Saturday, May 30, 2009

discuss please

so i asked agent tracey what she thinks i should write next because while i have always believed you should write from the heart and write about what interests you, i would like to find something that interests me that i might be able to sell on down the road, you know? writing a novel is a long absorbing process and i'd like to increase my chances for having it all mean something when i'm done.


She told me to think middle-grade. Twelve year old character. Classic coming of age stuff.

So i'm trying to think of the books i really, really loved when i was in the fourth/fifth/sixth grades to guide my thinking. and i would love you to tell me what books you loved when you were a kid. you can even tell me why. please don't feel shy about posting if you've never posted before. i'd really love your feedback.

i apologize if i've asked for the info before. it's possible because i'm forgetful. like sometimes i obviously forget to hit the shift key when i need to cap.

on the food front? it's been raining cupcakes here. thanks to everyone for bringing them by. and thanks to my neighbors for food and love.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My favorite e-mail from a column reader today

"I read your article about Memorial day. I am absolutely outraged that you wrote that you loved the French! AND FOLLOWING THE f-word and in the same sentence, YOU put my country AMERICA. YOU CLEARLY MUST BE A FOREIGNER. No red blooded AMERICAN would ever put france in the same sentence. And particularly ahead of AMERICA! You owe me and my countrymen a huge apology."

Monday, May 25, 2009


now that i can't knit due to breakage, i'm reading a tad more. right now am reading the indian bride by a norwegian named karin fossum. she used to be a poet and you can tell because her use of language is slightly more disciplined than what you find in the average mystery (and i say that as a person who loves the average mystery). i'm reading with several lobes of the brain at the same time--the lobe that just enjoys the story and the lobe that keeps asking how is she doing that. it's the curse of being a writer a little. you can never completely sink into a novel and lose yourself the way you did before you started writing yourself.

friend susan also dropped by the fairy tales of oscar wilde since we're supposed to be reading him for our bookgroup tuesday. dude. i'm over the irish now. this year has been a grim slog through alcoholism, catholicism, mom-ism, whatever. maybe oscar will uplift me. we'll see.

still knocking back dr. pepper. also plowed through a mountain of cummings chocolates from tom and louise. am craving garlic burgers but don't have the will to drive myself to a public place and eat.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What i've learned and also it's official

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: if you are right-handed, you sure do a lot of things with your right hand.

IT'S OFFICIAL: Waterboarding is, in fact, torture. i know this as a result of having my husband attempt to wash my hair. Let's just say I had water in my eyes, in my nose, and in my mouth. If Sean Hannity still needs convincing about waterboarding equaling torture, I will send my husband over to wash his hair.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

everthing is fine . . .

to borrow a line from our cute ann dee ellis.

so i now have a plate and seven screws in my wrist. like i always say go big or go home. not that i ever say that. but dude. i will be setting off alarms at airports for the rest of my freakin' life. how cool is that.

okay. i'm slower at writing with one left finger than i am at texting. but whatever. i've got lots and lots of time.

here's what happened. kathy and i were running down j street so we can be all fit and healthy and extremely awesome old ladies. except i stepped on a loose stone and pitched forward amd kind of rolled downhill in a very unawesome old lady way. i won't lie. it hurt. but i figured my wrist was just sprained and i wouldn't let kathy go get her car. we walked home. i called my brother the docor who has apparently forgiven me for turning the garden hose on him when i was four and he was two and trapped in an outdoor playpen--anyway he's always way happy to attend to our family's little emergencies. so q drove me out to bountiful with the emergency brake on where i gotsome x-rays and the news about the surgery.

so there you have it. really everthing is good. i have dr pepper and freaks and geeks to watch. my kids and girls are being great amd i appreciate your kind posts.

surgery update

first i am typing this with one left finger. second i am having a hard time with the shift key. obviously.

anyhoo--i broke my wrist this fine may morning and must needs have the surgery this afternoon. i am worried about what will come out of this mouth under anesthesia. also i forgot to shave my legs. but thank the lord my underwear is super clean.

if i don't post much in the next day or so, you'll know why.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Disclaimer first

This post could sound garbled. About 30 minutes ago I took a bunch of Advil for my muy sore knees. Only it wasn't Advil, it was Tylenol P.M. WHY DO I NOT PAY CLOSER ATTENTION TO CONTAINERS? I once accidentally brushed my teeth with fast-actin' Tinactin because I do not pay close attention to containers.

