Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Going to the dogs

Really, there's no better present than a book. My husband, Ken, gave me THE MODERN DOG by Stanley Coren (he went to four different bookstores on Christmas Eve to find it--so it's a book with a story in more ways than one!) and I've been reading random bits of it. Anyway. I'm kind of in heaven. The book is full of interesting little factoids (most playful dogs include English springer spaniels and miniature poodles, least playful dogs include bloodhounds and bulldgos), as well as a lot of great anecdotes. Coren's style is friendly and unaffected, making him easy to read.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jennifer Aniston

During church this morning, I made a list of books I want (or am obligated) to read in the upcoming month. Among others I'm excited to read the novels two of my sons gave me for Christmas--a mystery by Donna Leon (FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES) and a new novel called THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCEITY. I have to confess that I'm put off by the title--sounds a leetle too Anne-of-Green-Gable-ish for my tastes. But people really love it, and I love that my boy gave it to me on the recommendation of the fabulous Margaret Neville who works at the King's English bookstore.

It excites me to make a reading list for myself because I need to take myself in hand and STOP reading The Star, which seems to be featuring a lot of nearly nude perky pictures of Jennifer Aniston these days. Poor Jennifer Aniston. She's doing the thing Meg Ryan did right before she turned 40, i.e. ripping off her clothes and telling folks how she never felt happier or sexier. It all feels kinda desperate and sad to me.

But probably I'm just jealous.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What I bought at Target (and how I'm going to make this relevant)

When I started this blog I made the decision to keep it fairly focused on things pertaining to writing. And yet I find myself wanting to tell you what I bought at Target today (in addition to a blender with money from my mother-in-law). So okay. Here goes. I bought two sweaters (on sale) and NEITHER WAS BLACK. I have a goal for 2009 which is to stop wearing so much black, a habit I picked up the year we lived in New York, because as everyone knows you are only permitted to wear black in New York.

And now I'm going to make this information relevant to the writing life. What color do writers and other artistes ALWAYS WEAR? Yes. You're right. Black. But I totally feel like bucking this trend this year and I. am. so. going. to. do. it.

Off to put a purple sweater on right now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some thoughts on the current state of affairs in publishing

I meant to post something last night, but I got distracted by the Packers/ Bears game which lead me to make the following observations:
1. The Bears were beyond lucky to win.
2. Aaron Rodgers cannot catch a break.
3. I would never ever ever ever sit outside anywhere to watch a game if the weather was as bad as it was in Chicago last night.

Okay. Now that I've got THAT out of my system, I want to talk about the World of Publishing Today--which is kind of depressing, actually. As you probably know, a number of big publishers have cut jobs recently. All of us who write (or edit) feel shaken by these developments. Where are we all headed? And the answer is that I don't know. I'm not sure anyone does. So how does that affect what I write?

I've given this a lot of thought and in the end I just keep on coming back to what I've always maintained--a person should write the thing he or she wants to write. Fantasy in a post-Harry Potter world is still hot, hot, hot. Does that mean you should write fantasy? Only if that's what you really want to do. Life is too short and writing is too hard to take on a project you don't love.

Anyway. Just a thought or two . . .

Friday, December 19, 2008

A focused twenty minutes

So okay. I haven't been writing much this week. Or even this month. I did make a deliberate decision to lay off the book for a bit but this has drifted into bad stuff--not writing because I'm afraid of failing, not writing because I'm discouraged about rejections, not writing because I'd rather stare at my tree and eat fudge.

My friend Laura Torres, who always had a busy career in addition to her writing life, used to say it's amazing what you can get done if you just write with focus for twenty minutes every day. So I need to re-commit to that idea. That's on my To Do list today. RE-COMMIT.

So that's what I'm going to do today. Re-commit. Also buy Christmas presents for my kids, including a Jimi Hendrix wah peddle and a Where the Wild Things Are t-shirt for my youngest son. I can post stuff like that here because my kids never read this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I'm having a lovely Christmas season this year, but the writer in me is feeling kind of grumpy. I just got word that a manuscript was rejected. This has happened before, of course. Many, many, MANY times. But for some reason I kind of went into a tailspin this time, asking myself why I'm doing this and so forth. (It's sort of like being in high school and asking boys to go to a girls' choice dance with you and being turned down over and over. WHO NEEDS THAT?) Not that I haven't asked myself these questions before. Many, many, MANY times. It's just that I thought I was better at taking rejection at this stage in my career.

