock value after that.

2. They want to use it to help define a character. However, a number of characters use the word in Nick and Norah (including somebody's dad), and the two main characters use it a lot. In fact, the chapters alternate between Nick and Norah's point of view, and at first having them both use the same colorful word so much made them seem too similar. They aren't. Nick is sweet and Norah is somewhat tightly wound. But it took a while to pick up on that because they sounded somewhat alike since they both used the same expression so often.

3. They are portraying reality, a real subculture. I think that may be the case here. I'm not particularly familiar with young rock fans. The young man I know who attended Ozzfest twice wisely watches his language in front of me. But the world of mosh pits and clubs probably isn't a middle class, church on Sunday kind of world. If what the authors of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist are portraying isn't a real world that teenage rock followers will recognize, their choice of language at least creates the impression of a different sort of place, something dangerous.

The language reminded me a bit of The Sopranos. In that show, use of obscenity suggests to us that we're getting a peek into a unique culture.

Of course, there's always the possibility that hit men and wiseguys are a whole lot more refined than they're portrayed in that program. We just want to think they spew obscenities with every breath.

We may want to think that about musicians and groupies, too.

Things To Consider While Reading As Well As While Writing

As a general rule, I don't read every word of Pub Rants, a blog maintained by a literary agent. But I do visit it regularly and yesterday she had a post on what she called writer glitches--the type of writing that could lead to rejection. Even just thinking as a reader, I think her points are well taken.

Points 4 and 5 are especially important. Everything should support the story.

There's Something To Be Said For Being A Mid-List Sort Of Writer

Big A little a has a post regarding Meg Rosoff's terror regarding the writing of her next book. 'Terror that this one will be...the one about which the critics say, "I frankly marvel that the author of X could have written so many pages of vapid drivelling nonsense..."'

Like Rosoff I certainly worry that each book will be my last. When my long-time editor left the publishing house that was bringing out Happy Kid!, I lost a couple of nights' sleep. I've heard plenty of stories about "orphaned" books and authors who lose their advocates at their publishing houses.

But having never had a really big book means that I'm not under the kind of scrutiny that someone like Rosoff is under. I'm not saying it isn't good to have a highly regarded and successful book. But the pay off for not having one is less pressure.

Have I mentioned that my computer guy says that my Pollyannish attitude is by far my most annoying trait?

A Writing Opportunity For Vermont High School Students

The Vermont Young Writers Conference has been held on the campus of Champlain College for the last six years. This year will be no different.

After I graduated from UVM with an education degree during a decade when there were no teaching jobs, I attended Champlain College for a year and earned an associate's degree in...something. Secretarial science? Quite honestly, it was probably the Champlain degree that led to the only job I've ever held.

My checkered past is unique for its dullness.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rats, Huh?

Overdue Media reviews a Paul Zindel novel that was new to me.

Interesting On A Number Of Levels

Patricia Storms at Book Lust has some interesting posts on a gallery exhibit entitled Shelf Portrait. An artist displayed the books she'd collected over 30 years--and then gave them away.

Here's Patricia's post about trying to get into the show. And another link with pictures of the exhibit.

My question: Did people take their books with them, thus wrecking the exhibit for the people who came later? How did that work?

Far Better Than I Expected

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan had a lot going against it as far as I'm concerned.

1. It's a love story. As a general rule, I don't find a will-the-boy-meet-girl (or girl-meet-boy) story line particularly compelling. Perhaps it's too universal an experience for me. It seems so...mundane.

2. In the first chapter it became obvious really fast that this is another rock book. I don't dislike rock. But I am a pop rock, FM radio, VH-1 videos-on-the-treadmill type. I'm shallow, okay? And I'd already read two 2006 rock books and thought that was quite enough.

Has no one else noticed all these YA rock books coming together? Are we talking a genre here?

3. Nick and Norah contains scenes in which characters pour out their souls to people they barely know. I find this very unrealistic. On the few occasions it's happened to me, I've been totally freaked out.

