Thursday, November 27, 2008

How, I ask you. How?

So my dad called yesterday and said, "I think you should write a book about vampires." Apparently he's just caught wind of the whole TWILIGHT phenom and (because he loves me) he wants me to get a piece of the action. Meanwhile tonight at the movie theater (my men and I went to see the new Bond movie), I was TRULY surprised at how many women there were in the bathroom. I've never seen so many women in a bathroom at a movie theater before--not even in New York City. And I asked myself, "Why are there so many women in this bathroom with me?" Then I realized they were all there to see the new TWILIGHT movie. And really, it was almost kind of frightening.

Which brings me to tonight's completely unoriginal question: how does a book become a phenomenon?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Morning (or Two) After

Okay. So I felt a euphoric rush after finishing a draft of a new book on Monday. Wow! What a feeling! And all that jazz! Only here's the part the comes after--you don't know what to do with yourself. You feel at loose ends. You have a hard time focusing. You feel bleh.

I guess I could dive IMMEDIATELY into re-writing, only I've learned from experience that it's good for me to put a project aside for a little while. I come back to it with fresh eyes that way, which helps me in the revision process. But I do feel this hole in my writing soul for a bit.

I've beeen trying to decide what to do until January, when I'll start re-writing. Fortunately the holidays provide a pleasant distraction. Bring on the lights! The music! The cheeseballs and bacon-wrapped scallops! I guess I could start another novel--I have a few ideas in mind--but for me it's hard to commit to a second novel while I'm still involved with the first. I'm kind of monogamous that way. Maybe I should focus on generating a few magainze articles. I just sold one to THE WRITER. Maybe I ought to go there . . .

Anyway. There you have it. The ups and downs of it all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


My friend Emilee tagged me, so here goes!

Eight Shows I Watch
1. The Office
2. Thirty Rock
3. Jay Leno
4. Monday Night Football
5. Hardball
6. Secretos
7. KUTV News at 10:00
8. Jazz games

Eight of My Favorite Restaurants
1. Rio Grande
2. Hires
3. Mazza
4. The Ginza
5. Bombay House
6. Tin Angel
7. Joe Vera's
8. Market Street Broiler

Eight Things that Happened Yesterday
1. Took a walk with Betsy
2. Finished a column
3. Went grocery shopping
4. Raked up leaves in my back yard
5. Read a bunch of stuff online
6. Talked to my parents on the telephone
7. Made enchiladas and Spanish rice
8. Took Quinton to his guitar lesson

Eight Things I am Looking Forward to!
1. Cleaning my house (I'm not kidding)
2. Planning our Thanksgiving dinner
3. Shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner
4. Fixing our Thanksgiving dinner
5. Playing darts with Dylan
6. Going to the new Bond movie
7. Watching PLAINES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES with the family
8. Allowing myself to listen (finally!) to Christmas music

Eight Things on My Wish List
1. A trip to Ireland
2. A new blender
3. A new rice cooker
4. A new body
5. Heatlh and happiness for all my kids
6. Health and happiness for all my friends' kids
7. A chance to spend some time with my brothers and their families during the holidays
8. More time with Ken

Eight Things I Love in No Particular Order
1. My husband
2. My kids
3. My parents and brothers (and their families, too)
4. My daughters-in-law
5. My in-laws
6. My dogs
7. My friends
8. My garden

Eight Things I Can't Stand
1. Do people count as things? Because I'd have to put Ann Coulter on the top of my list--
2. Boring meetings
3. Inversions
4. gauged ears (at least on my own kids)
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Denver Broncos
7. Boston Red Sox
8. Diet drinks

Eight People I am Tagging
Anyone who wants to do this!