Okay. I think I'll write some more Christmas jokes just to cheer myself up. Here goes. What did Mrs. Claus say to Santa when she looked out the window? "It looks like rain, dear."

Yes. I'm feeling much, much, MUCH better now. Pity Party officially over.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

And a good time was had by all!

Phew! Busy weekend! Ken and I bought the tree (a real one--always a real one at our house) Friday night. It is, of course, big enough to fill up the entryway of the governor's mansion because that's how we like 'em. Or did when we were young and energetic. And now we're stuck with this tradition of buying and decorating insanely large trees. So let this be a lesson to you. Do NOT buy the biggest tree on the lot when you're bursting with youthful good health because dude. You will NOT always feel like Paul Bunyan.

Saturday I met up with Carla Morris and Sara Zarr (who did NOT disappoint on the sweater front) at Sam Weller's for a nice afternoon. The weather kept customers (and the paparazzi) away but family (my son Alec and his adorable wife, Randi; my nephew Chris and HIS adorable wife, Karim; my husband and our adorable son Quinton, and Sara's adorable husband, Gordon) stopped by to say hey. Adorably.

Tonight we had the fam over for our annual Christmas party, which includes a visit from Santa and the ritual opening of Christmas crackers. My favorite bit about the crackers are the jokes, which always inspire me to write little holiday jokes of my own. (Sample: What do bell ringers like to eat for dessert? Hostess Ding-dongs. DUH!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sam Weller's this Saturday

I got a little Christmas shopping done this morning WHICH REMINDS ME--if you want to buy your nearest and dearest a book (or two), you should show up at Sam Weller's book store on Saturday between 2:00 and 4:00. Carla Morris, Sara Zarr and I will be there chatting and signing books and possibly eating cheese and crackers. Also, I will be checking to see if Sara is wearing another fab sweater.

Meanwhile I am enjoyIng the season A LOT. Seriously, it's just so much easier to have good times in December--eating fudge and so forth--if you're not taking finals. Or giving them either.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I love Hires

i've been reading a mytery by Bartholomew Gill called THE DEATH OF A JOYCE SCHOLAR. Gill clearly has great affection for Dublin, the story's setting--I can almost see him rub his hands together in glee as he mentions a favorite pub or a familiar church. I know how he feels. I love to write about Salt Lake City. It's fun to mention real places--such as Hires.

Hires is a local institution--a place where people have consumed burgers and fries (also fry sauce!) for a couple of generations now. My family eats there regularly and no one ever gets tired of it. Which is why I have this lofty goal--to give Hires a shoutout in every book I write.

Which could present a problem if I ever try to write a fantasy . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Read, she said!

You've heard this bit of advice before: if you want to write, you have to read. A lot. So that's what I'm doing tonight. I'm reading a lot because yes! I want to write!

Only I'm not sure if reading cooking magazines is what the original advice giver had in mind. Can't help myself though. In particular I'm reading cookie recipes. Just finished one for "Buttery Shortbread Cookies." Next I'll read a recipe for "Clove Snaps," which (among other things) calls for a little black pepper. And then after that I'll tackle the bit about "Ginger Bars."

M-m-m-m-m. Ginger Bars.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Commitment (and also a plea for Christmas sweaters)

So here's the deal. All of a sudden I have IDEAS! For novels! Lots and lots of novels!

This is really, really unusual for me. I'm the kind of writer who's always sure that this will be my last post. Or column. Or article. Or novel. BECAUSE I WILL NEVER EVER HAVE ANOTHER IDEA! Yup. That's right. I'm positive that the old Idea Well will have gone dry the next time I go drilling. But for some reason right now, baby, I am Jed Clampett striking oil. And that's (kind of) my problem right now. To mix my metaphors here, I don't know which idea I should persue, commit to, marry, have a kid with, etc. Because I think that's what you should do. Commit. Otherwise you'll end up chasing possibilities and never eally setling down to anything. Still. It's hard. Because yes. There are just a LOT of good-lookin' ideas out there . . .