4. Nick and Norah, themselves, occasionally break into cute, Gilmore Girlish dialogue. Ick. (I am the only person in the eastern part of the United States who doesn't like The Gilmore Girls. Perhaps you've heard of me?)

5. Norah has all these rock connections through one of her parents, which opens doors for her. And one of her problems is resolved though a daddy ex machina device. I know there are people like this out there, but still.

I mention all this to underscore Cohn's and Levithan's achievement. Because I did like this book.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is intense. It's about a moment. It's about one night, the kind of night everyone wants to experience and wants to have experienced. Are Nick and Norah in love? Are they in lust? If lust is this great, is it all that bad?

This older, cynical reader has her doubts about whether this is a romance that will last for life. The authors let slip that Nick and Nora have some very big differences in family background and, sad to say, in real life those things matter. But they will definitely always have this night.

In many ways the characters in Nick and Norah are the kids from the girls-gone-bad books. They are older, affluent (most of them) teenagers with no one controlling them. They are free to do what they want. But the major players are sympathetic people. An argument could probably be made that a number of gay secondary characters seem pretty one note, but the character filling the role of teen bitch queen has some surprises in store for readers--and she does it without a posse.

Finally, this is by far the best of the rock books I've read these past six months. Nick and Norah makes you understand what it is about rock that is so very attractive.

I have one regret about reading this book. I wish I could have committed hours to reading it in one day, the way I was reading last month. The book is about an experience, and having to put it aside to deal with work and daily life cuts into the reader's share in that experience.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oh, No! What Do I Do Now?

I only got to Week Thirty Something in Louise Doughty's Novel in a Year project at the Telegraph. I thought I would get back to it this month. But the columns from last year aren't at the website anymore! They've been replaced by A Writer's Year also by Doughty.

Oh, man.

I did get started on a book plan with Doughty's Novel in a Year project. Of course, the book I now have in my head is not the same book I was working on in my Novel in a Year file. Is that a waste or would I not have gotten to the book in my head without the book in the file?

Or can I still use the book in the file somehow?

Or will any of this ever make it to even a manuscript form?

It's a mystery.

Accelerated Reader And School Libraries

Full Disclosure: A number of my books are Accelerated Reader titles.

Accelerated Reader is a computerized program used in many schools. The company overview says "With Accelerated Reader (AR), you’ll build enthusiasm for reading in every student. Your students will read more and better books, and love every minute of it. As a result, their test scores will soar and their attitudes about school will improve."

Students read books and take quizzes that the Accelerated Reader company has created. They earn points which (so I've heard) they can turn in for some sort of reward. The idea is to motivate kids to read.

Other than having read at some school websites that students can earn 9 points by reading The Hero of Ticonderoga and 7 points for reading A Year with Butch and Spike, I really have very little experience with this program. I am not prepared to comment on it one way or another. Jim Trelease (The Read-Aloud Handbook) has collected information on Accelerated Reader at his website.

So why am I writing about Accelerated Reader since I appear to have so little to say about it? Well, last month I heard through one of my Cybils buddies about a school library that purchased only AR titles for its collection. And then last week I finally got around to reading the September-October SCBWI Bulletin. It carried an article by Deborah J. Lightfoot in which she described how she'd encountered the same situation.

I'm not entirely sure what's going on with schools that limit their purchases to AR titles. Do the kids not want to read anything that's not an AR title because they won't get a reward? Does the school want to support the software program it purchased by providing only AR titles?

Now this is a frustrating situation for authors of books that haven't been picked up by Accelerated Reader, since it appears that it may be cutting down on sales for them. I don't know how my books got into their system, though it is certainly to my benefit that they did.

But how do parents of children in AR schools feel about this? Are their schools buying only AR books? And, if so, do they feel their kids are being discouraged from reading outside the program?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

How Do Authors Decide To Write A Trilogy?