Anyhoo! I just wanted to say that I read again to Randi's students and they seemed engaged with the story, so that's good. What I really want to say, though, is that even though I went over this manuscript with a fine-toothed comb (I thought), I found a few spelling errors and unnecessary word repetitions as I read. ALOUD.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? You. Should. Always. Read. Your. Stuff. Aloud. Especially before sending it to your agent.

On the food front, I am having a root beer freeze from Hires AS WE SPEAK.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My version of mortification

So there's this fabulous book out there called MORTIFICATION, which is a collection of very short essyas about authors' worst public moments--signings and readings gone seriously (channeling Robert Burns here) "aglang."

Anyway. I had one of those moments yesterday. And while it wasn't as bad as the time I had to sit next to Richard Paul Evans at a Deseret Book signing right after he changed the history of the world (and also the universe) by publishing THE CHRISTMAS BOX, I'm still shaken by what happened yesterday.

I was one of the many Utah authors invited to attend the Provo Children's Book Festival, held in the beautiful old library there on University Avenue. And really it was a smashing success for all the attendees. There was so much to see and do and all the planners should be kissed on the lips.

The problem for me personally happened during the book signing. Okay. Writers of realistic fiction have glumly resigned themselves to the reality that if you're signing with fantasy authors, you'll pretty much be the ugly girl at the junior high dance again. Fantasy authors have lines all the way to Wendover while you sit on the end of the table, signing the occassional scrap of paper for a kid whose mother has made him get your autograph (and I'm the first to say my autograph isn't worth much).

On the one hand, you get used this. Fantasy has always been popular, of course, but it's hot hot hot right now. And when you have both the lovely Shannon Hale and Brandon Mull on site, well then it's like having rock stars in your midst. (BTW, if you ever decide to write fantasy and get famous, take a page out of the Shannon-and-Brandon book. They are unfailingly gracious and humble about their impressive achievements.)

On the other hand, you have this experience over and over again and you start getting demoralized even when you've taken a sacred vow to be your best and most mature self. Well, demoralization happened to me in a big way yesterday. I mean NOBODY was swinging over to my end of the table with one of my books--not even one of the pirate books in paper. What I found out later was that the booksellers hadn't even bothered to order any of my titles. And I wasn't the only author there to whom they did this. Apparently they mostly brought over fantasy. Lots and lots and LOTS and also lots (as well as truckloads) of fantasy.

In my other life as a bookseller, I understand why this may have happened. Fantasy is profitable, contemporary fiction is not (except in rare instances). When you do an event, you are faced with the dilemma of how many books you should order so you won't be stuck with stock you have to return or shelve. I get all that. But my bosses at The King's English, Betsy Burton and Anne Holman, would never NOT order books for an author because not ordering books for an author feels like disrespect.

And we hate to be disrespected because we are such delicate hothouse flowers, don't you know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where did this week go?

I blogged on Tuesday. Which feels like five minutes ago. But here it is--Friday night already.

In my defense I've been pretty busy. I subbed at The King's English tonight, for instance, where we had an event for Jessica Day George who is writing up a storm. I have to say it's really gratifying to see so many of our Utah authors do so well. Yay Utah authors! And yay for the readers, booksellers and reviewers (I'm thinking of Scott Renshaw from City Weekly here) who support them.

And now for the Subject du Jour (thanks, Kim, for the suggestion)--how do you handle criticism of your work?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And another word or two about cupcakes

I know I haven't mentioned cupcakes a lot lately, and perhaps that has led you to believe I haven't been indulging. Sadly, I must confess that I haven't been THAT virtuous.

On Saturday I went to Shelley's baby shower (twin girls!) in Springville and enjoyed tasty little cupcakes from Cupcake Chic. I especially liked the minis with strawberry flavored frosting. And I don't even like strawberry stuff much.