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I did this weekend at Betsy's farm

1. Took several long satisfying walks around Francis and Kamas
2. Read some of COVER-UP AT THE SUPER BOWL by John Feinstein
3. Read some of THE 39 CLUES by Rick Riordan
4. Read a few short stories by Guy du Maupassant until I realized I didn't want to read stories about French peasants torturing animals
5. Had lunch with Barbara and Betsy at the Gateway Grille (I had fish and chip-age! Thanks for asking!)
6. Took a tour of Skip and Barbara's Amazing Technicolor Dream Motorhome
7. Watched 20 minutes or so of THREE COINS IN A FOUNTAIN before losing patience with it--although it was a pleasure to hear Andy Williams' voice again after all these years
8. Ate ribs and salad and artichokes and shrimp at night
9. Watched the tragic BYU/UTAH game with the sound turned down
10. Watched the San Francisco/Dallas game with the sound turned down
11. Watched the Indianapolis/San Diego game with the sound turned down
12. Did NOT watch the tragic Philadelphia/Baltimore game with the sound turned up OR down

And oh yeah. Did I mention? I WROTE 50 PAGES! And finished a first draft of a new middle-grade novel. It's soooooo rough. But still.

And wow. Thanks to you for your encouraging posts!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting Away From it All!

Like grieving, novel-writing has its stages. Right now I'm at the stage where things are suddenly starting to come together, to pop! If I can get away for three or four days and do nothing but write (also eat) I can have a complete draft on my hands. That's why I'm taking off in 10 minutes. I'm going away for three-and-a-half days. And when I return to Salt Lake I'm hoping I have a book in hand . . .

Dudes! Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You've got a problem if . . .

I like to give books to my friends and family for Christmas. That's what happens when you've worked as a bookseller. YOU LIKE TO GIVE BOOKS TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS. They see you coming and they're just all hey! I wonder what she's giving us for Christmas THIS year?

Anyway. I bought books last night for my brother's three youngest boys who are 13, 11 and 8 years old. I decided to take them home and read them before wrapping them (another reason why I like to give books--I get to read them myself first). I started with the book I'm giving to the 13 year-old--a mystery set against the backdrop of professional sports. He'll love it.

My thoughts so far. The writing itself is kind of pedestrian, even a little awkward (or as we former English teachers like to say "AWK"). But after reading the first few pages I knew EXACTLY where the book is headed. By this I mean I know who the main characters are and what the problem is they have to solve. I can't tell you how much I admire this. One of the criticisms I often receive from my writers' group is that they don't know what the book I'm writing is about soon enough. Does that make sense?

Your characters must have a problem to solve. And it has to be clear what that problem is early on. And (referring to my title up there) you've got a problem if you don't have a problem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Word to a Columnist

Had lunch yesterday with a very good friend who's also a columnist. Anyway, we got together to discuss an idea he has for a novel. It's a great idea, and he's just the guy to write this particular book. He was fretful, though--worrying about certain legal issues in connection with the story, as well as how it might be received. About midway through our meal (I had an excellent tuna and cheese panini btw) I said dude! Have you written the book yet? He said he hadn't. And I (because apparently I am a genius) said then write the book first and worry about all the other stuff later. Worrying about it now is a form of avoidance, a topic ON WHICH I AM AN EXPERT. I avoid avoid avoid like crazy.

So here's today's free advice to writers everywhere. Don't worry about agents. Don't worry about reviews. Don't worry about what you're going to wear at your first signing. Just. Write. The. Book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thanks, Jewel!

Jewel reminds me that blogging counts as writing. So yay! I'm totally getting my pages in!

Actually, I spent the day writing a column for the Desnews. It's a Thanksgiving piece about how my mother nearly murdered my father one year when he asked her to pray AFTER she'd spent the day cooking in the kitchen. "Well," she said, "I might as well. I'VE DONE EVERYTHING ELSE." The column runs next Monday.

I love the holidays actually, and I love to write about them. Man, would I ever, ever love it if I could publish a Christmas picture book that stuck around for a couple of seasons. Something like Julie Vivas' NATIVITY or WOMBAT DIVINE by Mem Fox. I'd die happy then. Maybe.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

That's What I'm Talking About

So after last night's post detailing what I did instead of write, I felt so guilty I wrote a page. That's my goal right now. To write at least one page. Every. Single. Day.