On another completely unrelated note I went to the Festival of Trees with my friend Doni this weekend. AND I wore a Christmas Sweater, which takes a certain amount of confidence these days because they're always telling you on HOW NOT TO DRESS that no one except the elderly and first-grade teachers should wear holiday sweaters in public. But come on. Who can resist a turquoise sweater with pink and lime green applique snowmen on sale for half-price at Smith's Marketplace?

Not me, apparently.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How you might NOT want to write instructions for a 3W Nozzle Washer (Black) Made in Tawain

Copied word for word from the back of the package . . .


1. Release the nut. Take down the car sprayer, and pull out the water pipe.
2. Intall our product. Lock the nut, collect water pipe again.
3. After installing and finishing. Adjust the direction of gushing out the water polo, Expire by and is suitable for it.


1. White installing. It is to lock for nut to ask, so as not to cause and rupture.
2. Finishing install, when teh water pressure squirted is insufficient. Please--check the floowing several items.
A. Whether the water pipe bends, whether the gushing hosepipe has impurity that cause the water pipe to block.
B. Whether the motor is too old to spray water, therefore thrust is not enough.

My husband says he totally relates to Part B.

This I admire

I had such a fabulous experience yesterday speaking to a group of 7th and 8th graders who attend Cosgriff, a Catholic school here in Salt Lake City. Anyway, they'd all read LOSER'S GUIDE and were full of great questions about the book. (Side note here--author visits are just so much more effective when students have been prepped beforehand. This isn't just ego-driven-by-a-desire-to-sell-books talking here, but teachers shouldn't invite authors to speak to a class cold. It's so much more beneficial for the students if they've actually read something by said writer beforehand.)

Anyway. One of the kids asked which authors I admire most. Normally I would have rattled off names like M. E. Kerr and Madeleine L'Engle, who were important influences on me. But instead I said "Anybody who can finish writing a book, whether they publish it or not."

Writing a novel is hard. And if you've done it, you should congratulate yourself. My hat's off to you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Italia, ti amo

The rights to LOSER'S GUIDE have been sold to an Italian publisher. Hey, Italy! Thanks for buying my book, you guys! As of today, you are totally my favorite country! Just got word of the Italian title yesterday--HO SCOPERTO CHE TI AMO which means I FOUND I LOVE YOU. Back at you, Italy! I love you, too.

(Actually, Ken and I are thinking of going there for our next major wedding anniversary--Rome in particular, which I've never seen. I want to go in April because I think there might be blooms then, right?)

So. Anyway. HO SCOPERTO CHE TI AMO is coming soon to a bookstore near you. IF you happen to live in Italy. (My favorite country.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

May I make another suggestion?

I was going to post today about the importance of shopping local this holiday season, but then I remembered that Sara Zarr has already done that. SO! I'm encouraging you to head on over to her snazzy (I love it so much!) website ( for a nice little discussion on the subject.

And speaking of local--if you live in the area, The King's English will host its annual Christmas party tomorrow night from 5:30-7:00. There will be books, eats, and authors. Come see us!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

May I suggest?

I love Christmas picture books. I buy one or two (or three or four) every year. I have to say, though, I haven't found any titles that really send me this holiday season. SO SAD! I brought a pile home from The King's English to peruse before buying (one of the perks of being a bookseller), and these are on my short list.

1. THE CHRISTMAS ANGELS by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Gail Yerrill. I like the art in this one--sweet and blue and purple-y and sparkly.
2. SANTA DUCK by David Milgrim. The cartoon-y art is appealing--I especially like the dialogue balloons that stand apart from the text itself. Cute story, too.
3. SNOW by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. As I read through this I thought, gee, this reminds me of WINTER IS THE WARMEST SEASON (which I like a lot). And there's a good reason for that. Lauren Stringer illustrated both. Rylant's sweet, graceful voice is hard to resist.
4. SNOW PARTY by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Mark Jones. This is the book I'll probably end up buying. I'm sort of surprised that Ziefert would write a story that is so similiar to the Buehners' snowmen books. But it's fun and the art is GREAT!
5. HURRY! HURRY! HAVE YOU HEARD? by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Jane Dyer. Melmed is the author of THE RAINBABIES, possibly one of my favorite picture books ever. The story here isn't as special but it's nice. And Dyer's animals are adorable (I especially like the border collie). If I were a kid, I'd really love this book, I think.

Anyway. I'm open for holiday suggestions.