Magic Lessons by Justine Larbalestier has an interesting premise. Her characters have magical abilities, but using those abilities shortens their lives. A lot. The young people in the book only have so much magic and when it's gone, so are they.* The logical thing to do would be to put a hold on the magic, but those who do end up going mad.

Talk about being damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Reason, the protagonist in Magic Lessons, comes from a long line of magical folks, some evil, some maybe not. She may be able to come up with a way to get around the die or go mad problem.

But not in this book.

Magic Lessons is the second part of Larbalestier's Magic or Madness trilogy, and it was a little hard to get into for someone who hadn't read the first book. I understand people loving serials, but I'm struggling with whether or not readers should know which "series" books are really serials. And if they are serials, should readers just not bother with books two or three if they haven't read book one? How does that benefit anyone?

Magic Lessons also seemed to drag a bit. It seemed to take a long time for things to happen, and characters often asked obvious questions, which also slowed things down. This second book just seemed to be a continuation of the one storyline about these young characters struggling to stay alive and sane. Unlike, say, The Underland Chronicles, there wasn't an adventure specific to this book. At least, not that I noticed.

I like the basic magic or madness premise, but I wonder--did this story need to be told over three books? Would one tightly written novel have done the job? At what point did Larbalestier decide to extend the story over three books and why?

Magic or Madness, the first book in this trilogy, is on the ballot for the "preliminary ballot" (?) for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

*According to Robert M. Sapolsky in Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, around 1900 a German physiologist believed that the human body was made up of a lot of finite things (breaths and heartbeats, for instance) and when you used them up, you were used up, too. I read that the morning after I finished Magic Lessons. I love it when that kind of thing happens.

Friday, January 12, 2007

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Colleen at Chasing Ray reports that Masterpiece Theatre will be showing an adaptation of The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman on Sunday, February 4th. I've read one of the books in the Sally Lockhart series, though I can't remember which one. I'll give the show a shot.

But look what else Masterpiece Theatre is doing! Jane Eyre on January 21 and 28!

I'm not even halfway through catching up on my post-vacation blog reading. I've got to call it a day. Just to give you something to look forward to, I thought I'd mention that I did some professional reading while I was away, which I'll be droning on about in the days to come.

Back To The Salt Mine

A few hours ago I got back from one of those mountain vacations where you go for walks every day, sit by the fire and read, take a few yoga classes, and don't cook your own meals. Now I'm trying to breath deeply and not feel overwhelmed by the manuscript I have to revise, the presentation I have to plan, or the e-mails I have to reply to.

Not that I ever do that much.

While I was away, I finally was able to visit The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont. Up until recently, The Flying Pig was in Charlotte, Vermont, which, co-owner Josie Leavitt told me, was only about ten minutes from its present location. But though I never managed to show up at the Charlotte store when it was open, I've been in the parking lot. It was somewhat remote without a lot of other businesses nearby to help bring in customers. Yet The Flying Pig was in business there for ten years. That's an impressive accomplishment.

The new location is lovely and just up the road from one of the area's tourist draws. I hope the store will continue to thrive.

And I'm not just saying that because I found three (or was it four?) copies of The Hero of Ticonderoga on a shelf as well as a copy of A Year With Butch And Spike, which is out of print. (All those copies are now signed, by the way.) One of the neat things about an independent bookstore, especially one of the smaller ones, is that you can walk along the shelves and speculate about the reading tastes of the owners. I saw a lot of titles at The Flying Pig that I've recently read or would like to. It was as if the owners and I seek out the same books.

The Flying Pig also has a newsletter that includes a great "If you liked X, you should try Y" section.

Really, it's a lovely store and worth a stop if you're vacationing in Vermont. Or if you live there.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Off For What May End Up Being A Reading Vacation

We're off tomorrow morning for a week at a cross-country ski resort. The temperature there has been hovering around 50 degrees which makes it much more comfortable for the rain they've been having. The resort's website has an announcement up saying they're open for hiking only.