Writing one page is kind of hard, though. It's like running the first mile of a 10k race. The first mile is the WORST. Same with writing one page--it's just torture. You second-guess every word choice while wrestling with big stupid sentences that don't make much sense.

Still! It's better than not writing!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What I Did Today Instead of Write

1. Go grocery shopping
2. Fill up the car
3. Take assorted crap out of my car such as a box of kitty litter, a present for my niece, and several empty Dr. Pepper cans
4. Make chicken popovers for my niece's shower
5. Drive to Bountiful and buy cupcakes for my niece's shower from Parsons Bakery, which is usually an outstanding bakery, but okay I really have to give today's dry and messy-looking cupcakes a failing grade
6. Give my niece a shower (actually my mother-in-law threw the shower--we just used my house)
7. Watch the end of the BYU/Air Force game
8. Watch the Utah/SDSU game
9. Read IN TOUCH magazine to find out if Angelina is pregnant again and if Brad does, in fact, feel trapped

Friday, November 14, 2008


Shelley posted a comment yesterday that got me thinking about reviews and critics and THAT whole world. When I was writing my first novel, I was blissfully unaware of its existence. When I was writing my second book, that world cast a long, long shadow. At times I felt paralyzed, worrying about how my second book would be received. Meh.

I have a lot more experience now with being reviewed. Sometimes the reviews have been positive, sometimes they haven't. And after all these years, a negative assessment can still sting. It's not like I deliberately set out to write a crappy book or article or column. But still. Being reviewed is part of the game, part of the deal. And at a certain level it's kind of exciting to think that we can all enter the conversation--writers, readers, critics, bloggers.

How do I handle criticism? I don't know. Usually I go eat something. (Today, for instance, I will go to Mrs. Backer's Bakery on South Temple, buy a cupcake with a frosting flower on top, and eat it while wondering if it's bad to write clean YA novels.) But I try not to go negative back at someone because seriously, what's the point? I learn what I can and put the rest in a box on a boat and send that stuff out to sea.

What else are you gonna do?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ms. Clean

SLJ recently reviewed LOSER. It was a decent review, but here's the deal. When the reviewer said the book is "clean," he/she sort of made it sound like a perjorative.

Hmmm. Not sure exactly how to react here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dogs and Cats! Cats and Dogs!

So I have to say I prefer dogs to cats. This is due, no doubt, to the fact that a fabulous fawn-colored boxer was my constant companion from the time I was born until she died nine years later. There isn't a picture of me when I was a kid that doesn't include my peerless dog. I still have dogs--Aggie (a sweet, mildly neurotic Field Spaniel) and Zora (an enormous Newfie who slobbers A LOT). Can't imagine my life without them, frankly.


A writer needs a cat to sit on her desk while she writes. That's because writers are trying their hand at magic--conjuring up something from nothing. And as everyone knows, conjurers need their familiars. Which is why I have three cats. Can't imagine my life without them either.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What I Like Best About Writing . . .

. . . is re-writing. I read somewhere once that Meg Cabot doesn't love the re-writing part, which interested me A LOT, because that's where things start to take off for me. I know where I'm going by the time I re-write, which eliminates a certain amount of stress for me. It's also the time when I throw in the fun stuff-quirky little details and flourishes.

I say this because today I finished up a re-write on a new novel I'm trying to sell. AND IT WAS FUN! I felt so proud of myself I celebrated by raking up leaves and putting my garden to bed. I also made some chocolate chip cookies.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Well done, Emily!

I just returned from The King's English where I heard Emily Wing Smith read from her new book. SO GOOD! What I liked were the tangible specific details--right down to the cornflakes on top of the funeral potatoes. The bit she read was poignant and heartbreaking and funny all at once. Wow!

I saw her dad, Bob Wing, who was in my Spanish class in high school along with Rick Walton. He pointed out his contribution to Emily's book (a debate ballot) (way to go, Bob!). I also loved talking to her mother, Diana, who grew up in Alaska.