The best cupcakes of the weekend were the ones my other adorable daughter-in-law, Kendell, made for me on Mother's Day. They were yellow cake with white creamy frosting, dusted with sugar and topped with sugared myrtle flowers. They were as beautiful as they were tasty.


I just glanced over my recent posts and REALLY! If I didn't know myself and read these, I would say "Here's a big baby girl who's feeling picked on." How unattractive is that?! Sorry. I'll stop whining about column readers' comments. The truth is that most people who send me e-mails are lovely and gracious. And I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do.

Meanwhile--I read again to Randi's class. Here's what I learned today. That all the things we tell our students to do at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop at BYU--staying in scene, showing not telling, avoiding flashbacks--are true. I think adult readers (and writers) are okay with interior action (and that includes remembering), but I REALLY noticed that the kids lost interest when the action wasn't moving forward . . . and fast.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another Monday, another way to annoy readers

Here's how. Write a snotty column about Mother's Day. Check out the comments. I ticked off EVERYBODY. And the funny thing is that I really had a truly lovely day yesterday. Best damn Mother's Day ever.

Reading out loud

So my adorable daughter-in-law Randi (who teaches fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary) is letting me read my latest manuscript to her kids. I read the first chapter today and it! was! so! much! fun!

I think I need to rework the first few pages, but once things got rolling the kids did seem pretty engaged. And after I finished, they wanted to know when I was going to turn it into a movie.

Here's what makes me happy about this experience--even if I never sell it, the book has a chance to be a book with these kids. What a joy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wishing I could violate my own rule

I have a few rules of conduct I try to follow as a writer. One of them involves not getting into shouting matches with column readers whom I've annoyed . . .

Anyway. I just read a letter to an editor stating that if Ann Cannon wants to dump on TWILIGHT, she should actually read the book first and not just blog stalk for her 411.

Okay. I want to get in my car, drive to this person's house, possibly pull her hair (girl fight! girl fight!) and say "I read it! Give me credit! In fact, give me EXTRA CREDIT!!!!!"

Only I won't. Because I'm a professional. And also I don't know where she lives.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Another column I probably won't write

Because I have a column in the paper, I get a lot of press releases for EVERYTHING. Today I got one from the UFRW (Utah Federation of Republican Women) announcing that they have come out in support of Miss California for her stand on traditional marriage.

Okay. I happen to think Perez Hilton is pretty much a weenie although I do check in at his blog from time to time. And Miss California was certainly within her rights to express an honest opinion. BUT the press release struck me as unintentionally funny because come on. Do you really think of "Utah Republican Women" and "nude pictures of Christian models splashed all over the internet" in the same thought breath?

I don't either.

So anyway I responded to the press release, saying pretty much what I just said above and got a terse response, (sort of) taking me to task for focusing on the bikini factor instead of on her moral bravery.

I heart America so much.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Poems for Mother's Day

Just got back from the inspirational lesson session. While I was there, a guest performed a Mother's Day song that was a leetle over-the-top in terms of sentiment. The residents enjoyed the performance, so that's all that matters. But it did put me in mind of bad Mother's Day poems like the following by the very earnest Rev. E. E. Bradford (1860-1944).

"His Mother Drinks"

Within a London hospital there lies,
Tucked in his cot,
A child with golden curls and big blue eyes.
The night is hot,
And though the windows in the long low ward
are open wide,
No breath of air comes from the sun-baked yard
That lies outside.

A kindly nurse who sees his wistful smile,
To cheer him cries;
"The doctor says that in a little while
He'll let you rise,
And send you home again!" His eyes grow dim.
She little thinks
What since his father died home means to him--
His mother drinks!

Feel free to get into the spirit of the holiday by posting Bad Mother's Day poems yourself.

Fear Factor

The first Thursday of every month I go to a nearby rest home and give a little inspirational lesson. Today I'm going to talk about "fear." Because yeah. Fear is so inspirational. Anyway, I want to share a list of things I've been afraid of at different times in my life, so lucky you! You guys get to see my rough draft!