Last year I finally accepted that, after years of off-and-on effort, I am never going to be a cross-country skier. But I did start getting into snowshoeing. I think that could be my sport. I can walk. Unfortunately, I, personally, think you need some significant snow in order to snowshoe. Otherwise, you feel like a fool.

I'm not just rambling here, folks. This all leads up to my telling you how long it will be before I post again. I don't know. The family member I'm traveling with usually can't stand being at this place for more than a few days when there's lots to do. Yet he has this fantasy about the sky opening up and depositing mass quantities of snow upon us on Wednesday so that we can frolic in it the end of the week.

He also started muttering about Montreal tonight. We'll be in northern Vermont, anyway, and perhaps he thinks we can find snow north of the border. Maybe the Canadians are hording it?

I guess this means I don't really know where I'm going or when I'll be back.

I am packing my book bag. It's going to be filled with those articles I made copies of back in December when I couldn't take time to read them, the magazines I also couldn't read then, as well as 4 or 5 books. If I don't find snow, I'll be all set.

Something's Always Happening

I've had six books published over the last ten years. During that time I have received only two really bad reviews. One of them appeared today. Though published in August, it just arrived in my editor's office in December, and she just sent it on this week.

I'm just not finding it all that upsetting. I will remember the words "stereotypes" and "stilted" because no one is so good at what she does that she should ignore...ah, shall we call it advice? But I've got an essay in line for publication at an on-line journal, a new book coming out in June, another book to work on, and I'm leaving on vacation tomorrow. What's one bad thing in the midst of all the good?

Besides, that review came out in August and while I didn't know about it my life went on just fine. How are things any different now that I do know about it? What's changed? Nothing.

So my editor and I e-mailed back and forth about this this afternoon. Then just now I got another e-mail from her. She's found another Happy Kid! review that hadn't been sent to me. And this one was great. I should be receiving it next week.

Really, when something discouraging happens in this line of work, you just have to wait. Things will turn around.

A Trip To The Bookstore

I was in a bookstore earlier in the week where I saw The Illustrated Jane Eyre with illustrations by Dame Darcy. Somehow or another I'd gotten the impression that this version was a graphic novel, which is definitely not the case. (Embarrassed.) No, this is a traditional text version with attractive, edgy illustrations. The Illustrated Jane Eyre, Gail. This edition should definitely catch the eye of younger readers.

I also noticed many Cybils titles on display. I was in a bookstore before Christmas and saw a lot of Cybils books then, too. Never in my life have I felt so au courant with my reading.

On the other hand, books that are carried (with multiple copies) in chain bookstores are usually receiving a lot of support from somebody. Especially kids' hardcover books. The bookstore has made a commitment to the book for some reason or the publisher is paying for display space or the book has hit the jackpot with reviews or attention of some kind. I had hoped that with the Cybils we'd get lots of nominations of books that readers loved but the traditional marketing world was missing. In some cases I'm sure we did. But we also received a lot of very recently published titles that were already being buzzed.

This is not to say they weren't good books. I read a great many good and better than good books during the Cybils reading period. I had just had this personal fantasy about being able to recognize outsider, lesser known books with the Cybils. (Which, by the way, I think we did with a couple of the titles on the science fiction and fantasy short list.)

I don't do lists of best books of the year, myself. But I have been thinking the last couple of days of perhaps trying to keep a list of good books that were lost in the crowd for 2007 and posting it next December. That's awfully long-range planning for me. And that's also assuming that I do plenty of reading of 2007 titles. I'm usually not that up-to-the-minute with my reading.

But maybe.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Interview With A Cybils Author

Anthony McGowan's book Hellbent was a Cybil nominee. His new book, Henry Tumour, has won the Booktrust Teenage Prize.

In an interview regarding Henry Tumour, McGowan says that the message of the book is "be nice to each other."