I would die of coldness and lack of light-ness if I grew up in Alaska. (BTW, Emily's mother did NOT sound anything at all like Sarah Palin. Where did Sarah Palin's accent come from?)

This is why I like my job, people!

It's raining here--that kind of cold, bone-soaking rain that I JUST HATE. I didn't feel like getting out of bed, so I kind of didn't. In fact, I'm still here with my laptop, writing up a storm (column, two pages on new novel, a bit of re-writing).

And THAT'S what I like about this job!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book Talks, Baby!

WHAT I'M READING NOW: Carol Lynch Williams' new novel PRETTY LIKE US--a story about a shy girl who befriends a new student at school suffering from that disease that makes you age (can't remember what it's called and I'm too lazy to get out of bed right now to grab the book). Anyway. It's one of the better things I've read lately. The writing is gorgeous and the characters are completely memorable. I love the book's southern setting, too.

WHAT I'M READING NEXT: Emily Wing Smith's debut novel THE WAY HE LIVED. Emily is having a reading and signing at The King's English tomorrow (Monday, November 10) at 7:00. This book is getting all kinds of good buzz and I'm excited to read it. (On a personal note, I knew Emily's dad in high school. HER DAD. We took Spanish together, along with picture book writer Rick Walton. Dude. I feel old. But really, really happy for Emily.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

What Every Writer Needs (Besides a Book Deal)

I met up with my writers' group the other night where we discussed manuscripts and ate oreos. So that was all good. Anyway, as I read through everyone's comments later I was struck (again!) by the notion that every writer needs at least three types of readers.

The Cheerleader/Mom Reader: This reader loves, loves, loves everything about your manuscript and also YOU and doesn't care who knows it. It's good to have someone like this in your corner when you're busy beating up on yourself because you think you're worthless. My mother is this person for me. (She wasn't a cheerleader BTW.) (But she was a rodeo queen once.)

The Intelligent Lay Reader: This is the person who you hope will buy (and like!) your book. Typically this person is a reader with innate good taste who reads for pleasure and enlightment. You know. The way YOU used to read before you started writing. This person isn't looking to find better ways for you to tell your story, necessarily, but he or she IS good at picking up on the things that don't make sense. My neighbor, Kathy, fills this niche for me.

The Writer Reader: This reader writes, too, and is therefore focused on elements of craft. You can find these people in writing classes, online, and in writers' groups. Lucky me. I have some REALLY experienced people in my group. A word of caution, though: in the end it's still your manuscript. A potential downside of groups is that people occassionally start writing by committee. You might want to avoid that.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sara Lovely Zarr

I was lucky lucky lucky to have a nice long conversation with Sara Zarr yesterday. Sara, as you know, is the author of the fabulous STORY OF A GIRL and the also fabulous SWEETHEARTS. (READ THEM! I mean it.) Anyway. Sara is as smart and funny and truly gracious as you would want someone whose work you admire to be. Plus she has great taste in sweaters.

So here's what I want to say. It's a lovely thing when people who do the same thing (write, paint, raise kids, teach, whatever) can support instead of merely compete with one another. Sara goes out of her way to connect with and encourage her peers, and seriously I think I want to be her when I grow up.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What I did instead of write today

1. Check my e-mail
2. Surf the net
3. Do the wash
4. Go to TJ Maxx and buy Christmas present, even though it's early November
5. Talk on the telephone
6. Handwash all my cookie sheets
7. Check my e-mail some more
8. Surf the net some more
9. Take Q. to his guitar lesson
10. Hang out at the library and look at gardening books

And now I'm going to bed. And now I wish I'd taken the time to write something down--even if was only an auhtor's name!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm b-a-a-a-a-c-k!

Okay. Blogging is harder than I thought it was. Like I ran out of ideas somewhere in the middle of September. Or maybe August. But I am re-committing. Here's why. I happened to check my blog and saw that the always lovely Jewel posted. And then I found two of my favorite students ever here! Kristi! And Janine!

So now i want to blog again.