--talking to new people
--my brother and his ability to make everyone like him more than they liked me
--looking out my grandfather's VW bus and noticing the sheer drop below when we drove to his favorite Wyoming fishing hole

--coming in last place in field day events
--Mrs. Robbins (the first grade teacher)
--Mr. Baggs (the sixth grade teacher)
--losing friends
--moving because my dad lost his job
--Ouija boards and also Satan
--my nightmares
--stories about Weeping Marys in the graveyard

--not getting asked to dance
--skiing down "the face" at Timp Haven
--mean girls
--boys not related to me
--being made fun of
--my mother giving me a bad perm

--not getting good grades
--losing girlfriends to their boyfriends
--disappointing my parents
--getting another moving violation and losing my license

--I was too damn clueless in college to be afraid

--I would turn out to be a crappy mother
--someone might call DFS on me if I turned out to be a crappy mother
--someone might drop in without calling first and notice that I was also a crappy housekeeper
--reading the Sunday newspapers if BYU lost a football game

--the feeling of invincibility male adolescents have
--the feeling that my best years were behind me and I hadn't done much
--I'd never publish another book

--not death (oddly)
--the future and what it holds for my kids
--not knowing what I should do next as a writer

--Me driving at night

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Column I Won't Write

I have a whole stack of columns I won't write for the paper, mainly because I know people will recognize themselves in an uncomfortable way. And really. That's not what the column's about. However, I feel like I can do a quick blog entry because not many people read this and those of you who do won't mind. THANK YOU BLOG READERS. I totally kiss you on the lips!

So my youngest boy came home yesterday and told me he saw the mother of one of his old friends at a restaurant. Now here's the deal about this mom. She has always been "smoking hot" (as all those ladies in weight loss commercials like to say about their new bodies). Seriously smoking. In a tan-blond-white-toothed-drop-dead-gorgeous-So-Cal kind of way. Even eleven year old males (like my son and his friends) were reduced to little puddles of nervous boyness whenever she walked into a room. Anyway, my son hadn't seen her in awhile and he reported that she'd "put on a few L.B.s."

"So am I skinnier than her?" I asked.

He thought about this for a moment. "No. I think you're about the same now."

His future wife will be happy to know that I gave him a terse, brief lecture on how NOT to answer that question.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

After all these years

So I've been drafted into helping with my high school reunion, which is funny because I don't really like to go to my reunions. Anyway, I went to a planning meeting where I was surrounded by former classmates . . . and suddenly I felt like the shy, tongue-tied, awkward seventh-grader I was way back when.

The reason I bring this up is that people who write for young readers are fond of telling you at which age they terminated growth. Well, last night I was thirteen all over again. And. it. was. so. not. fun.

What age are you? Psychologically speaking, of course.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here's what happens when . . .

. . . you give your son your password. He writes things like "my Cadillac of sons." Yes. It's true. He wrote that previous post. I want my other sons to know this, in case they read this post (which I doubt they will). Sons, you are all Cadillacs to me.

Okay. You'll see yourselves here. I used your info about "Dogs" and "What They Eat" for the column. My gratitude runs deep. Thank you.

Another Monday, another column

So, since my Cadillac of sons, Geoffrey, showed me how to link, I'm going to be doing that a lot more. Here is the link to my column for this week.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Where NOT to write

At Nordstrom. Here's why.

I was supposed to meet my parents for lunch at the new Nordstrom in the Fashion Place mall. Only they were REALLY late, so I sat down in a chair, pulled out a notebook, and tried to collect my thoughts for a piece I have to do. EXCEPT I was too distracted by the sight of women tottering around, wearing ridiculous shoes. Towering heels! Gladiator sandals! Shoes that look like cages! It's like everyone was channeling Gwyneth Paltrow.

Here's what I think about shoes. Unless I can run across the street and down a flight of stairs to catch the subway in them when I'm visiting New York, they're pretty much useless to me.

(My parents finally showed up. We went upstairs where my dad had a club sandwich and my mother and I ate Chinese chicken salads. I know you were wondering.)