That's basically the message of Hellbent as well.

However, neither book is your typical "be nice, kiddies" instructional story. Hellbent's main character dies in the first chapter and goes to hell, a hell filled with every imaginable kind of excrement. (Well, maybe not every imaginable kind.) Henry Tumour's main character suffers from a brain tumor (as we would spell it over here), one that talks to him. These are wildly outside the box scenarios.

Evidently Henry Tumour includes its share of vulgar humor. But just as Hellbent brought in philosophy, Henry Tumour is supposed to bring in Shakespeare and Donne.

I haven't read Henry Tumour and had mixed fillings about Hellbent. But these are definitely unique books with depth. Reviewers and librarians ought to be at least taking a look at them.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Another Factor In Bookstore Closings

A New York Times article entitled A Princeton Maverick Succumbs To A Cultural Shift suggests that "movies and television shows [have] replaced books as the cultural topics people liked to talk about over dinner, at cocktail parties, at work." Logan Fox, whose bookstore, Micawber Books will close in March says, "The amount of time spent discussing culturally iconic shows has superseded anything in the way of books that I can detect."

Meaning that it's not just the big box chain stores that are killing the indie bookstores. Life is having a hand in this.

A couple of summers back I was in a Borders looking for books on writing short stories. I came up very short. But I saw a shelf, maybe two, on writing screenplays. Yes, we do seem to be shifting to a...uh, maybe visual literature?

I have an interest in history. That doesn't mean I'm committed to the past or stuck there. It means that I understand that change happens. Yeah, it's going to be majorly too bad if I can't keep publishing because fewer and fewer people are reading. But cultures evolve.

Remember, back in the nineteenth century the literary establishment was worried because people were reading those new-fangled novels. Now we've evolved to the point where we're worried because people aren't reading them.

Thanks to artsJournal for the link.

Upcoming Events

The Christmas festivities are over, so it's time to look forward to other kinds of fun gatherings.

On March 31 The Second Annual Greater Syracuse Teen Book Festival will be held at the Fairport High School in Fairport, New York. Among the featured authors: Cecil Castellucci, Tamora Pierce, and Nancy Werlin.

On March 29 through 32 Giving Voice A Symposium on the Art of Memoir will be held at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I might try to get to part of this one. In November while I was working on essays I angst over whether or not I should sign up for the Wesleyan Writers Conference in June. This memoir thing is much shorter and better suited to my attention span.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Revisiting Homefree With BDT

Today is BDT's first day of fifth grade, meaning his first day teaching fifth grade. In honor of the occasion, I'm going to pass on his thoughts about one of the first Cybils books he read.

I had a very up-and-down experience reading Homefree by Nina Wright. Among other things, I felt it relied very heavily on coincidence. Coincidence is believable in real life because real life is real. In books it can be a problem. The main character in Homefree seemed to know a great many people with paranormal abilities. What are the odds? I mean, I know Homefree is a school for paranormal kids, but at the beginning of the story the main character isn't there, yet. She just keeps running into all these unusual kids. I repeat, what are the odds?

BDT, however, was more enthusiastic.

"I see what you were saying about it being like X-Men," he wrote me, "and I thought the book itself was quite good. I found myself skimming through the "teen angst and trouble" parts and just getting to the main plot and action lines, but I enjoyed it."

He also said he "appreciated" the discussion questions at the back of the book. Did I mention that he's a teacher?

So a younger, less jaded reader had a more positive response to the book than I did.

UPDATE! UPDATE! After BDT saw this post, he e-mailed me the following:

"I think that there isn't as much coincidence in Homefree as you think. They say at the end of the book that Easter (the girl) is a Finder, which sounds to me like she is naturally drawn to people with superhuman abiltities. It could be that the author intends us to believe that her whole life has been this way, since she has a predisposition to associate with these people."

BAFAB Week Is Here Again!

I was riding along in the car today when all of a sudden I realized that it's Buy A Friend A Book Week. While you're out exchanging Christmas presents, buy a book.

Thoughts About Essays...Well, Sort Of

Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray has a good post entitled Best American Essays 2006--I Don't Think So. Believe it or not, I try to read essay collections of this type from time to time.

Her post made me wonder, once again, about essays for kids. Do people write such things? Has someone published a children's essay collection? Wouldn't it be so much easier for children to learn how to write essays if they read them?

If you read Colleen's post, you'll notice she mentions a writer named Sam Pickering. I've actually met Sam Pickering. I have a Sam Pickering story. I'm guessing that everyone who has met Sam Pickering has a Sam Pickering story.

Sam Pickering was my professor for the one graduate level college course I have under my belt. He is responsible for my obsession with avoiding the verb to be at the beginning of sentences, particularly at the beginning of sentences that begin paragraphs. And most assuredly at the beginning of sentences that begin a piece of writing.

That's not my Sam Pickering story, though.

A few months after I finished my class (which I aced, by the way--which means I've aced one hundred percent of my graduate courses), I ran into Professor Pickering at a conference for student writers. He came up to me to say hello and admitted it had taken him a moment to place me.

"I asked myself," he said, "'Is that a woman of whom I've had carnal knowledge?'"

Now, I don't get that kind of response from men very often. I was quite delighted.

Susan Campbell, a columnist for The Hartford Courant, was also at this conference. We are cordial because we live in the same town and have sons of the same age. So I told her about Professor Pickering's...comment.

Okay, maybe I was bragging.

Anyway, Susan is from Arkansas, and she said, "Oh, that's a very southern thing to say. The correct response would have been 'If that were so, I would have killed myself directly.'"

I ended up eating lunch with Susan and Professor Pickering. For the first time in my life I felt as if I were at the best table in the cafeteria.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Laura Ingalls Wilder Was Musical?

Because I am now reading the newspaper again, yesterday I saw the Associated Press article 'Little House' Songs On CD.

The songs referred to are the 126 songs Dale Cockrell, a professor at Vanderbilt University, found mentioned in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. He's set up his own record label in order to record all the Little House music. It's going to take ten CDs to do the job.

Cockrell says, "...I don't think there are any books that better capture the way music worked in the 19th-century family. I came to the conclusion not only are the books rich in music-making, but it's virtually a playlist for first-century American music."

Dale Cockrell has also been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship so he can work on scholarly essays related to the music.

Sorry I Mentioned It

Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy read 368 books in 2006. So I am just totally humiliated about bragging about my total.

And I Am Officially Done

The short lists for the Cybils were announced today. Though I plan to keep mentioning Cybils' titles from time to time because I feel as if I'd be abandoning them if I didn't, my official duties are done.

I'm very happy to say that there are some authors on this list I hadn't heard of before. I don't know whether or not they are well known to others, but I like to think that we're bringing some well-deserved attention to some newer writers.

We also have a couple of well-known authors on the list. These people may be well known because they're so good.

As I've said before, I like to involve myself in intense experiences, so I loved being a panelist for the Cybils. As with most of the intense experiences I immerse myself in, I'm quite worn out now. But I definitely got a lot from the experience.

For instance, I've done some thinking about allegory. I've discussed series/serials at length with the other scifi/fantasy panelists. I've also talked with the other panelists about post-apocalyptic fiction. I've been exposed to some great writers I'd never heard of (Philip Reeve, for instance), and some great writers I'd heard of but never read (Tamora Pierce, Jonathan Stroud, and Catherine Fisher).

All of this can only enhance my work.

And speaking of my work, a few weeks after the reading period began, I was driving along in my car thinking about all the fantasy I'd been reading. From there, I recalled a book I'd started years ago, not long after I finished college. I suddenly realized that something I'd done in that unfinished manuscript could be used in the book I began when I was working on the Novel in a Year project. I'll try to get started on that again sometime in the new year.

So, it's been great.